One of the most serious mental disorders – or probably the most serious indeed – is the condition that is described as a chronic, deteriorating psychotic disorder characterized by rapid cognitive disintegration. This serious mental disorder is known as schizophrenia, formerly called dementia praecox. Affecting about one individual in a hundred, schizophrenia usually first strikes in late teens or early adulthood, wreaking havoc on the education and career-forming years of many of its victims.
While schizophrenia is categorized as a mental disorder, it is in fact a group of disorders that have two basic phases (sets of schizophrenia symptoms): the psychotic phase and the nonpsychotic phase. In the psychotic phase, the schizophrenia symptoms involve the victim’s contorted perception of reality. Two conditions – delusions and hallucinations – smite the victim. In the former, the schizophrenic has persistently false psychotic beliefs about reality; in the latter, he/she has perceptions of objects with no reality, as in hearing voices or seeing visions that do not exist.
In the psychotic set of schizophrenia symptoms, the victim has trouble expressing him/herself; when he/she does, he/she may exhibit emotions that are completely inappropriate. An example of this is when the schizophrenic laughs at sad events. These inappropriate emotions, language problems, and aberrations make the schizophrenic’s behavior bizarre. There are moments when the victim feels he/she is being harassed or persecuted, or he/she may think some people are out to kill him/her; both friends and strangers are treated as if they are enemies.
In the nonpsychotic phase or set of schizophrenia symptoms, the victim is often withdrawn and feels ambivalent about much of his/her life. The victim may still have trouble communicating; he/she may exhibit emotions that are blunted rather than extreme. For a mental disorder to be considered as schizophrenia, such symptoms must last longer than six months and are not explainable by an acute or chronic mental dysfunction (as in organic brain syndrome) or by purely physical causes (as in intoxication).
For the most part, an individual who experiences the nonpsychotic set of schizophrenia symptoms tends to have a poorer response to medications and psychosocial treatments than a patient in whom the psychotic set of schizophrenia symptoms tend to prevail. While many of the schizophrenia victims do not fully recover from the condition, other sufferers of this mental disorder respond well enough to medications and treatments to be able to live relatively normal lives outside the confines of the hospital.
1. “Schizophrenia – Symptoms and Treatment” from the Internet Mental Health – http://www.mentalhealth.com/dis/p20-ps01.html
2. “Schizophrenia Symptoms” by Dr. Greg Mulhauser, on the Counselling Resource – http://counsellingresource.com/distress/schizophrenia/dsm/schizophrenia.html