Art & Research: Peter Stavros

Further Reading Literature: Peter Stavros


What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia comes from the Greek words schizo (split) and phrene (mind ( This “split” refers to perception and reality. Schizophrenic patients have a distorted view of reality, which causes them to exhibit abnormal behaviors and emotions (Mayo Clinic).

What Causes Schizophrenia?

The exact cause is unknown, but there are many theories:

White matter is the connections between brain regions. Reduced white matter volume has been seen with schizophrenia (NCBI). Reduced gray matter in the temporal lobe and prefrontal cortex; the areas associated with memory, hearing, and decision making (NCBI). Imbalances in the level of dopamine and serotonin may cause schizophrenia, as can changes to the body’s sensitivity to these neurotransmitters (NHS).

Environmental factors can trigger schizophrenia. While not being causes, drug abuse and stress can increase the chances of it developing (NHS).

Other Causes:

Schizophrenia has a strong genetic link, and a family history of schizophrenia is a major risk factor (Mayo Clinic).

Stress can also act as a psychological trigger. Stress from the end of a relationship, loss of a job, and physical/ emotional abuse can all act as triggers (NHS).

Drug usage, especially of marijuana and LSD, also increase the risk of developing schizophrenia (NHS).

What are the symptoms?

Positive symptoms are abnormal behaviors, such as hallucinations (APA). Auditory hallucinations, or hearing voices, are the most common positive symptom (Mayo Clinic). 

Negative symptoms are when normal functions do not happen, such as loss of emotion and happiness/ pleasure (APA). This “loss of joy” is called anhedonia, and is very common in depression as well as schizophrenia (WebMD).

How is it Diagnosed?

Symptoms usually begin manifesting in late teens for men and late 20s for women. A physical exam is run to rule out other conditions (Mayo Clinic). Then a psychological exam is used to identify if the patient has delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking and motor behavior, or negative symptoms. The patient will need two or more of these symptoms to be diagnosed with schizophrenia (DSM-5).


Each schizophrenic patient is different, so each treatment must be tailored to their unique needs. However, antipsychotics that reduce the effects of dopamine are a typical initial treatment because they can control schizophrenia’s symptoms (NHS).

Schizophrenics are also commonly treated with therapy by community mental health teams, which can be made up of nurses, social workers, psychiatrists, and friends (NHS).

Caring for a loved one with schizophrenia:

Schizophrenia can be a crippling illness, and may require a lot of support. Much of that support can come from those close to the patient, such as family and friends. Let loved ones with schizophrenia know they are loved, and remind them to be optimistic! For many patients the prognosis for schizophrenia is good, and many patients lead fulfilling lives (APA).

Schizophrenia can place strain on those close to the patient. Family therapy can help the patient’s family learn how they can help their loved one while also addressing their needs and how they may be affected (NHS).

Want to learn more about this topic?

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