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by Ronald Chase
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013
Review by Helena Barbagelata Simões on Sep 30th 2014

Schizophrenia

Analogous to other mental disorders, schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and historically misunderstood condition. Its long-suffering symptoms, ranging from hallucinations and distorted cognitive perceptions, to erratic behavioral patterns, deeply affect the lives of its sufferers and loved ones. Early interpretations of schizophrenia portrayed it as a spiritual torment or demonic possession, and later medicine as a mental disability or form of irreversible dementia. The sometimes unsolvable aspects of the disorder have often caused numerous misunderstandings, and even in the light of recent scientific studies, its perplexing manifestations have been clouded with confused and discriminatory ideas.

In Schizophrenia: A Brother Finds Answers in Biological Science, Dr. Ronald Chase offers a distinct understanding of schizophrenia, interlacing a meticulous scientific approach with the awareness of his personal narrative. The book invites the reader into a deep reflection and probing of the disorder, as we follow the author's close experience with the tribulations of his brother Jim, a schizophrenic patient.

Chase's scientific and biographical prose is assembled in an engaging and interesting structure, as the author manages to successfully entwine an historical and evolutional account of the disorder with his brother's progressive struggles. The chronological analysis presented by the book trails down the scientific, medical and societal responses to the disorder, from the lack of medical acuity, the permeability of faulty scientific trends and accompanying misguided treatments in the 1950s, to today's greater public acceptance and improved scientific research and understanding.

By inquiring upon the perceptive evolution of the disorder, Dr. Ronald Chase advises a demystification of the prejudices often associated with mental illnesses. By means of the sensitive exposure of his brother's memoirs, he refutes several erroneous arguments and common sense answers to the disorder, such as the causal association of schizophrenia with parental neglect or with intellectual disabilities.

These are misconceptions which the author elucidates through rigorous research and by earnestly sharing his upbringing and his brother's profile as an especially bright and creative individual. Likewise, the broad array of symptoms and manifestations of schizophrenia are revealed and explained throughout the episodes of Jim's troubled life history.

Chase explores the ample range of discussions on the disorder, its variable treatments and the contributions of neuroscience and psychology. Although particularly rich in scientific materials and references, the information is conveyed in a clear and comprehensible terminology, corroborated by closing summaries and essential topics that conclude and revise each chapter.

By raising fundamental questions, the book can also help clarify accepted misconceptions while opening ground for new research. On another hand, the author's personal input makes the book exceptional by providing with a self-conscious and intimate scrutiny of the disorder, which proves invaluable for specialized readers and health professionals, families and individuals coping with the disorder and the general public.

 

© 2014 Helena Barbagelata Simões

 

Helena Barbagelata Simões, received her B.A. in Political Science and International Relations with a Minor in History of Philosophy from Universidade Nova de Lisboa in 2013. She's currently working towards her M.A. in Languages, Literatures and Cultures/Specialization in Iberian and Iberian-American Studies (Universidade Nova de Lisboa) and works as a researcher and freelance translator.