The splitting that the term schizophrenia("split
mind") refers to has nothing whatever to do with the completely
distinct syndrome of so-called multiple personality. The medical
illness of schizophrenia is the furthest thing possible from several
distinct personalities, since the problem of the individual afflicted
with schizophrenia is precisely that they cannot successfully maintain
a single unified and integrated personality, but instead must struggle
with an internal disorganization of the components of the mind such
as thinking, feeling and willing.
Long known as dementia praecox(precocious or premature
dementia) for its tendency to appear at a young age and result in
serious mental impairment, schizophrenia is a global disorder of
mental functioning that can cause confusion, inappropriate behavior,
peculiar thoughts, delusions and hallucinations and a general reduction
in the ability to function.
Some authorities believe that it is more accurate to speak of the
schizophrenias, that is, of a group of related but nevertheless
distinct disorders perhaps with different causes, different clinical
manifestations, and different prognoses and responses to treatment.
Although there is general agreement today that
schizophrenia is the result of abnormal brain functioning, the specific causes
of such abnormal functioning have yet to be pinpointed with any certainty.
Heredity appears to play a role in many but not all cases - and there is
continuing interest in the possibility that at least some cases of schizophrenia
may be the result of some kind of trauma to the developing nervous system either
before or after birth. The notion that parents are somehow wholly to blame for
the development of schizophrenia in a child, that schizophrenia is purely a
psychological reaction to environmental stressors, while widely held in some
quarters in the previous generation, has been discredited by modern research.
The first widely used anti-schizophrenic
medication was Thorazine(chlorpromazine), which was found quite by accident to
possess a specific ability to relieve such symptoms of schizophrenia as
hallucinations, delusions, and disorganization of thinking and behavior. This
made it possible for individuals with schizophrenia who previously required
custodial hospitalization to live outside an institution for the first time in
history. While Thorazine and its many successors and subsequent improvements are
unfortunately not a complete cure for schizophrenia, and while such medications
do not always provide equal relief of symptoms and improvement of functioning in
every case, there is no doubt that the represent the first real advance in the
treatment of what is very often the most serious and disabling of all of the
mental illnesses, schizophrenia.
Medications alone are seldom the total solution
to schizophrenia, the optimal treatment of which usually requires careful and
sustained attention to the total psychological, physical and social health of
the patient to provide the maximum possible symptom relief and restoration of