Thursday, July 13, 2006

I was at a friend's place, ages ago, and somehow the topic of schizophrenia was brought up.... They were writing a play, and thought that it would be good to have a character with schizophrenia (amongst others) because they could do "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" type gags.
I was kinda indignant about their understanding of schizophrenia.. especially since it is common, often disabling, condition. And despite the movie "A Beautiful Mind", people still think that it is a problem of split personalities.

And today, we had a practice exam where we had to explain to someone about schizophrenia in 5 minutes. Everything that i knew about schizophrenia disappeared, and i stumbled (somewhat painfully) around during that 5 minutes wishing that the knowledge would appear just as it had disappeared. I ended up failing that part of the exam..
So i decided to type what i know about schizophrenia here. Hopefully now it will stick!

Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder which means that the person affected has disturbances in the way they think, speak and behave.
It is characterised by a number of different features, described as 'positive' or 'negative' symptoms:
Positive symptoms are: Delusions, Hallucinations (usually auditory), disorganised speech and behaviour.
Negative symptoms are: poverty of speech, flat facial expression, social withdrawl, flattened affect.
It is postulated that these symptoms are caused by an overload of dopamine (a neurotransmitter) in the brain.
It typically occurs in early adolescence, and affects males > females.

We dont' know really what causes schitzophrenia, but we do know that certain people are predisposed to it and certain triggers may push them over the edge. Eg, marijuana
Genetics may play a part in the predisposition of schizophrenia.

Treatment is by dopamine blocking agents- these are called anti-psychotics. They inhibit the activation of dopamine receptors. These drugs are fairly potent, but "Typical" antipsychoics have many side effects like Dystonia (muscle rigidity and spasm), Akathesia (motor restlessness) weight gain, Parkinsonian symptoms (Tremor, Rigidity, Akinesia/Bradykinesia, Postural insufficiency), muscarinic Receptor antagonism (dry mouth, dry eyes, urinary retension, constipation). "Atypical" antipsychotics have less side effects.

This is a common psychiatic disorder, with 1% of the population having schizophrenia. There are numerous social groups that are available to help those suffering from schizophrenia. Also, taking regular medication, avoiding stress, and specialist appointments with a psychiatrist and GP are recommended to help keep the schizophrenia under control and to help the person attain a normal life.

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