Is Any of This Real? The Facts Behind Schizophrenia
Many of us have seen movies or television shows that have portrayed someone with schizophrenia. However, the media portrays individuals with schizophrenia as someone who is “insane,” the “murderer,” or someone of whom to be afraid in general. But is this media portrayal anything like the truth? What exactly is schizophrenia? What causes it? Can it be treated? Here are some answers.
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a mental illness. Just like autism, there is a spectrum of schizophrenic symptoms. Most diagnosed cases are in individuals that are 20 years or older. According to the Mayo Clinic, many symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, delusions, abnormal behavior, and negative symptoms. Although these symptoms seem fairly straight forward, here’s a breakdown:
Hallucinations: These include seeing or hearing things that are not real, however, to the individual they seem completely real. Hearing voices is the most common.
Delusions: This is when the individual believes things that are not true. Some examples would be thinking that a catastrophe is about to happen, or thinking people are always talking about you.
Abnormal behavior: This includes non-goal oriented behavior, strange posture, or resistance to instructions.
Negative symptoms: This includes a lack of hygiene, social withdrawal, lack of emotion, and the inability to experience pleasure.
What causes Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is still being researched, however, a basic understanding has been found with a certain pathway in the brain. The Wnt pathway in the brain contains a transcription factor called β-catenin. This transcription factor is very important with development. In schizophrenic patients, the Wnt pathway is inhibited by β-catenin being tagged for deconstruction by the destruction complex GSK3β being over active. In the image below, the destruction complex normally gets inhibited by the Wnt pathway from the DVL protein, but in schizophrenia, the DVL complex does not inhibit the destruction complex and β-catenin gets destroyed. This can also happen with dopamine. The dopamine pathway inhibits a protein called AKT which also inhibits the same destruction complex. In schizophrenic patients, the dopamine pathway is overactive meaning AKT is inhibited. This doesn’t allow for the destruction complex to be turned off so β-catenin is also broken down
Can schizophrenia be treated?
Antipsychotic drugs that are currently used target the dopamine pathway. They specifically inhibit dopamine receptors to shut off the AKT inhibition. This allows for the destruction complex to be turned off and allow β-catenin to act normally. However, these drugs don’t always treat the negative symptoms. Lithium has also been used as a treatment in the past. It is used to inhibit the GSK3β directly. Since schizophrenia is still fairly new to research, treatment is not very advanced. Hopefully in the future, more research will develop a treatment that will be able to treat all symptoms of this illness.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness that not many people understand. The way it is portrayed in the media even makes it seem like something of which to be afraid. However, knowing the symptoms and what is happening in the brain allows us to understand that a patient with schizophrenia is not “insane” or “crazy.” It is a mental illness just like any other mental illness.