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The Impact of Schizophrenia on the Process of Thinking and Feeling People

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Serious mental illnesses affect approximately 61.5 million Americans in a given year. Among these illnesses is Schizophrenia, which affects a person’s thought process, actions, and feelings. Someone who suffers from Schizophrenia has trouble distinguishing between what is real and what is imaginary and often experiences delusions, hallucinations, and scattered thoughts (Mental Health America). In 2007, Nancy Oliver wrote the movie Lars and the Real Girl, in which Ryan Gosling portrayed the role of a young man suffering from the early stages of Schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia affects one percent of America’s population. A common misconception is that Schizophrenia consists of having a split personality or multiple personalities. Schizophrenics are most commonly not violent and do not pose a danger to society. This illness presents a variety of side effects that are very complicated to cope with. A Schizophrenic can suffer with hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking. Hallucinations involve seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, or smelling something that is not actually there.

The most common case is hearing voices calling the person’s name or telling them to act in a certain way. Delusions consist of false or unrealistic ideas. An example of this is feeling as if you are being followed or spied on. Additionally, Schizophrenics have disordered thoughts, which means they move very quickly from topic to topic and often do not make sense. Characteristics that are missing from a Schizophrenic person’s personality include social anxiety, lack of motivation, extreme apathy, and emotional absence (Mental Health America).

Not every Schizophrenic is diagnosed with the same form of the illness. There are five main types of Schizophrenia, which include paranoid schizophrenia, disorganized schizophrenia, catatonic schizophrenia, residual schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Paranoid schizophrenia is the most commonly diagnosed form of schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenia is most closely associated with auditory hallucinations while still being fully functional. The hallucinations are usually consistent and revolve around a certain event. Stress tends to make the effects more prominent and often pushes the person to seek professional help (Psych Central).

An abundant amount of research has been done to determine the primary cause of Schizophrenia. Genetics play a big role in many Schizophrenia cases. This disorder tends to be present somewhere in the family tree, which causes it to be passed down throughout the generations. Schizophrenia has the tendency to skip over generations and then show up later on in future offspring. If Schizophrenia is common amongst your family, the chances of you obtaining the illness are likely. Most scientists believe that chemical imbalances in the brain are the main cause of Schizophrenia. Although this has not been proven indefinitely, brain scans are helping to further research in this area. So far, scientists have found that Schizophrenics have an imbalance of serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters. When one undergoes a lot of stress, symptoms of Schizophrenia can become present. Lastly, the use of certain drugs can lead to the development of Schizophrenia (NAMI).

Throughout the years of discovering Schizophrenia, many movies were created depicting the illness. In 2007, Nancy Oliver created the idea for the movie Lars and the Real Girl. In this movie, Ryan Gosling portrays the role of a young man named Lars who abruptly develops the stages of Schizophrenia. Lars shows all of the signs of a diagnosed Schizophrenic including being socially inept, while fully functional. One day Lars orders a human sized doll online in which he names “Bianca”, and tells everyone that she is his girlfriend from out of town. Lars exemplifies consistent auditory hallucinations in that he thinks Bianca is speaking to him and that she is a real person with real needs. All of Lars’ family members and friends treat Bianca like she is a real person so he can overcome the disorder on his own terms as suggested by his doctor. In the end Lars says Bianca is “dying” which symbolizes Lars subconsciously letting Bianca go. Lars can finally let Bianca go because he realized that he has feelings for his coworker, Margo who has shown Lars that she too has feelings for him. Lars’ diagnosis was never declared in the film, but from the symptoms Lars has, it is believed that he has schizophreniform disorder. This is due to the fact that Lars was shown with the Schizophrenic symptoms for less than six months, which is not long enough to be diagnosed with full Schizophrenia.

Scientists have conducted experiments that have proven antipsychotic dose escalation has been non responsive in patients with Schizophrenia. Antipsychotic treatment is a series of medicine used to treat certain disorders such as Schizophrenia and serves as a tranquilizer to lessen the disorder’s severity. After gathering the information that such medicines do not have a positive outcome, the doctors increased the dosage, which also proved to be unresponsive. Lurasidone is used in these treatments, which is supposed to rebalance dopamine and serotonin and make the symptoms of the disorder less prominent (Loebel).

Future predictions of Schizophrenia prevention are not promising due to the lack of information found in the studies being conducted. The research that is being conducted does provide important insights to the condition’s etiopathogenesis, which is the cause and development of a disease or disorder. These findings are based on the functions of genetics and cranial neuroimaging studies. By 2020, Schizophrenia is predicted to be a clinically defined primary psychotic disorder. Scientists and doctors hope to improve early detection and find better ways to prevent the disorder (Gaebel).

Although there is no cure for Schizophrenia, there are many ways to lessen the symptoms and to help the patient that is suffering with this challenging disorder. The first step is to tell the person that you think may be battling Schizophrenia that they should talk to someone, preferably a psychiatrist. Finding the right treatment is a long process that involves a lot of trial and error. Not all medications and treatments work for everyone due to the fact that no two Schizophrenia cases are identical. Getting opinions from a few different doctors and psychiatrists is a good idea just to make sure the patient isn’t incorrectly diagnosed. Most psychiatrists start treatment slow and unmediated and gradually increase dosage so that the brain doesn’t suffer extreme changes in short periods of time, which can lead to further issues. The main objective of the psychiatrist is to reduce the amount of episodes had by Schizophrenics and to control relapses once the patient is showing positive progress. In most cases, the patient is prescribed antipsychotics, which have many side effects that aren’t so pleasant. Such drugs do have a sedating effect on the patient which can be addicting and cause more problems. This is not common but it has a possibility of happening (Torrey).

Schizophrenia became treatable in the 20th century. Before there were medications and treatments for this disorder, patients were just sent off to Psychiatric Asylums. Not only did these asylums not provide any positive treatment for the patients, the patients were horribly treated and abused. Patients were treated with shock therapy and very large amounts of sedative drugs in order to “control the patient.” Electro-convulsive therapy consisted of insulin injections and shock treatment. The results varied and were not often successful in helping the disorder. Most of the time, these treatments made the patients suffer more than it helped them recover. Electro-convulsive therapy has been proven to have the ability to help patients if done correctly in a completely different, and safer way than previous methods. Although this method is still being used today, it is not common (Torrey).

There are a variety of medications used for Schizophrenics. Among these medications are anti-depressants and mood stabilizers. These medications are usually prescribed to every case of Schizophrenia in different doses according to what type of Schizophrenia one has. Some cases of Schizophrenia only require these medications in small does to control their episodes. In other cases, certain Schizophrenics take anti-depressants and mood stabilizers in very high doses along with many other medications, which still do not guarantee Schizophrenic episodes to completely go away or lessen (Torrey).

Counseling and psychotherapy are two options for people diagnosed with a form of Schizophrenia. Depending on severity of the disorder, it has been proven that counseling weekly with a therapist is beneficial to controlling the Schizophrenic episodes. Reassuring the patient that they are not alone has a big role in the life of a Schizophrenic. Community and family support are highly encouraged by therapists as exemplified in the movie Lars and the Real Girl. A person suffering with Schizophrenia also has the options of group counseling, support groups, and family counseling. Support groups are a great way to meet others going through the same thing as you and prove to be extremely beneficial among mentally ill people. The opportunity to discuss everyday life and symptoms to people that can relate to you is very comforting and helps the ill person feel like they are not alone. Family counseling is more for the people that are close to the patient with Schizophrenia. The way the family reacts to the diagnosis can take a large toll on the patient. Negative reactions and being unaccepting prove to make symptoms worse and cause the Schizophrenic to even become suicidal in some cases. It is very hard to see someone you love go through such a hard time, but it is not an excuse to distance yourself from that person. Being supportive and reassuring the diagnosed person is the most effective way to make them feel loves and more importantly, accepted (Torrey).

Many studies have been conducted to find ways to help Schizophrenics lessen their symptoms. Recent studies show that diet can have a big role in reducing certain reactions to the illness and medications. Scientists have found that the first thing to become absent when one is diagnosed with a mental disease is a healthy diet. It is extremely important to exercise and eat healthy when taking body-altering medication. Abrupt changes in diet and supplement intake can result in unhealthy reactions from the brain and can make the Schizophrenia worse.

Throughout the research I have done on the mental disorder Schizophrenia, I have learned many things that are often mistaken as symptoms of the disorder. Schizophrenics are not violent and are not harmful. Mainly, I learned that Schizophrenia and split personalities are not the same thing and are not even very similar. I think that many people are uninformed on what Schizophrenia actually is and judge people that are suffering with the disorder by labeling them as “crazy” or “psychotic.” Learning that Schizophrenia is not completely curable was very surprising to me and eye opening in that people with the disorder have to deal with it for the rest of their lives and the severity can fluctuate at any time. Watching the movie Lars and the Real Girl helped me further understand what a Schizophrenic deals with and explained to me that the symptoms can arise at any point in someone’s life. Although most cases of Schizophrenia are genetically transmitted, other things such as extreme stress and certain experiences can trigger Schizophrenia. Overall I feel that more people need to educate themselves on mental illnesses so that they know what the symptoms are and how to help someone if you think they are suffering from a mental disorder.

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