The Biological Approach to Schizophrenia – Disorder Example

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"The Biological Approach to Schizophrenia" is a significant example of a paper on the disorder.   Schizophrenia is the name given to a group of psychoses marked by distortion of thought, perception, and mood expressed via bizarre behavior or social withdrawal (Alloy & Jacobson, 1999). Schizophrenia, which literally means split-mind, actually refers to a split from reality. The disorder is characterized by disorganized thinking and distorted perceptions (Myers, 1992). Schizophrenia was described in 1986 first by Emil Kraepelin who proposed that there are three subtypes of the disorder (Alloy & Jacobson, 1999). Symptoms of schizophrenia as per the DSM IV include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, catatonic behavior, and negative symptoms like affective flattening (DSM IV). Schizophrenia is a complex disorder.

Patients suffering from schizophrenia lead chaotic lives, with little or no contact with reality. The biological approach The biological approach to psychology believes that behavior has some biological roots and part of human behavior is predetermined biologically. The supporters of the biological approach claim that the functioning of a living organism can be explained and treated on the basis of its biological structure and biochemical composition (Weiten, 2007).

  Nature versus nurture has been an ancient debate among psychologists.   The biological approach suggests that nature has a stronger role than nurture; which implies that behavior is determined by genes. With the decline of behaviorism, the belief that our environment can change us into anything is dying out and the biological approach is meeting greater acceptance. The biological approach offers a threefold explanation of personality. First is the one by Eysenck, which maintains that individual differences in the behavior of humans are based on physiological variations.

The second explanation of personality as per the biological approach is that of temperaments. It states that humans are born with built in dispositions to respond to certain situations in a specific manner. This specific response temperament is what shapes the personalities of human beings. The third and last explanation of personality as per the biological approach is that of evolutionary personality psychology. According to this viewpoint, humans inherit behavioral traits from their ancestors and therefore react to situations like their ancestors did (Burger, 2008). Biological approach to schizophrenia Several twin and adoption studies have revealed genetic ties of schizophrenia.

Twin studies are common in biopsychology since in the case of twins who are not separated, the environment is usually the same, therefore any discrepancy among the behavior of twins (especially monozygotic ones) can be attributed to genes (Burger, 2008). According to Gottesman (1991), cited in Myers (1992), adoption studies have confirmed a genetic link in schizophrenia. This is in accordance with Eysenck’ s idea that the genetic makeup of humans actually determines the behavior. Etiology of schizophrenia other than ‘ genetic’ includes hormonal imbalances in the brain and structural and biochemical abnormalities of the brain.

The Dopamine hypothesis has gained quite a lot of popularity in this regard. It posits that schizophrenia is related to the excess activity of neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. According to Andreasen and colleagues (1994), patients with schizophrenia have larger Cerebrospinal Fluid volumes as compared to healthy persons. The same findings were also confirmed by Staal and colleagues (2000). Schizophrenia runs in families and can be inherited (Alloy & Jacobson, 1999). This is in line with the evolutionary theory of personality as discussed in the previous section. Treating schizophrenia: the biological approach The biological approach offers various ways of treating Schizophrenia.

Each one is discussed as follows: Anti Psychotic Drugs The most common and basic treatment for schizophrenia is via antipsychotic drugs. These are medications from a psychoactive group and are also called neuroleptics. These include Phenothiazines, benzamides, thioxanthenes, and pirenzepine, etc. The function of these drugs is twofold: to reduce the acute psychotic long term and acute symptoms of schizophrenia and to prevent relapse via continuous use of a prescribed amount even when the symptoms are absent (Falkai, et. al; 2005).

These drugs can help a schizophrenic patient by reducing the psychotic symptoms including hallucinations and delusions, and consequently, the behavior is normalized. Pharmaceutical Treatments Other pharmaceutical treatments in addition to antipsychotic drugs are also available for the disorder. These include the usage of dopamine receptor blockers and anti-depressive drugs to reduce flat affect when present (Alloy & Jacobson, 1999).   Neuroleptics are more effective in treating the psychotic symptoms whereas blocking dopamine receptors and administering clozapine is more effective in treating negative symptoms of schizophrenia (Lingjæ rde, 1994).

Since according to the dopamine hypothesis discussed previously, flat affect is related to an excess of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain; dopamine receptor blocking agents reduce the level of dopamine which therefore normalizes the mood of the patient. ECT Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) uses electrodes attached to the scalp of the brain of the patient to produce electric seizures. Mild anesthesia has to be administered for this process. No research thus far has proved that ECT is any superior to pharmaceutical treatment however ECT administration has been found to be more effective in dealing with affective symptoms known as catatonia (Falkai, et. al; 2005).

Abnormal behavior is reduced to a great extent after an ECT and repetitive motor movements are decreased to quite an extent. Repetitive Trans-cranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) Repetitive Trans-Cranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) is a noninvasive magnetic technique that is used to stimulate the cortical neurons using high intensity brief magnetic waves. This treatment is relatively new and is currently being researched. The advantages of rTMS over ECT are its increased tolerability and decreased side effects. rTMS has proved to be effective in reducing auditory hallucinations among schizophrenic patients.

More research is however needed before this novel form of therapy is executed in routine to schizophrenic patients (Falkai, et. al; 2006). rTMS may work in the same way as ECT does to reduce the psychotic symptoms, but research is yet being done to find out how exactly both these procedures work.


Alloy, L.B; Jacobson, N.S & Acocella, J. (1999). Abnormal Psychology: Current Perspectives. Boston: McGraw Hills.

Andreasen, (1994). Regional Brain Abnormalities in Schizophrenia Measured With Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The Journal of American Medical Association. Vol: 272(22), p.1763-1769.

Burger, J.M. (2008). Personality. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth.

DSM IV. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Washington, D.C: American Psychological Association.

Falkai, (2005). World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry (WFSBP) Guidelines for Biological Treatment of Schizophrenia, Part 1: Acute treatment of schizophrenia. The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry. Vol. 6(3), p. 132-191

Falkai, (2006). Guidelines of the World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry for the biological treatment of schizophrenia Part 2: Long-term treatment. Journal of Clinical psychology. Vol:33.

Lingjærde, O. (1994). New perspectives on biological treatment of schizophrenia. Acta Psychiatrica scandinavica. Vol: 90 (384), p.102-107.

Myers, D. G. (1992). Psychology. New York: Worth Publishers, Inc.

Staal, (2000). Structural brain abnormalities in patients with schizophrenia and their healthy siblings. The American Journal of Psychiatry. Vol. 147, p. 416-421.

Weiten, W. (2007). Psychology: Themes and variations. Belmont :Wadsworth.

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