The Prevalence of Schizophrenia in Contemporary Society

The Prevalence of Schizophrenia in Contemporary Society




The Prevalence of Schizophrenia in Contemporary Society


In ancient history, there was no distinction between mental diseases. Any person found to suffer from with psychotic disorder or mental retardartion warranted an exorcism session or a lobotomy. Ironically in Socrates’ era (470-399 BBC), it was embraced as a sacred gift as opposed to attracting divine punishment. Later on, people employed music to quell these troubled souls. For instance, when the biblical King Saul became mad David played the Harp to calm him down. Contemporary psychologists would later integrate this technique into various psychotherapy approaches. Written texts from various early civilizations such as Egypt of 1550 BC and Rome imply that such diseases are as old as humanity itself. However, the differentiation of schizophrenia from non-specific madness occurred in 1887 courtesy of German physicist Emile Kraeplin while categorizing various mental disorders. He named it dementia praecox meaning early dementia. As he was studying dementia in the younger population, he wanted to distinguish it from diseases inducing similar symptoms that afflicted the older generation, for instance, Alzheimer’s disease. The actual name is attributed to Swiss psychiatrist, Eugen Bleuler, who coined it in 1911. Concomitantly, he described its symptoms across a continuum from positive to negative (Birchwood & Jackson, 2001). The term schizophrenia comes from the Greek words schizo meaning split and phrene, mind. Bleuler’s observation of the misleading implication term then used prompted the change. As this illness did not necessarily, lead to mental deterioration dementia gave it an inadequate description. Similarly, praecox limited its range as it also occurred in old age as a distinct malady. Even this new term did not grasp the depiction of the disease accurately as it does not cause split personality. The disease was categorized as a biological brain disorder whose landmark symptoms was psychosis, victim experienced delusions and auditory hallucination. There had been confusion between the disease and other two illnesses, bipolar and multi-personality disorder respectively. In severe cases, the symptoms of the diseases overlap each other.

The course of the disease is as versatile as the illness itself. The onset of the disease is gradual in some instances increasing over the course of months to years. On the other hand, the symptoms may emerge instantaneously within hours. Similarly, the actual episode of the illnesses may last up to months with full remissions afterwards. Others lack intermissions of the symptoms with little variation over its entire course. A Swiss psychiatrist’s research revealed that there are essentially two progression spans. In the acute type, there was less than six months between showing the first symptoms and developing full-scale psychosis while the second kind was relatively insidious taking years to reach maturity. Correspondingly, the course of the condition was found to be continuous or episodic and the outcome moderate to severe disability or mild disability to full recovery. This implies that it varies according to individuals. The illness was found to decrease in severity with increase in age of the sufferer. People who get the disease when they are advanced in age acquire the milder form. The disorder is more severe in men and the first symptoms occur earlier in this sex. The presence of estrogen in women develops the brain protecting its integrity subsequently delaying expression of psychosis. The normal age range of developing the disease is between 14 to 40 years. There are no ethnic or racial differences in prevalence of the disease rather in access to healthcare. The populace that is at a higher risk of getting schizophrenia include those born when the father was old, having a family history of the disease, usage of psychotropic drugs during one’s youth, infection of fetus during the second semester and having an overactive immune system.


There is no single cause for schizophrenia. It emerges because of interplay of behavioral, environmental, genetic, and cultural factors. It is important to note that specific causes of schizophrenia are yet to be identified. Only factors that increase the chances of development have been found. It has become an accepted fact that schizophrenia can be inherited. The disease prevalence is 1% in the general population and higher in people with afflicted relatives. For instance, people with second-degree relatives (grandparents, aunts, and uncles) suffering from the disease have a higher prevalence in comparison to the general populace (Birchwood & Jackson, 2001). A child with a parent who is a schizophrenia sufferer has 10% chance of contracting the disease. A monozygotic (identical) twin has the risk of prevalence ranging from 40 to 65%. It is believed that several genes are associated with heightened incidence. However, no single gene has been isolated as the cause. Recent research posits that the people with the illness have rare genetic mutations that disrupt brain development. The interaction of said genes with the environment mediates the development of psychosis.

The problem with research aimed at finding the relationship between the social environment and schizophrenia is the difficulty in measuring risk-increasing elements. For instance, the experience of stress in daily life is evenly distributed in the entire populace. Research findings show a higher frequency of the disease in urban and minority populations. Genes alone cannot explain this variance from the other community groupings, as minority groups are not inherently susceptible. Urban life leads to an increase in stress factors due to higher social problems. Minority status was associated with the depression owing to perceived inequality and feelings of deprivation that facilitate psychosis. The comparison with the mainstream community makes their hardships less endurable. The social isolation and discrimination heightens the life stressors. The socio-cultural composition of an environment influences risk of schizophrenia either negatively or positively. The positive aspect is drawn from the study of African Caribbean community in the UK whose prevalence reduced in a more integrated community (Birchwood & Jackson, 2001). The above ambiguity of the findings has led to several quarters questioning their data’s validity. Childhood abuse and other tragic life events such as rape, physical assault, and early parental loss are identified as trauma inducing factors that weaken an individuals’ mental stability. A deterioration of mental health often facilitates psychosis.


Schizophrenia’s treatment schedule is a lifetime commitment even when symptoms have subsided, as the probability of a relapse is very high. It is cured as opposed to treated. The main treatment is medication rather than psychotherapy. Compliance to the medical regimen presents the highest challenge to ongoing treatment of the illness (Tsuang, Faraone, & Glatt, 2011). . As the consequence of irregular treatment also affects those in the vicinity, support therapies are the ideal accompaniments to drugs. The effectiveness of medication is limited to control of psychosis episodes. Social support is essential in enhancing the individuals’ interaction capabilities during recovery. However, treatments aim to integrate individual coping mechanism and self-management practice in schizophrenics they hardly ever succeed in isolation.

There has to be a balance between medication and psychotherapy for it to be effective. Psychotherapy is not the preferred treatment in isolation. It however helps to establish life patterns to aid efficacy of the medication. Suffers of this disorder experience difficulty performing ordinary tasks such as cooking and cleaning chores, therapy assists them regain confidence to manage themselves (Tsuang, Faraone, & Glatt, 2011). . Group therapy is more efficient when it is focused on real life challenges, social roles, and interactions or on practical recreational activities. Group support therapy helps outpatients to reduce social isolation. Family therapies have proved to be instrumental in reducing the relapse rate of a family member suffering from the illness, reducing it by approximately 10%.

The medication of schizophrenia aspires to deal with mood disorder, thought disorder, and anxiety disorder. This requires a combined use of antidepressant, antipsychotic, and anti-anxiety medication. Some of these drugs are clozapine, seroquel, risperdal, and zyprexa. Maintain the medical regimen of drugs with heightened side effects becomes a challenge. The discontinuation rate increases with transitions to new drugs. Before shifts, drugs the patient should consult with a physician as majority of the said side effects are manageable.

Case Study: John Nash

John Nash, a Nobel Prize laureate in mathematics, is among the prominent personalities that were plagued by schizophrenia. The 2001 Oscar winning film, Beautiful Mind played by Russell Crowe, details his professional success juxtaposed to his struggles with schizophrenia. The individual claimed to have recovered from the destructive disease without the help of medication having consciously refused to take antipsychotic drugs. Nash’s symptoms developed in his early 30s coinciding with the peak of his career. At that time, he had made contributions that helped expand the game theory. Consistent with the diseases he started to suffer from psychosis characterized by episodes of delusions and paranoia warranting hospitalization. For instance, he forwent an opportunity to chair a prestigious department in the University of Chicago, as it would frustrate his efforts of becoming the Emperor of Antarctica. On another occasion, he accused a professor of entering his office to steal his ideas. The latter example best illustrates his form of schizophrenia, which entailed grand schemes of persecution. Fortunately, in his 50s he become among the 20% of sufferers who recover naturally (Tsuang, Faraone, & Glatt, 2011). However, this does not imply he did it on his own. He had all the protective factors that increase the chances of better outcomes. His colleagues were supportive finding him jobs with hospitable and understanding employees. His wife despite having earlier divorced took him back providing the needed social support. Schizophrenics should not have control of their medication regimen. Alicia often involuntarily committed the brilliant mathematician. She even remarried him in 2001. The absence of the social stigma the disease attracts facilitated his recovery. His disease had developed when he relatively advanced in age giving him a milder form of schizophrenia. The demise of the acclaimed mathematician was by a car accident rather than a relapse of the illness. The celebrity unfortunately passed the disease to his son Charles Martin Nash as his dying legacy. This is evidence that the risk of developing the disease if one has a relative with the disease is true.



Birchwood, M. J., & Jackson, C. (2001). Schizophrenia. Hove, East Sussex: Psychology Press.

Tsuang, M. T., Faraone, S. V., & Glatt, S. J. (2011). Schizophrenia. New York: Oxford University Press.







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