"SCHIZ-O-PHRE-NI-A, n. Any of a group of psychotic
reactions characterized by withdrawal from reality with
highly variable affective, behavioral and intellectual
disturbances" (Long, www.mentalheath.com) Schizophrenia is
the word for a group of mental illnesses marked by a
multitude of symptoms. Literally, the term means "split
mind" but, though many people think it, schizophrenia is
not multiple personalities. It is generally thought of as
the classic case of insanity. When most people think of
someone as being crazy, they think of the hallucinations,
confusing speech, and delusions of schizophrenics. But not
all schizophrenics suffer the same mental illness.
Attempts have been made to turn schizophrenia into several
forms and groups. Knowing one form of the illness from
another would help the patients and help researchers
understand the causes and learn what treatments work best
in what forms. But these efforts have been totally
unsuccessful. It is not known whether or not people suffer
from mild, undetectable forms of the disease. There is no
objective way to diagnose schizophrenia, such as there are
no chemicals in the blood, the brain, or the spinal fluid.
X-rays and examinations of cells do not show it, either.
Psychiatrists rely on symptoms, but many diseased may have
similar symptoms. The requirements for diagnosis are found
in the third edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
for Mental disorders (DSM III), which is the official
diagnostic system of the American psychiatric association.
At least one of the symptoms from the list of symptoms must
be present for six months or more to be a schizophrenic
symptom. If a person does not meet DSM III criteria, he or
she is does not have schizophrenia. In the late 1800's
there were three different mental diseases for modern
schizophrenia. There was paranoia psychosis, discovered in
1868, hebephrenia, discovered in 1871, and catatonia,
discovered in 1874. Then in 1896, Emil kraepelin grouped
them all together into one disease called dementia praecox,
which means early insanity to indicate the early age of
onset. These three disorders still serve as a subgrouping.
SUBTYPES OF SCHIZOPHRENIA
Paranoia (paranoid psychosis)
Delusions of grandeur or persecution, often by a large
organization like the FBI
Occurs among older and more intelligent victims. Delusions
can dominate life if not treated.
Clownish or absurd outbursts. Gradual decrease in social
Patient seems to be playing like a child in some episodes,
though no adult mental functions have actually been lost.
Extreme muscle tension. "Waxy flexibility." Robot-like
movements or frenzied, even lethal motion.
More treatable with drugs than other subtypes. Frenzy can
lead to death by exhaustion if not stopped.
Catatonia is Greek for tension. The most memorable symptom
is changes in voluntary muscle tension. Catatonics may
assume one position or they may run around in a frenzy.
Some patients alternate such states. during a catatonic
stupor, the patient may assume one statuesque position and
remain there for hours, their limbs unmoving and their
faces expressionless. Though they seem generally oblivious
to the outside world, they perceive everything around them.
If something is said by a doctor or nurse around a
catatonic in such a state, the doctor or nurse may hear the
patient say it again weeks, maybe months from when it was
first said. If the limb of a catatonic is moved, it will
stay in whatever position it is moved to. This is called
"waxy flexibility." Catatonics also may have robotic
movements, refuse to eat to the point of death, or lose
control of their bowels and bladder. Another extreme
behavior is rapid movements-they may run around, scream,
cry, laugh, sing loudly, and bang on walls or floors. Their
actions are frenzied and possibly lethal. Some catatonics
die of exhaustion and heart failure due to their behavior.
Hebephrenia is when the patient is disorganized. Their
behavior is childish, silly, sometimes inappropriate, and
absurd. They giggle, make faces into mirrors, and say
nonsense rhymes. They suffer a gradual decrease in social
contact. They have some hallucinations and delusions, but
these are not the major features of this subgroup.
Paranoia schizophrenia is delusions of persecution or
grandeur, though it is usually both. These patients suffer
hallucinations, anxiety, anger, arguementativeness, and are
sometimes violent. This subgroup usually occurs later in
life and the victims are usually more intelligent and
alert. The delusions dominate their lives as they always
feel that someone is out to get them. They come up with
very specific and detailed evidence to support this and
they know exactly why and who it is (usually a government
institution such as the FBI or CIA or even aliens). They
are also consumed with delusions of their own great
importance. Sometimes they introduce themselves as the
Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon
Bonaparte, or Cleopatra and they often dress the part as
well. There are others who say they bring messages of
extreme importance, words from God, or other absurd things.
But not all paranoids are schizophrenics. Less severe types
are given other names, such as paranoid disorder, paranoia,
of paranoid personality disorder. Of all the schizophrenia
subtypes, paranoia is the most devastating. Some
researchers believe that it is not even schizophrenia. They
think it and all the other paranoid disorders should be
classified as a different kind of mental illness. Though
there are three categories, most schizophrenics have a
mixture of the symptoms. But these symptoms change over
time. Most schizophrenics suffer undifferentiated
schizophrenia, which is a mixture of all the symptoms. The
symptoms often change over time, thus changing the type of
schizophrenia and the treatment. In all, schizophrenia is a
devastating mental disorder and researchers are constantly
searching for new medications and always look for a cure.
Whether it is one or one hundred different disorders and a
cure have yet to be found. "For the legions of suffering
schizophrenics, that day cannot come too soon." (Nichols,
"Schizophrenia." Internet Mental Health. Online. World Wide
Web (www.mentalhealth.com). 12 March 1997. Young, Patrick.
Schizophrenia. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988.
Nichols, Mark. "Schizophrenia: Hidden Torment." Macleans's
Magazine. 30 Jan., 1995. Andreasen, Nancy C.
"Schizophrenia." Lancet. 19 Aug. 1995: 477.
"Schizophrenia." Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. 1990