The brain disorder, schizophrenia affects over 2 million adults in America usually before the age of 30.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a disorder of the brain that interferes with the way in which the affected person thinks, how they feel and act or react. This interference causes them difficulty in distinguishing what is imagined and what is real. Because of their inability to make this distinction they can become delusional about themselves and those around them.
This condition can interfere with the person’s ability to experience emotions others might come by naturally in social relationships. This can lead to withdrawal from socialization. This condition impacts ordered thinking. This causes inability to concentrate and decreased attention span.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
The severity of schizophrenia as well as its onset and progression can vary from the very mild and gradual to the very severe and sudden and every level between the two extremes.
The symptoms of Schizophrenia are separated into four categories which include:
- Hallucinations – This includes seeing, smelling, hearing or tasting what is not there. The most common example of schizophrenic hallucination is hearing voices and the voice telling them to do or not to do specific things.
- Delusions – This category includes false beliefs about either themselves or those around them. Thinking that someone is out to get them or harm them, watching them even when there is evidence to prove this is not the case. False beliefs about themselves such as believing they are from another planet or that they are someone other than themselves is a sign of delusion.
- Disorganized thinking and nonsensical speech – This disorder can cause communication problems. The conversation can change from one topic to the next very rapidly. Sentences may seem out of place or irrelevant, even contain made up words.
- Social Withdrawal and Apathy – Loss of interest in their surrounding or in life in general. This is usually due to their emotional unresponsiveness and lack of motivation in social situations.
General Schizophrenia Symtoms
The general symptoms of schizophrenia include:
The unsubstantiated belief that there is a conspiracy (delusions); seeing and hearing things that are not actually there (hallucinations); rambling and illogical speech; abandonment of personal sanitation; loss of emotions or improper emotional reactions; irruptions of anger and rage; muscle stiffness and mental daze (catatonic); unrelenting sense of being continually watched; inability to function in organized settings such as school or work; social isolation; and awkward and ungainly movements.
General symptoms of schizophrenia in addition to others are categorized into three groupings: negative, positive and cognitive.
Negative Schizophrenia Symptoms
The negative symptoms in this context designate losses and they include:
Continually increasing loss of interest in everyday activities which were previously enjoyed; inability to display emotions; increasingly failing to perform common activities; disinterest in hygiene; withdrawing from relationships with others; and the loss of motivation.
Positive Schizophrenia Symptoms
The positive symptoms in this context designate gains and they include:
Hearing voices or seeing things that are not there in reality (hallucinations); believing things which are not based on reality (delusions); distortions of thoughts and speech (word salad); clumsy, repetitive and involuntary movements.
Cognitive Schizophrenia Symptoms
The cognitive symptoms involve memory and attention spans and they include:
Difficulty making sense of available information; inability to concentrate or pay close attention; and memory challenges.
Causes of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a psychiatric term for an assortment of grave and chronic mental disorders of the brain which result in distortions or misinterpretations of reality. The name “schizophrenia” is derived from Greek and it means “split mind” which refers to the disturbed or upset balance between emotions and thinking.
No one know exactly what causes the onset of schizophrenia but there have been a number of studies which point to genetics, the environment, neurobiology, psychological and social situations and a variety of prescription and a recreational drugs.
It is estimated that about 0.4 to .06% of the world population is affected by schizophrenia and that first symptoms most frequently appear during young adulthood. Schizophrenia usually exhibits itself as auditory or visual hallucinations, as paranoid or peculiar delusions, chaotic thinking, speech and behavior as well as social or occupational dysfunctions such as drastic withdrawal into an internal psychotic world.
The great majority of schizophrenia patients also suffer from major depression and anxiety disorders as well as lifestyle problems such as unemployment, poverty and homelessness in addition to alcohol and drug abuse. As a direct result of these secondary issues, the life expectancy of schizophrenia patients is reduced by approximately 12 years because of their ever-increasing health problems and the propensity to commit suicide.
Schizophrenia has been divided into seven distinct types which are specific to their dominant symptoms and these types are: paranoid, disorganized, catatonic, undifferentiated, residual, post-schizophrenic depression and simple schizophrenia.
This disorder is not curable, it is treatable however. Symptoms can be managed with the use of antipsychotic medications. Most patients respond rather quickly to the use of these medications. If the patient is extremely depressed and withdrawn an antidepressant medication may be included in drug therapy to help reduce this symptom. Some patients are hospitalized initially until symptoms are manageable on an outpatient basis. It is important that the patient stay on the medication regimen as stopping the medications used to manage the symptoms will cause the return of the symptoms.
Individual talk and cognitive therapy is used in some cases to help teach coping strategies for stressful situations and thought processes. Family and social support is imperative and doctors can provide referrals to community support groups and services.
There are no known cures for schizophrenia but, if and when diagnosed correctly, symptoms can be controlled so that patients may lead normal lives. However, it is important to note that schizophrenia patients must undergo treatments for the disease for the rest of their lives.
Thanks to modern medicine there are is an abundance of antipsychotics drugs which inhibit the production of dopamine and serotonin (brain’s neurotransmitters).
Psychosocial treatments usually include individual therapy; family therapy; rehabilitation; cognitive and behavioral therapy; and occupational therapy.
This kind of treatment is prescribed to patients who do not react or react poorly to other treatments.