After the movie “A beautiful mind”, the problem with schizophrenia arose. The mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr., Nobel prize winner in Economy in 1994, whose biography inspired the film, which shows a slightly different picture of the character represented by Russell Crowe. Goldsman, the film casting director, changed the kind of hallucination and made as if the disease had appeared when Nash was 20 and not 30 years old, as in reality.
The film benefits people that suffer from this disease, as well as their relatives, as it helps them to overcome prejudice and places them in the same level, as so many other patients bearing different kinds of diseases.
Epidemiology. The number of people that suffer from this disease is not precise. Nevertheless, it’s believed to be 1% of the world’s population. In a city of one million inhabitants, for example, it’s possible that 7 to 10 thousand people are affected by it.
Age. The disease appears between the ages of 15 to 35 years old. It rarely happens before or after this period of time.
Sex. This disease occurs similarly in both men and women.
Social Class. In all social classes there are cases of schizophrenia although, due to the occurrence of the disease, families have the tendency to lower their socioeconomic level, not only because of the treatment cost but also for the difficulties the bearers face in finding jobs.
Symptoms. The alteration occurs mainly in the sensory perception, mind, affection and behavior functions. In the sensory perception – the ability to feel the external world through the five senses (hearing, taste, sight, touch and smell) – there are cases of illusions and hallucinations. Illusion is the distorted perception of an object or stimulus. For example, the noise of a bus engine is understood as the sound of accusation voices. Hallucination is the perception without any object or stimulus. Even in total silence, the patient hears voices. Either illusion or hallucination may occur from any of the five senses – hearing, taste, sight, touch and smell. In the movie the character shows visual hallucination. In real life, Nash suffered from hearing hallucination. In the mind there are frenzied or delirious ideas, which are false beliefs that remain even when facing reality and that have the tendency to spread and take over the mind. In Nash’s case, the delirious ideas were of persecution. He though there was a conspiracy, and it was his job to find it out.
Concerning affection, there is a bluntness, where the patient does not show the normal reactions to life events – he seems unconcerned, uninterested. In his behavior the alterations are consequences of other alterations. In the movie, there is a scene where the character argues with his hallucinations, which is a typical behavior of one who speaks and fights alone.
Types. There are many types of schizophrenia of different seriousness.
Type I, type II – Catatonic, hebephrenic and simple schizophrenia.
Prognosis. Its evolution depends on its seriousness and the time of its beginning. Nash’s started when he was 30, that is the reason why he managed to get such good results – he had time for that. If his disease had appeared when he was 15, his results would probably not be as favorable. This disease develops by outbreaks. There are moments when the symptoms are strong and other moments when they are mild. Many times, when lucid, the person gets depressed for finding out the harm they have caused. There are cases of deep depressions and suicides. It’s estimated that 10% of them commit suicide. Nothing proves that these patients are more aggressive to others then normal people.
Causes. The causes are not well known. It’s known, however, that there is a strong genetic compound involved. So that, when both parents have the disease, there is a 40% probability that their children will also develop the disease. Nash had a child before his marriage. This child did not develop the disease. The other child he had with Alicia turned out to be schizophrenic. The genetic alteration restrains the brain cells (the neurons) from properly producing the neurotransmitters. Hence, it’s an organic disease, related to brain biochemistry.
Treatments. Treatments have evolved a great deal. The most effective is medication.