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Schizophrenia: Daniel Paul Schreber (Previously labeled Paranoid Schizophrenia)

Updated on August 23, 2016
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Rodric completed his bachelor of psychology through the University of Phoenix. His perspective provides guidance and education.

A case that captured the interest of the notable Sigmund Freud and instigated Freud to introduce a work based on the memoirs written regarding the subject of his inferences, leading to the buttress of modern psychology.

Daniel P. Schreber’s memoirs and similar information helped Freud to develop his views regarding paranoia. Because of Freud’s contribution to the study and development of the field of psychology, the case of Schreber requires some attention in the analysis of Paranoid Schizophrenia.

In this discussion, a digest of the biological, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components of Paranoid Schizophrenia follows with reference to the D. P. Schreber experience. In order to have an adequate appreciation of Schreber’s experience, an understanding of what constitutes Paranoid Schizophrenia is necessary.


Schizophrenia describes a collection of disorders that have a connection to hallucinations of the sensory organs and delusions at a minimum.

The importance of understanding that schizophrenia describes a collection of disorders and not just one major disorder fits with the need to know that the hallucinations are not just of the eye sensory organ, but also the sensory organs associated with smell, sound, taste and touch--though not so much as hearing voices and seeing things.

Schizophrenia with paranoid tendencies occurs when a patient’s symptom of schizophrenia appear “dominated by a preoccupation with grandiose or persecutory delusions, delusions of jealousy (erotomania), or hallucinations (auditory) with a delusional content”1 which tend to be most common.


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Schreber Story

Owing to Schreber’s memoirs and the attention garnered Schreber’s experience from Freud’s views on his psychosis, information about Schreber’s experience gives details to one of the première cases of paranoid schizophrenia.

Schreber’s life began in the rigidly stern home environment. Apparently, Schreber’s parents espoused discipline standards that would cause most people in Modern Western culture to become astonished beyond all measure!

An example of the tactics Schreber’s father used for discipline appears in the form of a contraption used to produce correct posture—suggested by Dr. Schreber, the father, for waking and resting periods.

Meyer describes the contraption used on the Schreber children as an “orthopedic device made of iron”2 with metal rings for posture support at slumber. Trying to escape the reality of the discomfort of the contraption to say the least gives justice to the idea that Schreber started finding ways to detach from his situation.

The alleged corporeal discipline enlisted by the Schreber parents may have influenced later developments in psychosis also. The publications by the Schreber father to maintain control of a juvenile’s schedule and exact heavy consequences may have led to the success of Schreber occupational endeavors, contrary to first assumptions of the modern reader.

Schreber became an attorney later to run an unsuccessful contest for a public office. Schreber’s defeat led to the first signs of mental illness where he suffered hospitalization from mild delusions and hypersensitivity to sound and touch—hallucinations of at least two sensory organs.

It is noteworthy that Schreber suffered psychosis in relation to tactility since corporeal punishment in varying degrees was used in his education. There certainly is evidence of a connection between his experience and the physical delusions he dealt with at failing to win--a self-inflicted cognitive reaction that produced a physical sensation.

Schreber eventually returned to hospitalization with other symptoms such as extreme delusion of grandeur, more hallucinations, rambling or incoherent speech, paranoid behavior and the list continued known now to fall under the canopy of schizophrenia, particularly paranoid schizophrenia. Yes, paranoia does not have to accompany schizophrenia.

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Biological Components

Several views support biology plays a factor in the development of schizophrenia disorders in general if genetic elements mingle with environmental elements at certain stages of development, though paranoid schizophrenia trends later in adult life.

Because the paranoid schizophrenia develops in maturity, normally in adulthood, research focuses on discovering in the brain where abnormal neurotransmission of several neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine, involved in the regulation sensory system lead to changes that prompt a neurological shift.

However, “more recently it has become clear that schizophrenia has a complex neurodevelopmental basis that includes abnormalities in several neurotransmitter and structural systems."3

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Points to Remember

1. Schizophrenia is a group of disorders, not just one

2. Paranoid Schizophrenia (debunked) is the Most Popular Disorder in Entertainment's view

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Emotional Components

Schreber attempted suicide, as do many people with paranoid schizophrenia as a result of the emotional and mental trauma suffered from the disorder. The delusions and paranoia can take a significant toll on loved ones and the individual.

Freud expressed the idea that schizophrenia had a biological basis, and “that schizophrenia involved a profound withdrawal of emotional investment in the external world so that individuals with the disorder could not form deep relationships with others, including relationships with psychotherapists.”4

Schreber exhibited this type of detachment from close relationships though he married and maintained a few relationships with colleagues for years. Recently a study concluded that when confronted with emotional stimuli such as pleasant graphics, paranoid schizophrenics could not relate adequately pleasantry, but could illicit a negative response adequately when presented negative graphics.

The trauma is what those plagued with paranoid schizophrenia nurtured in their personality and not nurturing. This is direct evidence that the way a child is reared in the formatives years determines how he or she recognizes the difference between good and bad graphics and exhibits the culturally accepted reaction.

Cognitive Components

The role of cognitive function in paranoid schizophrenia has yielded minute success but researchers have developed some workable view in the area. Focusing on the Gemini effect of schizophrenia, researchers suggest a positive and a negative portion relating to the collective disorders in general.

The positive, or over-attentive schizophrenic focuses too much on the pertinent details and cannot adequately decipher on what information to focus. “This overattention [sic] leads to difficulties coping with stress, and possibly further to psychotic symptoms such as delusions when clients attempt to explain their odd subjective experiences to themselves.”5

The opposite view suggests that the under attentive sufferer cannot grasp enough of the information to make any coherent meaning of information to form a basis for focus.

Behavioral Components

The behaviorists tend to believe that behavioral foundations for paranoid schizophrenia and schizophrenia in general, tend to occur because of positive reinforcement for abstract behavior. Those of this vein of thought do not dispute there exist some biological predisposition for the behavior associated with schizophrenia, but levies more with the idea that the behavior would cease to occur if the reinforcers or attention would cease.

In another article, the Showtime program The United States of Tara is mention as a dramatic and entertaining way to capture Dissociative Personality disorder. Behaviorists would do well to review such pop culture shows and how accurate the information and research is regarding behavior. It could provide support to the behaviorist position, possibly.

Schreber’s case has elements from all of the components mentioned in this article. There may exist a possibility that a genetic disposition to develop schizophrenia could have passed to Schreber that remained dormant until a trigger occurred later in life.

The highly intense environment of Schreber’s youth could possibly have caused some trauma leading in degrees to the onset of paranoid behaviors. Schreber may very well have seen more than what occurred in daily life or less.

Or, Schreber could have reacted to the attention the multiple hospital visits garner and fame from the published memoirs. Paranoid schizophrenia may consist of a combination of all or a few of the components mentioned herein. The fact remains when the research concludes that no cure exists.


Bengston, M. (2001). Schizophrenia and psychosis. PsychCentral.

Hansell, J., & Damour, L. (2005). Abnormal psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

  • (Hansell & Damour, 2005, p. 421)3
  • (Hansell & Damour, 2005, p. 426)4
  • (Hansell & Damour, 2005, p. 427)5

Meyer, R. (2006). Case studies in abnormal behavior. (7thed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ:Pearson.

  • (Meyer, 2006, Paranoid Schizophrenia, ¶ 1)1
  • (The Case of Daniel Schreber, 2005, ¶ 4)2

© 2013 Rodric Johnson


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    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 4 years ago from United States

      Paranoid schzophrenia is certainly a complex disease. This is a very interesting article.