Living with schizophrenia can be a challenging and isolating experience, but with the right treatment and support, individuals with this disorder can lead fulfilling lives.
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic brain condition characterized by a “disconnection” from reality. These disconnections might appear as delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, and disorganized or odd movements. Schizophrenia refers to both a single condition and a group of conditions classified as psychotic disorders.
Schizophrenia does not mean a split or multiple personalities. Multiple personalities are a symptom of dissociative identity disorder. Most people with schizophrenia are not any more dangerous to society. While it is a common misperception that people with schizophrenia end up homeless or in hospitals. The majority of persons with schizophrenia live at home, in group homes, or on their own.
Schizophrenia and psychosis are two concepts that are closely related, but they also have significant differences. Psychosis is a collection of symptoms characterized by a loss of connection with reality and the world around you. Other medical diseases, such as bipolar illness, can cause psychosis. Schizophrenia is a range of conditions that involve psychotic symptoms. Schizophrenia affects approximately 24 million people or 1 in 300 people (0.32%) worldwide according to WHO.
What are the symptoms of Psychotic Disorders?
Schizophrenia is a complex disorder with a range of symptoms that can vary from person to person. The symptoms of schizophrenia are typically categorized as positive, negative, or cognitive.
Delusions: Delusions are persistent false beliefs that continue despite apparent or reasonable proof that they are untrue or illogical. The most common are persecutory (or paranoid) delusions, in which a person feels they are being hurt or tormented by another person or group. These are incorrect ideas that a person will not change despite evidence to the contrary.
Hallucinations: Hallucinations are the illusion of hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, or experiencing things that are not really there. They are clear and distinct, giving the appearance of normal experiences. The most prevalent type of hallucination in schizophrenia is an auditory hallucination, or “hearing voices”. These are things that don’t exist, yet you believe they do.
Disorganized thinking and speech: It refers to thoughts and speech that are disorganized, confused, and/or do not make sense. They may struggle to keep on topic, or it may be severe enough that you are unable to comprehend them because their words are jumbled or incomprehensible. People suffering from schizophrenia frequently struggle to organize their thoughts when speaking.
Disorganized or abnormal motor behavior: These are motions that can range from childlike silliness to unpredictable agitation, disturbing or repetitive movements. When the behavior is severe, it might interfere with the performance of daily activities. It comprises catatonia, a condition in which a person does not react to the stimuli as expected. They may strike a certain pose, fail to reply to the person speaking to them, or begin moving around excessively for no apparent reason.
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Social withdrawal: Avoiding social interactions and relationships.
Lack of motivation: Loss of drive to engage in activities or tasks especially when it comes to socializing or doing things they normally love.
Impaired emotional expression: A decrease in the range or intensity of emotions.
Anhedonia: The inability to feel pleasure or enjoyment.
Problems with memory and attention.
Difficulty with decision-making and problem-solving.
Difficulty with planning, prioritizing, and organizing.
Trouble focusing or paying attention
Slower processing speed
What are the risk factors of schizophrenia?
Genetics. People with a family history of schizophrenia are far more likely to develop the disorder. However, it is not caused by a single gene, and other factors such as environmental influences are also important.
Environment. Many environmental factors can raise your chance of developing schizophrenia. Exposure to certain environmental factors, such as prenatal stress, or trauma may increase the risk of developing schizophrenia.
Birth problems. If your mother suffered deficiency when pregnant with you, your chance of schizophrenia increases. If you were underweight at birth or if there were difficulties during your birth, your risk increases.
Drug usage for recreation. Researchers have connected schizophrenia to the use of some recreational drugs.
Neurochemistry: Imbalances in certain neurotransmitters and abnormalities in brain structure and function have also been observed in individuals with schizophrenia.
How to diagnosis schizophrenia?
The diagnosis of psychotic disorders is usually made by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist, based on a thorough assessment of the person’s symptoms, medical history, and other factors.
The diagnostic process may involve a comprehensive evaluation that includes a physical examination to rule out other medical conditions, and psychological tests to assess cognitive and emotional functioning. The mental health professional needs to rule out other psychological conditions that may have similar symptoms, such as bipolar disorder or major depression.
What are the treatment options for schizophrenia?
Though there is no treatment for schizophrenia, many individuals manage their symptoms completely. People with psychotic disorders can recover completely in a small fraction of cases
Medications Antipsychotic drugs have greatly improved the outlook for individual patients as they reduce psychotic symptoms and usually allow the patient to function more effectively and appropriately. Two types of antipsychotic medicines are used to treat psychotic disorders.
Typical antipsychotics. These drugs interact with the way your brain utilizes dopamine, a neurotransmitter used for cell-to-cell communication.
Atypical antipsychotics. These inhibit both dopamine and serotonin, two important brain communication neurotransmitters. However, it has a rare serious side effect that needs constant blood testing to keep individuals safe, which is why other antipsychotics are generally preferred by clinicians and patients.
Psychotherapy involves regularly scheduled talks between the patient and a mental health professional. The sessions may focus on current or past problems, experiences, thoughts, feelings, or relationships. It can be a long-term treatment option, but for the right individual, it can make a significant difference in their quality of life.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment can assist persons with schizophrenia to cope with and manage their condition. It may reduce symptoms and enhance function. Long-term therapy can also assist with secondary conditions that accompany schizophrenia, such as anxiety, sadness, or substance abuse.
Family Therapy is another treatment option that can be incredibly effective for those living with psychotic disorders. This approach focuses on involving family members in the treatment process and helping them learn to communicate effectively and offer support.
Hospitalization In the acute stage of the illness, hospitalization might be required if the patient brings a risk to others or himself or is unable to take care of himself. To make sure the patient takes the appropriate medicine, hospitalization is frequently advised.
Mutual-Support Groups for people with schizophrenia and their families are becoming increasingly common. Although not run by a professional therapist in USA, these groups may be therapeutic because members provide continuing support and comfort in knowing that they are not alone.
Electroconvulsive Therapy: This treatment includes applying an electrical current to your scalp, which stimulates certain regions of your brain. This stimulation generates a short seizure, which can help persons with severe depression, or other issues to improve their brain function. When certain drugs fail to treat a person’s schizophrenia and the individual is at danger of self-harm or injuring others, healthcare practitioners may propose using electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
Overall, there are several treatment options available for those with psychotic disorders. Each approach has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to work with a mental health professional to determine the best course of action for each individual. With the right support and resources, those with schizophrenia can lead fulfilling and meaningful lives.
Helping someone who may have schizophrenia
If you think someone you know may have symptoms of schizophrenia, talk to him or her about your concerns. Even while you can’t force someone to get professional help, you can encourage them, support them, and assist them in finding a skilled medical or psychological expert.
You might need to call 911 or another emergency line for assistance so that your loved one can be assessed by a mental health expert if he or she is a risk to themselves or others.