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Post By Becca: Schizophrenia for Dummies

Posted Dec 05 2008 1:54pm


Part of an ongoing series.

1. What’s schizophrenia?

The prefix schizo - comes from the Greek word schizein, “to split.” The schism in the mind of the schizophrenic is not a personality split. (See Dissociative Disorders.) The schism is a splitting off of the basic reality of the individual from the basic reality that others can share.

2. What are the different subtypes?

Paranoid Schizophrenia – People with paranoid schizophrenia exhibit positive symptoms of psychosis, wherein certain brain functions work to excess, such as delusions and hallucinations that are of a paranoid nature. Common delusions include being sent secret messages, being persecuted by others, having one’s thoughts controlled from another source, and being a religious figure or the victim in a religious narrative.

Catatonic Schizophrenia – People with catatonic schizophrenia bear mostly negative symptoms, or the absence of normal functions. They usually lack expressiveness of speech or facial movements. Sometimes, they exist in a catatonic stupor, where they might remain stiff in a literally petrified state despite any number of activities occurring in their immediate environment.

Disorganized Schizophrenia – People who have disorganized schizophrenia display radically disorganized thinking, or incoherence, and may also have a flattened affect. They often speak in “word salad,” or schizophasia, which means using jumbled mix of words that don’t create meaning together.

3. What’s the difference between schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder?

People with schizoaffective disorder are more high-functioning than schizophrenics. In a sort of cross between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder is classified by the presence of delusions or hallucinations as well as symptoms of mood disorder.

From the Mayo Clinic:

The term "schizoaffective disorder" was introduced in 1933 by a doctor who determined that some patients showed symptoms different enough from schizophrenia to warrant a separate diagnosis. They experienced psychosis — such as hallucinations or delusions, characteristic of schizophrenia — and also had symptoms of elevated or depressed mood.

Psychotic features and mood disturbances may occur at the same time or may appear on and off interchangeably. The course of the schizoaffective disorder usually features cycles of severe symptoms followed by an improved outlook. To establish a diagnosis, a person must have demonstrated, at some point, delusions or hallucinations for at least two weeks without evidence of mood disorder symptoms.

[Drawing of a cat by Louis Wain, an artist who has schizophrenia.]

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