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Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by the loss of contact with reality. When a person's thinking, feeling, and behavior is so far from normal as to interfere with his or her ability to function in everyday life. When delusions, hallucinations, irregular thinking or emotions are produced, then he or she has a mental illness called schizophrenia. About one hundred years ago schizophrenia was first recognized as a mental disorder and researchers have been searching for a cure since. The exact cause of schizophrenia is still unknown and scientists are certain that schizophrenia has more than one cause.
Scientists have developed dozens of theories to explain what causes this disease, but researchers are focusing on four leading theories. They are the Genetic Theory, the Environmental Theory, the Biochemical Theory, and the Bio-Psycho-Social Theory. The Genetic Theory argues that schizophrenia is caused by traits in a person's genetic makeup. As we all know, a person has twenty-three pairs of chromosomes. Each pair contains one chromosome from each parent. In corresponding locations, called loci, of each chromosome the genes for specific traits are located.
Some researchers believe that problems with these genes can cause schizophrenia. We inherit our genes from our parents but this does not mean that the parents of a schizophrenic are mentally ill. Problems in a persons genetic make up could come from mutated chromosomes or recessive genes. In an attempt to prove this theory scientists study identical twins.
Due to the fact that identical twins have the exact same genetic make up researchers will be able to determine if heredity is the main cause of schizophrenia. However, evidence seems to disprove this theory. This is because on some occasions both identical twins are schizophrenics and other times only one is inflicted. To defend the theory, it should be noted that this research is difficult and complicated. Identical twins are relatively rare, especially twins who are both diagnosed with schizophrenia. Further defending the theory, studies have shown that children with one parent diagnosed with schizophrenia have a ten percent chance of suffering from schizophrenia.
When both parents are schizophrenic their risk raises to about forty percent. Very little is known about the Environmental Theory. It is built mainly on the effects stress has on human behavior, however, most researchers agree that stress alone cannot be the main cause of schizophrenia. Most researchers agree that stress can trigger or worsen the symptoms when the illness is already present.
Other researchers focus on drug abuse. Like stress, certain drugs such as amphetamines can make psychotic symptoms worse if a person already has schizophrenia. Furthermore, these drugs can create schizophrenia - like symptoms in normal persons when the dosage is large. Other researchers that support the Environmental Theory believe that "slow viruses" may be to blame. Slow viruses are viral infections that go undetected for long periods of time therefore signs and symptoms are delayed and may occur many years after the first infection. The Bio-Chemical Theory suggests that schizophrenia is caused by mixed up signals to the brain.
When something acts upon one of our senses, electrical impulses are sent to the brain. These impulses allow us to feel pain, smell, and they also manage our thought processes. In our body we have a complex nerve system. For example, there is no one single nerve that travels from our feet to our brain. Therefore, in order for information to be sent to the brain the nerves must interact with each other. Because the system is so complex it is possible for the signal to get mixed up.
When this happens our brain may misinterpret the signal or may not receive it at all. If the signal does get mixed up on the way to the brain the make up of the impulse can undergo a chemical change resulting in abnormal thought processes and abnormal behavior. For example, scientists have in-depth studies on a chemical in the brain called dopamine. They believe that schizophrenics have higher levels of this chemical than a mentally sound person.
To experiment, researchers have injected animals and humans with amphetamines, this increases the amount of dopamine reaching the brain. Following the injection, the animals exhibit the same behavior as humans who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, such as standing still for long periods of time or continuously pacing. In humans, research has shown that when given small doses of amphetamines the amount of dopamine in the brain slightly increases. Although the increase is small it still causes delusions and hallucinations.
In conclusion, researchers believe that an increased amount of dopamine to the brain causes abnormal behavior, however, they cannot safely say that this is the sole cause of schizophrenia. The Bio-Psycho-Social Theory combines all of the previous theories. Some researchers believe that bio-chemical abnormalities are a contributing factor but that other events must also occur. They suggest that environmental and social problems have to be considered along with biological problems. Social scientists believe that no chemical factors are involved, instead they believe "mental disorders are described as a consequence of human motivations, drives, and unconscious forces. " (Schizophrenia, Douglas W. Smith).
These scientists suggest that people become overloaded with stress, information, and stimulation. When this happens they lose their ability to cope with the anxiety which accompanies these stressors. Instead of dealing with their problems they seek peace in their own world. For example, it is common for individuals to return to "happy times" in their life such as infancy and they begin to act like a child.
Scientists have asked if there is a particular nationality that suffers more than any other. Studies have been done in Ireland and it appears that one in every twenty-five people show signs of schizophrenia, opposed to one in every hundred in the United States. E. Fuller Torrey has spent a great deal of time researching a number of schizophrenics in Ireland. Torrey has discovered that the population of schizophrenics has been rising since the 18 th Century.
After he made his findings public other scientists began asking questions as to why the Irish are suffering so badly. The basis of their research has focused around their diet, mainly potatoes. If potatoes are exposed to too much sunlight they produce an alkaloid called solange. Solanine has the ability to induce gastro-intestinal problems and psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations. The idea that schizophrenia in Ireland is caused by the potato is not as far fetched as people might believe.
Closer to home, a mental disease that afflicted southerners, pellagra, was caused solely from the lack of the vitamin niacin. This may lead us to believe that a mental disorder can be caused by too much exposure or lack of a certain type of food. Another possibility, is the amount of insecticides the Irish consume from the potato. At planting time farmers use high amounts of chemicals on their potatoes to protect them from insects.
When an insect ingests the chemicals they are easily killed because the chemicals interfere with the normal functioning of the nervous system by disrupting the transmission of nerve impulses. If large doses of these chemicals have the same affect on humans as they do on insects this could answer the Irish dilemma. These toxins could be especially dangerous to women who are pregnant by damaging the fetal nerve tissue. Despite all these theories, it is quite evident that the cause of schizophrenia is still a mystery. It also seems clear that this disease is not caused by any one factor.
As of now, researchers are leaning toward the Bio-Chemical theory. In conclusion, there are many theories on how an individual aquire's schizophrenia. There were stated in the paragraphs above as The Genetic They, the Biochemical Theory, and the Bio-Physics-Social Theory. 1. Mayer, Robert M. D. Satan's Children, New York: G.
P. Putnam & Sons, 1991 2. Wallis, Claudia and James Wellsworth, "Awakenings." Time July 7, 1992, pp 36 - 44. "Schizophrenia, Youth's Greatest Disabler", Schizo Society of N. S. , 1988 3.
Smith, Douglas W. Schizophrenia, Toronto: Franklin Watts, 1993 Bibliography: BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Mayer, Robert M. D. Satan's Children, New York: G.
P. Putnam & Sons, 1991 2. Wallis, Claudia and James Wellsworth, "Awakenings." Time July 7, 1992, pp 36 - 44. "Schizophrenia, Youth's Greatest Disabler", Schizo Society of N. S. , 1988 3. Smith, Douglas W. Schizophrenia, Toronto: Franklin Watts, 1993
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