Schizophrenia as a Biological Condition


Mental health refers to the psychological state of an individual at an acceptable level of emotional and behavioural adjustment. This can also be described as the state of an individual’s cognitive and emotional condition. Mental health is closely associated with the feelings and behaviour of an individual. Individuals suffering from mental disorders are often subjected to stigma and discrimination in the society. Such individuals are perceived to be unfit to lead a normal life in the society. The society looks at mental disorders as something unacceptable in the society. In this case, individuals suffering from mental disorders are discriminated and isolated in various aspects of societal life.

Nonetheless, stigma in the family setting is on the decrease in the modern society as most of the time these individuals are accepted as being part of the family. There are various perspectives regarding mental illness. Some people believe that mental illness is a biological condition, whereas others believe that it is a social condition. In the biological aspect, mental illness can be described in relation to genetics and neurotransmitter malfunction. On the other hand, the social aspect of mental illness can be described in respect to: What is normal and what is not normal (Insel, 2010).

Schizophrenia can be described as one form of mental disorder. Schizophrenia is explained by observed signs of psychosis. In most instances, schizophrenia is characterised by paranoid delusions and auditory hallucinations. However, schizophrenia is not a new disease. In the past, symptoms related to schizophrenia were said to be signs that an individual was possessed by evil spirits. Nowadays, this notion has been ruled out due to informed scientific information available. There has been a debate on whether schizophrenia is biological or social problem (Jablensky, 2010). This paper provides an analysis that depicts schizophrenia as a biological condition affecting people.

Historical analysis of schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a relatively new term used among the medical world. Eugen Bleuler is said to be the man who coined the term in the year 1908. Bleuler emphasised the aspect of critical disorder affecting thoughts and feelings. Therefore, the term “schizophrenia” has only existed for about one hundred years now. The first descriptions of schizophrenic conditions can be traced to the 19th century through the works of Emile Kraepelin. In the year 1878, Kraepelin referred to schizophrenic condition as “dementia praecox”. Kraepelin noted that dementia praecox was different from other mental illnesses caused by different factors (Fusar-Poli, et al, 2011).

Psychotic and schizophrenic symptoms were common in ancient societies. There are indications that, even the Stone Age man was affected by schizophrenia. This is because some of the skulls that have been excavated have been found with a hole that was aimed at curing schizophrenic illnesses. It was believed that drilling a hole in the skull provided a way for the evil spirits to leave the individual’s head. This treatment is known as trepanning. In ancient Egypt, schizophrenic cases have been recorded in the Book of Hearts, which is one of the oldest texts. In this book, the heat and mind were considered similar (Klosterkötter, Schultze-Lutter and Ruhrmann, 2008).

During the 19th century, there were significant initiatives in relation to the aspect of body and mind. It was thought that schizophrenia was caused by a fault in the brain. This followed the realisation that syphilis and insanity were closely associated. At the moment, organic aetiologies associated with mental illnesses were sanctioned. There were several descriptions that described what has come to be known as schizophrenia. Emil Kraepelin is credited for coming up with different groups of mental disorders. He came up with “dementia praecox” to describe symptoms related to schizophrenic conditions (Klosterkötter, Schultze-Lutter and Ruhrmann, 2008).

Despite the initial developments that were initiated in the 19th century in respect to mental disorders, there was no vigour during the 20th century. The 20th century witnessed the emergence of psychoanalytic school of thought. During this time, the study of the mind ignored the brain. Nonetheless, some developments towards mental illness continued. It is during this time that Eugen Bleuler came up with the term “schizophrenia” for the first time. Bleuler did not like the way mental illness was being described as “dementia praecox”. He asserted that there was limited evidence in support of a “dementing” process across the world (Fusar-Poli, et al, 2011).

In most instances, schizophrenia begins during the early twenties. Therefore, it can be argued that most individuals begin showing schizophrenic tendencies during their early adulthood stage. When an individual has schizophrenia, during the initial stages, he or she appears not to be having goals in life. In this respect, the individual appears weird and is not motivated. Depression is regarded as one of the obvious symptoms of schizophrenia. Kraeplelin noted that depression was highly significant in schizophrenic patients (Morgan, 2010).

Schizophrenia has been considered to be social, as well as a biological disorder. This has brought about the debate in respect to schizophrenic disorder. The social aspect of the disorder has been overpowered by the biological arguments. It can be noted that schizophrenia has some social elements that should be considered in the analysis. Although social aspects influence the development of schizophrenia, it should be noted that the biological aspect of the illness takes a significant share in the development of the disease (Morgan, 2010).

Religion, culture, and schizophrenia

There is no doubt that schizophrenia occurs across all cultures of the world. In this respect, the various cultures have devised different ways of dealing with the schizophrenic condition. Among the various world communities, some have accepted that schizophrenia is a condition that has to be addressed; whereas others have dismissed the existence of the condition. The communities that have accepted the existence of the condition have had to come up with ways of addressing the condition. On the other hand, those communities that have dismissed the condition have sought to fight any recognition of the existence of the condition. One such group is the scientologists. This is a group that is vehemently opposed the works of psychiatrists and psychologists (Morgan, 2010).

According to scientologists, psychiatry is seen as a barbarous and unfounded profession. In this respect, scientologists are in favour of embracing alternative care that is founded on spiritual healing. The perspective held by the scientology has come under heavy criticism from various experts. Scientologists have on many occasions rubbished the advances made in the field of psychiatry and psychology. This has led to numerous casualties resulting from neglect of professional advice on medication and treatment of various illnesses. In respect to schizophrenia, it can be noted that Scientology has led to hazardous outcomes.

Notably, Jeremy Perkins was a schizophrenic and was not treated. In the end, he killed his own mother. Also, Linda murdered the father and sister. He also harmed the mother after failing to be treated by the family. From these assertions, it is clear that Scientology can lead to horrible outcomes, especially among schizophrenic patients (Loughland, et al, 2010).

In the past, some societies practiced witchcraft in treating schizophrenia. It was believed that schizophrenia was caused by evil spirits. Therefore, witchcraft was used to heal the individuals who were suffering from schizophrenic condition. In the ancient societies, witchcraft and demons were largely believed to be the cause of emotional instability. During this time, individuals who showed symptoms related to schizophrenia were subjected to confession and exorcism for healing. In most instances, the witches were considered as harmful individuals in the society. Nonetheless, it should be noted that the notion that schizophrenia was caused by witchcraft is extremely far from reality (Diedrich, 2010).

Christians had a different way of dealing with schizophrenia. In Christianity, it was believed that schizophrenia was the work of the devil and evil spirits. Therefore, Christians conducted exorcism in treating and healing individuals who were schizophrenic. Among the Native Americans, spiritual leaders communicated to the spiritual world in search of treatment for schizophrenia. In the past, the ancient societies used various ways of treating schizophrenic condition. These forms of treatment include trepanation, bloodletting, asylums, tranquilliser chair, electric shock, as well as surgery (Loughland, et al, 2010).

There are various social factors that should be considered while looking at schizophrenia. It can be noted that the pre-existing illness can influence the progression of schizophrenia. For instance, when an individual is affected by depression, he or she stands a high chance of developing schizophrenia. It has been observed that schizophrenic patients require support from friends and family so as to cope with their condition. Therefore, in the event these patients are not provided with the care that is necessary, their condition is expected to worsen. The social environment that a person is raised also affects the social development of the individual. In this case, the upbringing of an individual can provide a recipe for the development and exacerbation of the condition (Diedrich, 2010).

Following the realisation that social factors play a critical role in the development of schizophrenia, various social approaches have been developed to help in the treatment of the condition. The cognitive-behavioural therapy is one form of therapy that is used in the treatment of schizophrenia. This form of therapy improved the way a schizophrenic patient copes with the condition. This is achieved through adherence and symptom management. Nonetheless, the cognitive-behavioural therapy works best when used together with antipsychotic drugs (Turkington, Kingdon, Weiden, 2006).

Family intervention has also been identified as one of the critical elements in the treatment and management of schizophrenia. Family interventions include establishing trustworthy relations between family members and the schizophrenic patient. The family is briefed on how to relate with the schizophrenic patient by a therapist thereby improving the coping and constructive skills. Social interventions are also critical in managing schizophrenic conditions. These interventions enhance decision making, improve self-care routines, and uses positive reinforcements among the victims of schizophrenia (Diedrich, 2010).

Training sessions about social skills have also emerged as a critical element in addressing schizophrenia. The training sessions assist individuals to have an easy way in relating to the other members of the society (Mueser and Bellack, 2007). There are also other forms of treatment towards schizophrenia. These include vitamin therapy, nutrition, and food intake among others. Although social aspect of schizophrenia cannot be ignored, it must be mentioned that the biological aspect is the most trusted perspective. This is because there is growing evidence associating schizophrenia with biological processes.

The patho-physiology of schizophrenia is quite complicated. Nonetheless, the biological explanation of the condition seems to be quite convincing. It cannot be refuted that the biological and genetic aspects are critical in the development of schizophrenia. Understanding of the patho-physiology of schizophrenia is necessary to help individuals come up with the best corrective measure. Although efforts in scientific research have been made considerable strides, there are various aspects of schizophrenia that remain unknown. Nonetheless, there are various theoretical frameworks that have been established to explain the existence of schizophrenia (Loughland, et al, 2010).

Genetics has been closely associated with schizophrenia. Genetic studies have been conducted and have established that schizophrenic disorders have a genetic explanation. However, the magnitude and phenotypic expression of the genetic aspect is not clear. There is limited concordance of schizophrenia among identical twin. Studies show that there are other factors, apart from the genetic ones, which affect schizophrenics.

From a general perspective, it has been indicted that schizophrenia is common among people who are genetically related. In essence, studies indicate that about ten per cent of immediate relatives of a schizophrenic are likely to get the disorder. In twin and multiple births, it has been established that the chance of getting the disorder is equally shared among the siblings. Studies have suggested that the X chromosomes play a critical role in determining whether an individual becomes schizophrenic. This is especially in respect to chromosome 1, 3, 5 and 11 (Loughland, et al, 2010).

Schizophrenia has also been associated with hormonal deficiency. Notably, it has been asserted that schizophrenia is caused by excessive dopamine in the brain. This notion has been backed by the finding that schizophrenic patients have excess dopamine, compared to normal people. The presence of excess dopamine is said to be the cause of schizophrenic symptoms. Schizophrenia is also said to be caused by an abnormality in the neurotransmitters. In this respect, the glutamate hypothesis has been developed to explain schizophrenia. It has been asserted that patients suffering from schizophrenia have a deficiency in one of the receptors found in the brain.

Glutamate is a neurotransmitter found in the brain. Secretion of glutamate takes place in the synapses to enhance the propagation of nerve impulse. When this receptor is compromised, an individual stands a high chance of becoming schizophrenic. The N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are the main subtypes of the glutamate receptors that facilitate steady excitatory post synaptic capabilities. This process is critical in the exhibition of complex behavioural observations, which is distorted among individuals suffering from schizophrenia (Yin, Chen, Sathyamurthy, Xiong and Mei, 2012).

Drug and substance abuse has closely been associated with schizophrenia. Various studies have pointed that increased use of drugs and other substances among schizophrenic patients worsens the condition. Schizophrenic patients are highly susceptible to the dreadful impacts of drug and alcohol abuse. Research has established that continued abuse of drugs and alcohol has led to developmental issues in the brain. The developmental issues in the brain have been said to lead to the development of schizophrenia among individuals.

Biological treatment of schizophrenia

Treatment of schizophrenia has been evolving over time. Among the ancient societies, there is evidence that a hole was drilled in the head of individuals with schizophrenia. This was meant to provide a way through which the evil spirits would escape from the sick person’s head. Other modes of treatment included exorcism, in which it was believed that schizophrenic individuals were possessed with evil spirits. With the advent of science, especially in psychiatry and psychological realms, medication and psychosocial therapies are critical in the management of the illness (Loughland, et al, 2010).

Advancement in the medical field has led to the discovery of conventional medicine and drugs for treating schizophrenia. The drugs used enable the schizophrenic individual to live a relatively normal life in the society. Despite the benefits associated with drugs used for treating schizophrenia, it is worth pointing out that they come with numerous side effects. In addition to the side effects, some of these drugs might not be effective in treating schizophrenia. It has been estimated that about thirty per cent of the schizophrenic patients do not respond to drugs.

During the 20th century, studies focussed on the brain chemistry. Schizophrenia was regarded as a “dopamine disorder”. It has been established that the neurotransmitter dopamine is critical in the explanation of schizophrenia. The presence of highly sensitive dopamine in the brain leads to schizophrenic symptoms. Therefore, treatment of schizophrenic patients involves the use of antipsychotic drugs that aim at reducing and blocking the dopamine receptors. The negative impact is that these drugs can be a challenge to individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD). This is because individuals with PD require drugs that can enhance the production of dopamine (Loughland, et al, 2010).

There are recent studies that have indicated that schizophrenia is a glutamate disorder. In this respect, the glutamate receptors are essential in the development of the disorder. It has been argued that the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are essential in the propagation of nerve impulses in the brain. The NMDA is usually distorted among schizophrenic patients. Therefore, treatment of such individuals entails giving NMDA receptor antagonists to the patients.

It has been observed that the augmentation of NMDA receptor activity has the potential to cure schizophrenic symptoms. The advent of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRIs) was a break through in detecting lack of use of auditory brain section over midline central and parietal scalp (Fusar-Poli, et al, 2011). It has been discovered that individuals suffering from schizophrenia exhibit changes in the prefrontal and temporal sections of the brain. The fMRI have been used in diagnosing and monitoring therapy of various types of mental disorders including schizophrenia (Furtner, Prayer and Sachs, 2010).


Schizophrenia is a widespread condition that affects virtually all societies across the world. People around the world have had to struggle to know how to deal with this condition. Nonetheless, understanding the patho-physiology of schizophrenia is critical. This is because it will enable people to have knowledge of how to deal with the disorder. It can be noted that biological and social perspectives play a vital role in the development of schizophrenia. However, the biological aspect is more critical compared to the social aspect. This is because the development of schizophrenia has to do with brain development. Research has indicated that genetics plays a vital role in the development of the condition.


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