- Somewhere in late adolescence or young adulthood, a person who has seemed normal, if perhaps a bit shy or reclusive, enters a period [of variable length] where things become troubled. They may have hypochondriacal concerns, withdraw from their usual activities, make abrupt life changes, or any number of things – but they seem confused, upset. This was called by some The Trema – things just aren’t right anymore. At some point in this period of confusion, there is the first psychotic experience – called The Apophany or The Break [with reality]. They may hear threatening or directive voices, develop paranoid beliefs, have disjointed and confusing thoughts and emotions, or behave oddly [or badly]. What has been a quiet withdrawal before becomes very public as the patient-to-be responds to these private troubling experiences. Bleuler’s view of this illness was from inside the Mental Hospital. Many recovered and left, never to be seen again. But others did not recover and went on to develop one of the chronic forms of the illness – Paranoia, Catatonia, Hebephrenia, Chronic Undifferentiated Schizophrenia [all of the above]. The term, Dementia Praecox, coined by Kraeplin referred to the chronic forms – people who came into the hospital as young adults and went on to an early death.
The flow of Schizophrenic thought is disjointed, often impossible to follow. Thoughts are associated with each other in a "loose" way.
While the classic description is "inappropriate" emotions, the more basic problem is that patients with Schizophrenia have difficulty knowing their emotional experience and using it in their lives. Bleuler’s term, Shizophrenia, referred to a disconnect between emotions and thought.
People with Schizophrenia have difficulty making decisions, staying lost in the push and pull of conflicting motivations.
Bleuler coined this term [now used for other things] to describe the "private logic" of the Schizophrenic person’s thoughts.
Patients with Schizophrenia have difficulty with abstract meanings, living in a concrete, literal world where they miss the "music" of life. It’s no paradox that they come up with such elaborate meanings for everyday events. They don’t see the simple or the obvious.
Literally, the absence of pleasure or experience of pleasurable emotions.
In a post-DSMIII world, Schizophrenia is a Disease of unknown etiology with signs and symptoms divided into positive symptoms [hallucinations, delusions, paranoia] and negative symptoms [anhedonia, "emptiness," literalness]. Current medications help the former, and the search is on to find medicines that help the latter. While not stating it explicitly, there seems to be a belief that the current medication research trajectory may be headed towards something close to a cure. While the cause is assumed to be biologic, it’s not much discussed.
People seem to be of three minds about the medications used to treat Schizophrenia. There’s the enthusiastic group [usually in the post-DSMIII Psychiatrist group] that seem sure that medication is the treatment for Schizophrenia. There’s a group that sees the downside of medication, emotional blunting, side-effects, Tardive Dyskinesia, etc. This group sees the first group as "druggers," – sort of a Clockwork Orange or 1984 view [they are in turn seen by the first group as naive "tree-hugger-types"]. The third group [often old guys] sees Schizophrenia as a dilemma. The modern medications are better that the older treatments like life-long institutionalization, lobotomy, and early death – but dangerous and prone to overzealous use. While many patients do very well on medications, there are also a lot who don’t do so well no matter what one does, and require intermittent care in a variety of forms.