Often misunderstood, schizophrenia is a psychological disorder affecting one percent of the population. In addition to treating the disorder, psychologists work to identify its nature and origins.
  • Identify two characteristic symptoms used to diagnose schizophrenia.
  • Discuss a research finding that supports a genetic basis for schizophrenia.
  • What is the dopamine hypothesis regarding the origins of schizophrenia?
  • Describe how medications used to treat schizophrenia affect the actions of neurotransmitters at the synapses.
  • Identify a risk inherent in using medications in the treatment of schizophrenia.
  • People sometimes confuse schizophrenia with dissociative identity disorder (DID). Identify two key characteristics that differentiate DID from schizophrenia.


There are many symptoms of schizophrenia that are mostly irrational and extremely abnormal. For example, a person who is diagnosed with this disorder experiences hallucinations and delusions. These include very bizarre thoughts that are unreal and cannot be explained or interpreted. Individuals that have a dissociative identity disorder have split personalities that change as the situation changes. Schizophrenia, on the other hand, involves consistent delusion that does not change as the situation changes. For example, someone with dissociative identity disorder might act as though they are someone with high power and change into a shy kid the next moment, in other words someone who has multiple personalties. Also, schizophrenia is usually always starts in adulthood and is triggered by a traumatic event.

Research has found that the closer a persons relationship is with someone who has schizophrenia the more likely they are to develop it. A child who has schizophrenic parents makes there risk of getting schizophrenia 14 times higher than someone whose parents aren't schizophrenic. For example, the study of identical twins reared apart, that have relatives with Schizophernia and one of the twins has Schziopheria, the other twin has a 50% more chance of developing Schziophernia. A biological basis for schizophernia is shown by the images of brain abnormailies on MRI scans. These images show the deficiencies in the neurotransmitter glutmate, which is a factor of Schizophrenia.

Some symptoms are not as easy to detect. A schizophrenic's brain has two enlarged vesicles. A study was done comparing brains of twins, one with schizophrenia and the other without. The vesicles that are filled with fluid might be either a symptom and/or cause of the disorder. The dopamine hypothesis is a theory that argues that the unusual behaviour and experiences associated with schizophrenia can be explained by changes in dopamine in the brain.


Schizophrenia is predicted to be related to an excess amount of dopamine. The theory argues that the unusual behavior and experiences associated with schizophrenia can be explained by changes in dopamine functions in the brain. In the brain dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter, chemical messages that relay neural messages across the synapse. the function of dopamine is diverse, but plays a large role in the pleasure/reward pathway (addiction and thrills), memory, and motor control. Drugs ,such as anti psychotic drugs, increase the metabolism of dopamine.

These medications however, may be harmful. The drugs over time may cause other disorders. Tardive Dyskinesia, motor control failure in the face/head, may occur and/or agranulocytosis, a blood disease, may occur. Also doctors do not exactly know how these drugs effect the person and the skizoprenic will become tolerant and need a higher dosage and will never live a normal life. Patients may have some side effects which include drowsiness, muscle spasms,dry mouth, tremor, or blurring of vision. Different levels of the drug can have a major effect resulting in different side effects.

People sometimes confuse schizophrenia with dissociative identity disorder (DID). The difference between the two is that schizophrenia is a part of the psychotic disorders. For instance, two major symptoms most people have are hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations are false sensory experiences whereas delusions involve persistent false beliefs. Dissociative identity disorder is apart of the dissociative disorders. For instance, they have two or more personalities an average of 6-8. Hallucinations and delusions however are not a part of this disorder.