Monday, January 20, 2014

Schizophrenia: Part 2

There are tons of theories surrounding the cause of schizophrenia and, honestly, it's probably a combination of many things.

Research has done a lot of looking into genetics for a cause. Wanna know a secret? If you want to see how much something is genetically based, study identical twins. Since they're genetically...identical...what happens
to one should happen to the other, right? If it's a 100% genetic thing, then yes.

When it comes to schizophrenia, research has found that if one identical twin has it, there's about a 50% chance of the other having it...

...which, in layman's terms, means that you might as well flip a coin: Heads--he/she has it, Tails--he/she doesn't...

...which shows that schizophrenia isn't all genetic. There are other factors involved.


We also know that, generally speaking, the noticeable onset of it (the first psychotic breakdown) is in one's late teens-early 20's. It's likely that the person had it before that, but the symptoms were minimal and not seen as abnormal. The causal theory that coincides with the time of onset is the stress theory.

It's usually in one's late teens/early 20's that one moves out of the house, goes to college, gets married, starts a family, begins a career, and the list goes on. That causes stress. If it's too much to handle...



Another causal theory is the dopamine theory. Dopamine is a chemical messenger in the brain. This theory suggests that there are more dopamine messengers in the brain than it actually needs. Thus, the brain gets confused with all of these access messages going around.

The only problem with this theory is that, if dopamine were the only cause, than a simple dopamine-regulating medication would fix it. It doesn't.


In other news, research has also found that:
  1. In adoption studies, if one of your biological parents has it, your risk of developing it is higher if you stay with that parent, as opposed to being adopted.
  2. Those with lower SES (socioeconomic status)--meaning lower class in society--are at a higher risk for developing it.
  3. It's becoming more common in people using cannabis (marijuana).
  4. Living in a stable family environment can cut one's risk for developing schizophrenia in half.

It's not easy to treat schizophrenia because as I said in part 1, there is no cure; the only thing that anyone can do is work to control it. Many counselors will be working with someone for over a year before even daring to give the schizophrenia diagnosis because it really is that big of a deal. By way of treatment, here's what we do have:

Medications are always recommended. The type may differ depending on the person, but a medication of some type is always used. There is never a 100% "I'm cured" response to the medication, but the research has shown that a placebo does not work in a vast majority of cases.

In addition, some type of therapy is also always undergone. Commonly used therapies include:
  1. Family Therapy
    1. This involves working with the person as well as his/her family in order to give him/her the support system needed to learn to control the symptoms
  2. Social Skills Training (SST)
    1. This does what its name implies: Teaches the person the proper social skills needed in order to interact appropriately with the world around him/her
  3. Milieu Therapy
    1. If the case is severe enough, milieu therapy involves institutionalizing the person so that he/she has the appropriate professional help at all times. 
  4. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
    1. This is the most successful therapy used to treat schizophrenia. The man for whom the movie A
      Beautiful Mind
       was based on was interviewed regarding his experience. He is known as one who "overcame schizophrenia." When asked how he did it, he just laughed and said that he didn't; he still has schizophrenia. He just learned how to question everything that didn't seem normal. Thus, he has regained control of his life.
    2. That's what CBT does: it trains the patient to question even their own thoughts in order to control them.
When he said that he learned to control his thoughts, please don't think that doing so was an easy task. Around 80-85% of those who are in treatment for schizophrenia go off treatment (stop taking their medication and practicing the techniques learned in therapy) once they are left to themselves.

If you ever meet someone who has schizophrenia, I hope that reading this post has helped to gain a greater understanding of what they're going through.

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