Schizophrenia, defined by the WHO is the mental condition characterized by inappropriate distortions of thinking or perception, together with abnormal social behavior, caused by these distortions of perception(ICD-10). Symptoms that arise from schizophrenia include delusions, thought disorders, auditory hallucinations and other manifestations of pyschosis (Andreeson & Flaum, 1991), which are classified as positive, or otherwise, symptoms that do not arise in normal people, whereas symptoms such as avolition, asociality and alogia are considered negative symptoms, where traits expressed by normal people are much reduced in persons with schizophrenia (Carson, 2000). Narcotic treatment for the psychotic, or “positive” symptoms of schizophrenia are well known, and fairly effective (Eiring, et al. 2015), with patients being treated as such rating the effects stronger, and undesirable side effects of less importance.
Notably, medicinal treatment of schizophrenia is effective against “positive” symptoms – “negative” symptoms respond poorly, if at all (Tandon, Keshevan & Nasrallah, 2008), necessitating psychosocial intervention (Wykes, et al. 2002) for optimal outcomes. Schizophrenia is considered disabling, and while work by Robinson, Woerner and others have shown that complete recovery is possible (2004), the majority remains afflicted, with the varied long term consequences it entails including a decreased life expectancy, continued reliance upon community support, and a heightened risk of suicide (Os & Kapur, 2009).
Positive symptoms of schizophrenia are agreed to be the various psychotic symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, and inappropriate interpretation of the world around the patient, and are the most visible and recognized symptoms of schizophrenia (Andreeson & Flaum, 1991), despite evidence suggesting that it is the negative symptoms of schizophrenia that is the most important, and damaging symptoms of schizophrenia. These negative symptoms include alogia, asociality, and deficits in cognitive function (Shah, Qureshi, Jawaid & Shulz, 2001), which according to Andreeson and Flaum, have been unfairly neglected from the DSM-III, and is only marginally more prominent in DSM-IV (1991).
The cognitive deficits discussed have an abundance of reliable evidence supporting their permanence and over time, and are most evident in deficits of verbal memory, which directly results in severe impacts on semantic interpretation, causing the learning disabilities associated with schizophrenia. Curiously, when compared to normal people, schizophrenics tend to remember words equally, regardless of connotation (albeit with a generalized inadequacy), whereas non-sufferers tend to remember words with a strong emotional connotation, and is conjectured to be an effect of anhedonia, a prominent negative symptom of schizophrenia (Kurtz, Moberg, Gur & Gur, 2001). Another prominent symptom of schizophrenia is thought blockage, wherein the patient often abruptly looses a train of thought, and finds a new, completely unconnected thought. This symptom is suspected to play a role in the other psychotic symptoms exhibited by schizophrenics.
Prevention of schizophrenia is complex, and largely involves minimizing a variety of seemingly unconnected risk factors. Genetic risk is suspected, due to the heritable nature of schizophrenia, but the genes responsible remain undescribed, and is an active field of research (Harrison & Owen, 2003). Consequently, genetic screening remains inappropriate. Childhood trauma is another potential risk factor for schizophrenia, and minimization of such can significantly reduce likelihood of developing psychosis and schizophrenia (Yvir, Denietolis & Frazier, 2013). Treatment of schizophrenia currently comprises of antipsychotic medication, with best results when combined with social and community support and psychological treatment (Os & Kapur, 2009). Antipsychotic medication is particularly effective at ameliorating the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, particularly those associated with psychosis (Tandon, et al 2008), and are effective at preventing relapse. However, it is recommended that schizophrenia’s negative symptoms be treated with community and psychological treatment (Wykes, et al, 2002), with evidence that the combination of medication and psychological treatment being able to reduce relapse (Os & Kapur, 2009).
Short term consequences of schizophrenia are varied, and mostly arise from the symptoms of psychosis. Sufferers experience delusions, detracting substantially from their ability to participate in society. Long term effects of schizophrenia are more subtle, as often the physiological effects of schizophrenia treatment is only evident on large time scales. Over a lifetime, schizophrenics suffer a 10 to 12 year reduced life expectancy (Os & Kapur, 2009). Whilst with community support, individuals with schizophrenia can live independently, suicide and depression rates are elevated (Carson, 2000). In addition, even in individuals receiving medication, whilst positive symptoms may improve with age, negative symptoms do not, and typically worsen (Kurtz, et al. 2001). However, evidence shows that in approximately a third of persons with schizophrenia, complete recovery can be expected (Harding, Brooks, Ashigaka, Strauss & Breier, 1987).
Schizophrenia is a complex disorder, with many apparent causes. Symptoms of schizophrenia that are most evident to the observer are the positive symptoms, such as delusions and other psychotic symptoms, but the most important to the quality of life and long term prognosis of schizophrenia are the negative symptoms. A review of literature reveals that while certain risk factors, such as cannabis usage, and childhood trauma are well characterized, other risks, of genetic nature, remain an active field of study, and genetic based prevention remains inappropriate. Treatment of schizophrenia by medication works effectively against the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, but do little against the negative symptoms, and it is thus recommended that medication be supplemented by community support, to ameliorate the anhedonia and apathy exhibited by schizophrenics. Schizophrenia is a leading cause of disability worldwide, and consequences from it include heightened mortality and obesity, long-term dependence on community support and a heightened risk of depression.