Schizophrenia Affects Millions of Adults Research Paper

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Schizophrenia affects millions of adults, and yet much about it still remains a mystery. This paper begins by describing schizophrenia from a historical perspective. This is followed by research related to the cause treatment and prevention of the disease. Cross-cultural issues are then discussed as they relate schizophrenia. Finally, the disease is discussed at it is seen from a Christian worldview.

Schizophrenia: An Overview

Schizophrenia is one of the most debilitating disorders from which an individual can suffer. Left untreated it can destroy a person's relationships and social life, their ability to hold a job, and their overall ability to lead a happy, normal life. Fortunately, schizophrenia is a treatable disease. Although there is no cure that can make it magically disappear, there are numerous therapeutic and pharmaceutical interventions that can make schizophrenia manageable.

One of the biggest challenges for people with schizophrenia is the stigma that is often attached to the disease. In the movies and on television, schizophrenics are usually portrayed as violent and crazed people with multiple personalities who terrorize others. This has created a fear of schizophrenia in society based on a myriad of misunderstandings and false information (Green, 2003). It is therefore critically important for the public to understand the truth about schizophrenia in order to make easier what is already a difficult life for those who have schizophrenia.

The Disorder in Its Historical Context

Before people understood the scientific nature of mental disorders, people thought that schizophrenics were possessed by a demon, or by the Devil himself. Today, it is widely understood by medical professionals that schizophrenia is a mental disorder with no supernatural causes (Berrios & Porter, 1999). While it is still not known for sure what exactly does cause schizophrenia, scientists do have evidence that people with schizophrenia have distinctive differences in their brains than people who do not (McGrath, et al., 2004). They also know that schizophrenia tends to be passed on genetically, although there are often environmental influences that can trigger schizophrenia which otherwise might have remained latent (Jablensky, 2000).

Interestingly, there was no such diagnosis as "schizophrenia" until just over a century ago. The term was not coined and the disease was not identified until 1887 when Dr. Emile Kraepelin finally acknowledged it as a disease. Despite the fact there is written evidence of incidents of schizophrenia as far back as ancient Egypt, it took until the 19th century before it was finally treated as a medical condition (Green, 2003).

Current Research as to the Cause of the Illness

Researchers are still unsure as to the cause of schizophrenia, but there are many conjectures. One of the more credible is the diathesis stress model of schizophrenia developed by Rosenthal in 1970. This model is rooted in the idea that human beings are born with a predisposition for the disorder that manifests itself at various levels. Most of us would never produce symptoms of schizophrenia no matter how stressful or tragic our life experiences have been (Walker & Diforio, 1997).

Those with severe a diathesis (tendency) to become schizophrenic will likely suffer from the disorder regardless of the nature of their environment and life experiences. Those however with a mild diathesis for suffering from schizophrenia may or may not develop the disorder depending on their environment and experiences. In other words, these individuals are more likely to develop this disorder in an unsupportive stressful situation, while those who live and mature in healthy, non-stressful environments may never experience the schizophrenia's prime symptoms. Thus by the same token, those who are attempting to recover from this disorder can benefit greatly from a combination of both medication and therapy, because reducing stress by learning how to better deal with problems, in turn diminishes the likelihood of recurring flare ups (Walker & Diforio, 1997).

Various Treatment Approaches for This Disorder,

Including the Benefits of the Treatment

A growing body of literature over the past several decades has promoted the viewpoint that therapists need to focus more on people as individuals rather than as statistics. The relationship between the patient and the doctor or therapist is one of the most important factors that determines the success or failure of psychotherapy; particularly with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a mental illness that has been studied at length in terms of both causes and therapeutic treatments. Scholarly literature is replete with empirical studies that either support or criticize certain types of treatments and interventions for the schizophrenic patient. The effectiveness and non-effectiveness of different approaches and therapeutic strategies tend to differ, however one factor that seems to be consistent in most studies is that the nature of the relationship between the patient and the therapist is of paramount importance.

Hewitt and Coffey (2005) conducted a literature review in which they examined previously done literature reviews and meta-analyses for the purpose of examining the effectiveness of different types of therapeutic relationships on people suffering from schizophrenia. Using a database of studies performed between 1986 and 2003, the authors discovered that the more positively the patient viewed the interpersonal relationship between themselves and their therapist, the more helpful their therapy was likely to be. When cognitive behavioral therapy was involved as part of the treatment process, a high level of involvement on the part of the patient, as well as a feeling of being 'understood' by the therapist, were especially significant indicators of successful outcomes.

Gray, Rofail, Allen and Newey (2005) conducted a survey to determine how satisfied schizophrenic patients are with their treatment method. The researched used a cross-sectional survey on 69 patients who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The original number was 175 but only 69 completed surveys were returned. The researchers found, much like Hewitt and Coffey (2005) did, that patient satisfaction was largely dependent on how involved they felt in their treatment process. On the whole most of the patients reported that they were happy with their drug treatment and their therapy sessions, however they wish that they had more say in what types of treatments they were given.

Ultimately, treatment options for schizophrenia vary from cognitive and cognitive-behavioral therapy to traditional and non-traditional drug treatments, to encouraging patients to get back into the workforce. The success or failure of each of these approaches seems to be highly dependant on the relationship the patient has with their therapist -- or at least the perceived relationship that the patient has with their therapist -- as well as the type of pharmaceutical regiment that is prescribed.

Research as to the Prevention of the Illness

Schizophrenia cannot be prevented, but it can be controlled. Kingdon, Rathod, Hansen and Wright (2007) also found that a positive relationship between the patient and therapist is critical to successful outcomes. However they assert that cognitive therapy needs to be supplemented with the right medicine in order to be truly successful. These researchers stress the importance of finding the right combination of cognitive therapy and pharmacotherapy. They note that medicine is needed in order to reduce agitation and improve concentration. It can even help to improve the relationship between the patient and the therapist by reducing paranoia (that is, suspecting that the therapist is 'out to get them' or has some ulterior motive). The right medication can also help the patient develop a more hopeful and positive attitude toward therapy. While every patient is different, the authors recommend the use of certain non-traditional pharmaceutical interventions such as anti-Parkinsons medications on patients who appear to be particularly agitated.

Mortimer (2004) also promotes the use of atypical antipsychotics for patients with schizophrenia. Specifically, she evaluates the use of Risperidone, Olanzapine, Quetiapine, Zotepine and Amisulpride as to their effectiveness as treating schizophrenia, as well as their potential side effects. She explains that atypical antipsychotic treatments are currently recommended in the majority of clinical situations that involve patients with schizophrenia. Therefore, she wanted to assess the situation both in terms of how this affects patients and how it affects pharmaceutical companies. The major concern that was brought to the researcher's attention during the course of this study was that the growing practice of "off-license antipsychotic prescribing" has become a significant problem in primary care - a problem that is currently not receiving the amount of attention or concern that it deserves.

Cross-Cultural Issues Pertaining to the Topic

Gilfelder (2007) presents an autobiographical case study of his own experiences with schizophrenia, and how therapy has helped him evolve to a point where he is now able to work as a research assistant. Although he still faces some issues in terms of the stress of employment, he wants to stress how much better his life is after becoming gainfully employed, and encourages other therapists to promote employability as part of the therapeutic process.

Baillargeon et al. (2008) take a different approach to the subject of schizophrenia. Their focus is on how schizophrenia and other mental illness affect the spread of AIDS in prison populations. They posit that prisoners with mental health problems are less likely to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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