The term schizophrenia originated from the words skhizein (meaning ‘to split’) and phrēn (meaning ‘mind’) and describe what nearly 1% of the population is experiencing. In the past century, there have been multiple scientific advancements to our knowledge of this mental disorder including its symptoms and ideas for cures. Sadly, there is a heavy stigma associated with this condition which can cause patients to choose to not seek help, and lots of misconceptions about this syndrome, the most common of which, is that patients have multiple personalities. I intend to clear such errors by explaining the symptoms and treatments for the ailment.
Additionally, genetic connection heavily impacts the chance of psychosis; children and siblings of schizophrenia patients are ten times more likely to also have it and an identical twin of someone with schizophrenia has a 40% chance of developing this mental disorder. Additionally, close relatives frequently show less severe versions of features that are linked with schizophrenia.
Patients with schizophrenia can have multiple symptoms which are grouped into three types: positive, negative and cognitive. Positive symptoms describe those such as hallucinations, disordered speech and thought disorders, which can only be found in schizophrenic patients. Contrary to positive symptoms, negative symptoms are qualities that are reduced in patients with schizophrenia; for example, the flat affect where people express their emotions differently from others, motivation and social withdrawal. Lastly, cognitive symptoms refer to intellectual activity; including, learning and attention disorders, partial amnesia and degradation of a lack of decision-making skills.
The dopaminergic hypothesis stated that an excessive amount of dopamine has a positive correlation with schizophrenic symptoms. Consequently, antipsychotics that block dopamine receptors are commonly used as a treatment method. Some antipsychotics block dopamine receptors as an excess of dopamine is linked with positive symptoms. Furthermore, an overload of serotonin in the cerebral cortex has been identified as a key factor that may be an important cause of schizophrenia; this can be treated using second-generation antipsychotics that focus on antagonism against serotonin receptors.
However, the use of antipsychotics has many limitations. First, patients may not respond to treatment with drugs and in those cases, clozapine is suggested. The exact difference between patients that are responsive and unresponsive remains unknown, but experts speculate that it may include the polymorphisms in the dopamine and serotonin receptors. Second, these antipsychotics are successful in lessening positive symptoms, but are not as effective in treating the negative symptoms; in some cases, they can be seen to worsen negative symptoms.
Antipsychotics can also cause unwanted side effects such as extrapyramidal effects which are actions that were once voluntary, and happen without your control. Feeling restless and having an urge to fidget or move your fingers and legs as a result of it, contracting muscles involuntarily, experiencing symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease and doing involuntary facial movements like blinking your eyes a lot are all possible side effects.
To conclude, our understanding of the symptoms, causes and potential countermeasures has seen considerable advancements in these past few years. However, the search for a complete cure and an even deeper understanding of schizophrenia continues.
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TED. (2020, March 26). What is schizophrenia? - Annes Bahji [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2sc_ck5BZU
Hebebrand K., Begum J. (October 2021), What Are Extrapyramidal Effects? [online] Available at:
Desbonnet L. (November 2015), Modeling the Psychopathological Dimensions of Schizophrenia. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/dopamine-hypothesis-of-schizophrenia#:~:text=The%20dopamine%20hypothesis%20of%20schizophrenia,to%20hypofunctionality%20of%20dopamine%20D1
Image (in order in which they appear - left to right, top to bottom):
Image from: https://www.psycom.net/schizophrenia
Written by Jynna Wongswan
Edited by: Samuel Lim & Nozomu Ikeda