What is Schizophrenia?

Did you know that forty years ago patients suffering from schizophrenia occupied half of all the mental hospital beds and one-quarter of all hospital beds?  Schizophrenia remains one of the most serious chronic diseases, attacking 1 to 2% of the population. Schizophrenia is a disorder that makes it almost impossible to differentiate between what is imagined and what is real.  Some of the symptoms involved in schizophrenia include abnormal thinking, speech and perception; a lack of curiosity; lowered want or need for emotional contact with others; lethargy or tiredness; emotional changes such as tension and/ or depression.  Typically there are also many behavioural disturbances, ranging from catatonia to violent outbursts and delusions.  It is a struggle for many people who suffer from Schizophrenia to keep a firm hold on reality which, understandably, often prompts them to withdraw into their own worlds.  This can also, often be perpetuated by hallucinations.

There are 5 main types of schizophrenia:

1. Catatonic Schizophrenia: this subset of schizophrenia often displays as two ends of a very dramatic spectrum.  On one end of this spectrum of Catatonic Schizophrenia the patient cannot speak, move or respond- often referred to as a catatonic stupor.

At the other end of the spectrum, the person living with schizophrenia can often present as hyperactive.  This can be shown as anything from mimicking sounds (echolalia) or movements (echopraxia) around them- this is often referred to as catatonic excitement.

Catatonic Schizophrenia is much less common in this day and age, perhaps due to the improvements in treatment methods.  However, being in a state of catatonia does still happen.  Now though, it is thought to be more likely a symptom of other mental illnesses.

2. Disorganized schizophrenia, which used to be called Hebephrenic schizophrenia, is characterized by a lack of the normal range of behaviour such as completing goal oriented tasks, along with speech that displays a disorganized way of thinking.

Disorganized speech can display itself in many different ways.  It can look like a drastic change from one topic to the next in mid sentence, answering questions with seemingly irrelevant responses or even talking in such a disorganized manner that their words sound like "gibberish".  All of these things though, stem from an abnormality in the way that the person processed the thoughts associated with their speech.

3. Paranoid Schizophrenia is one of the most common types of schizophrenia worldwide.  This type of schizophrenia is often characterized by hallucinatory and delusional symptoms and will usually present itself in episodes.

4. Undifferentiated Schizophrenia involved a mixture of different symptoms from the types above.  The word "undifferentiated" is used because of the shifting nature of many common symptoms of the sub-types of schizophrenia.  Undifferentiated Schizophrenia is one of the hardest types of schizophrenia to diagnose.

5. Residual Schizophrenia is a type of Schizophrenia in which the symptoms may still be present but are considerably less severe than when the Schizophrenia was originally diagnosed.  In other words, the person may still be experiencing hallucinations or struggling with disorganized speech, but at a much less intense level than what they were previously experiencing.


What causes schizophrenia?

From a biological standpoint, we are much closer to understanding the root cause of Schizophrenia than we once were.  Recently, a group of Harvard students have been working on some very promising research into the relationship that the human genome has to those experiencing Schizophrenia.

From an environmental standpoint, it is theorized that in many cases, the onset of Schizophrenia is often related to a stressful life event or a sudden trauma.  It is also theorized that other factors, such as the use of some drugs, childhood head injuries, genetic heredity and birth complications can be factors in the onset of Schizophrenia.


Dr. Abram Hoffer on Schizophrenia

Dr. Abram Hoffer was a Canadian physician, biochemist and psychiatrist  known for his believe in "megavitamin therapy" in the treatment of the schizoaffective disorders.  This meant that Dr. Hoffer saw the benefits of "nutritional psychiatry"; nutritional intervention as an effective treatment for Schizophrenia.

During his time working at Regina General Hospital, Hoffer examined the effects of a specific nutrient, NIACINE, on Schizophrenia.  He theorized that epinephrine (more commonly known as Adrenalin), when oxidized in the body, was a "body made" neurotoxin that could cause Schizophrenia.  He also thought that people with Schizophrenia had a defect in the certain gene that produces the enzyme (Glutathione S-Transferase) able to eliminate the same bi-product that could cause the onset of Schizophrenia.  He chose Niacin as a treatment because at high doses, niacin acts more like a drug rather than a vitamin, and Dr. Hoffer believed that nicotinic acid could help with the treatment of Schizophrenia.

Dr. Hoffer's most commonly used Nutrients for Schizophrenia and Schizo- affective disorders (under medical supervision):

  • Vitamin B-3 (niacin)
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B-6
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin B complex
  • Selenium




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