Michael W., a 29 year-old married male, was brought to
the hospital emergency room after refusing to eat or speak
for four days. An interveiw with with family members
revealed theat Mr. W. had had such episodes before, but they
had never lasted this long. In addition, he had periods in
which he was suspicious of everyone in his family and
claimed they were trying to poison him. During these
periods, he accused his wife of infidelity and became
extremely agitated and hostile towards her. He had never
been physically abusive, but his behavior was so irrational
and out of control that she was quite fearful of him at
htose times.
Following high school graduation and vocational
training, Mr. W. had been regularly employed in television
repair until two years ago when economic conditions forced
his employer to lay him off. Since that time, he worked
occcasionally at different jobs, the last one delivering for
a local pizza parlor. He was fired from that job six months
later. Apparently, he would leave the parlor to make
deliveries, but would then become confused, park his truck,
and sit for hours before returning with no deliveries made.
After that he had stopped seeking employment.
According to the older brother, he and Mr. W.had been
reared by an unmarried aunt who was in her 50s when they
came to live with her as small children. Their mother was
killed in an automobile accident shortly after Mr. W.s
birth, and their father afterwards developed a drinking
problem, eventually becoming totally unable to care for
them. The brother desribed his aunt as an emotionally cold
woman who resented caring for her nephews, but he stated
they were well-fed and clothed and their physical needs
generally were attended to. Visits from their father were
rare, and usually resulted in bitter arguments with their
aunt, after which the boys were denied supper and confined
to their room for the remainder of the day. Neither had
seen or heard from their father for over 10 years, and the
aunt died six years ago.
During the interveiw, Mr. W. answered no questions, but
merely stared at the opposite wall. Every now and then he
would jerk his head sideways and inhale sharply. He sat in
a very perculiar posture, his right hand and arm held
rigidly at a 45 degree angle, the left stiffly at his side.
When he walked, his knees bent only slightly with each step,
giving him a robotlike appearence. He was admitted to
hospital and given antipsychotic drugs.
After several days of observation and drug treatment,
Mr. W. began to respond to direct questions, but did so in a
monotone. He revealed that he believed himself to be
controlled by magnetic fields beamed at him by the
communists, and that he thought his wife and brother were
working with them. Because of his severe motor problems,
the diagnosis given was schizophrenia, catatonic tyoe, with
paranoid elements.
Schizophrenia is a psycosis or psychotic disorder which
causes hallucinations, delusions, confused speech, and
disorganized thought processes. Many researchers agree that
schizophrenia is not a single disorder, but that there are
different causes and degrees of severity. Their are four
types of schizophrenia: Paranoid schizophrenia, Catatonic
schizophrenia, Disorganized schizophrenia, and
Undifferentiated schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia affects about one in one-hundred people
at some point in their lives. Paranoid schizophrenia is
the most common type of this mental disorder, while
Catatonic schizophrenia is fairly rare. Disorganized
schizophrenia is somewhat common and a fourth type is
Undifferentiated schizophrenia.
The subject of causes is a very broad subject because
there has not yet been a cause pinpointed to the disorder.
Many researchers think that schizophrenia results mostly
from some physical or chemical problem because it almost
never develops outside of of the late teenage to early
adulthood years. So that means that it can not be a
psycological problem or it could occur at any age. Another
probable cause is that many schizophrenics carry abnormally
high levles of dopamine, a brain chemical that causes nerve
cells to fire too quickly thus leading to thought and speech
confusion. If thought are running through their heads at
maximum speed hour after hour, day after day, this would
cause confusion and eventually lead to stupor from
fatigue-which is just the way many schizophrenics act.
Studies with animals show that grugs that increase the
levels of dopamine far beyond normal produce bizzare
behavior in the form of strange posturing and robotlike
movements-again symptoms often seen with
schizophrenics.(Kokkinidis & Anisman 1980)
Environmental factors that cause this disorder should
refer you back to the opening story about Mr. W.. How a
mother dying, father goiing into a backwards state not being
able to take care of himself, let alone the kids, And an