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History of Schizophrenia

Kevin Mathias Jul 22, 2020
Schizophrenia is a mental illness that is characterized by distortions in the thinking, perceptions, emotions, and behavior. It is estimated that 1 in 100 individuals is affected by this mental illness. This write-up provides information on the history of schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness in which one experiences distorted thinking, hallucinations, and a reduced ability to feel normal emotions. It is an illness where the thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and behavior of the affected person are abnormal.
The risk of developing schizophrenia is higher, if this condition runs in the family. There's about 40-65% chance of developing this mental illness, if one has an identical twin who is affected by schizophrenia.
There's a 10% chance in case of individuals who have a parent, brother, or sister (first-degree relative) who is affected by this mental illness.
If one has second-degree relatives (aunts, uncles, grandparents, or cousins) with the disease, the risk of developing this illness is still higher than the general population. Also, a chemical imbalance of the brain chemicals could be a contributing factor.

A Brief History

The history of schizophrenia can be traced back to documents written by the Pharaonic Egyptians as far back as 2000 B.C. These texts mention the thought disturbances that are commonly observed in schizophrenia.
At that time, it was believed that these mental disturbances were caused by demons and evil spirits, and could be cured by exorcising. Many signs and symptoms of schizophrenia have been described in ancient Greek, Roman, and Chinese scripts.
It was during the 1700s that more detailed and accurate descriptions of abnormal mental behavior were recorded. These included changes in a person's speech, gestures, and emotions.
Emil Kraepelin combined the various diseases of the mind and named it 'Dementia Praecox' (early dementia) in the year 1878, and divided it into 4 categories. These included 'simple', 'paranoid', 'hebephrenic', and 'catatonic'.
Studies on these illnesses continued, and it was Eugen Bleuler who gave the illness its current name 'schizophrenia' and split the symptoms into 'positive' and 'negative' in the year 1911. He coined the word from the Greek words 'schizo' meaning split, and 'phrene' meaning mind. He divided the illness into 4 categories or the 4 'A's': blunted 'Affect', loosening of 'Associations', 'Ambivalence', and 'Autism'.
Both Kraepelin and Bleuler kept studying the symptoms and effects of schizophrenia and subdividing the symptoms into categories. They finally came up with 5 sub-divisions called 'disorganized', 'catatonic', 'paranoid', 'residual', and 'undifferentiated'.
Other scientists and physicians too were studying schizophrenia very closely. Kurt Schneider divided the symptoms into primary 'first-rank' symptoms, and secondary 'second-rank' symptoms in the year 1959. The patient was diagnosed with schizophrenia if any of the primary symptoms were present. If no primary symptoms were present, but more of the secondary symptoms were present, it was diagnosed as schizophrenia.

Types and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

In case of paranoid schizophrenia, the affected individual feels extremely suspicious, persecuted, or grandiose. He/she could experience a combination of these emotions. In individuals affected by disorganized schizophrenia, incoherence of speech and thought is observed.
A person affected by this form of schizophrenia may not experience delusions. In case of catatonic schizophrenia, there are disturbances in a person's movement. The affected individual may maintain bizarre postures.
He/she might maintain a rigid posture, and resist any attempts to move him/her. The patient may not react to the environment, or may show purposeless motor activity in the absence of any external stimulus.
He/she may resist in following instructions on moving, or might move in the opposite direction. In case of residual schizophrenia, the affected individual doesn't experience hallucinations or delusions, but a lack of motivation or interest in life is observed.
If the symptoms of schizophrenia and a major mood disorder (depression) are observed in an individual, he/she is diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.
The symptoms of schizophrenia are categorized into positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and cognitive symptoms. Positive symptoms are disturbances that are "added" to the personality of the affected individual. These include:.
Disordered thinking and speech
Movement disorders
Negative symptoms are capabilities that are "lost" from the person's personality.
Social withdrawal
Extreme apathy
Emotional unresponsiveness
Flat affect (a person's face does not move or he or she talks in a dull or monotonous voice)
Lack of ability to begin and sustain planned activities
Speaking little, even on being forced to talk or interact
Cognitive symptoms include:
Inability to understand and use information for making decisions
Inability to focus
Problems with working memory (the ability to use information immediately after learning it)


In the early 20th century, it was observed that a higher body temperature reduced the symptoms of schizophrenia. Patients were injected with a mixture of sulfur and oil to increase their body temperature. Many other therapies such as gas therapy, insulin therapy, and sleep therapy were all tried unsuccessfully.
Antipsychotic drugs were introduced in the 1950s. These drugs caused certain side effects including restlessness, muscle loss and tremors, which is why these were called neuroleptics. Atypical antipsychotic drugs were released in the 1990s. These too caused side effects, but the side effects were fewer than the older drugs.

Schizophrenia is Still a Complex Illness

From the early 1900s to the 1970s, those studying schizophrenia had no insight into the functioning of the brain of a patient. CT scans in the mid 70s helped renew an active interest in schizophrenia. With the invention and use of MR imaging in the mid 80s, brain patterns and functioning in those with schizophrenia could be studied in a much better way. Even though the understanding of the causes and effects of schizophrenia are much clearer today, it still remains a very complex illness.
Patients today are treated with medication and counseling. Many of those who have got mild to medium symptoms are reasonably cured and can return to a perfectly normal life.
There are a few things about schizophrenia that we must all be aware of.
A person affected by schizophrenia is not a 'split' personality.
A person affected by schizophrenia is not a violent person. Due to the nature of the illness, in more severe cases, they may tend to inflict mental and bodily harm to themselves.
A person affected by schizophrenia is not developmentally delayed; they develop normally.
A person affected by schizophrenia is not lower in intelligence than a normal person.
Those who have been diagnosed with this mental illness need a lot of care, love, and affection. This will help them get out of the shell they go into. With proper medication, they can get over most of the symptoms and lead an almost normal life.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this Story is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.