What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder that affects more than 1% of the world’s population. Schizophrenia affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality. They may hear voices other people don’t hear. They may think other people are trying to hurt them. Sometimes they don’t make any sense when they talk.
Schizophrenia takes an enormous toll on the individual and the afflicted families. Many people with schizophrenia have difficulty maintaining a job or living independently, though it is important to recognize that treatment, especially at the onset of symptoms, allows individuals with a diagnosis of schizophrenia to lead meaningful, productive lives.
Hence early identification and treatment may be the key to a better outcome and lives restored from Schizophrenia.
Risk factors for Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia occurs in slightly more men than women
Affects all social and cultural groups.
Usual age of onset is between ages of 16 and 30.
In rare cases, children have schizophrenia too.
It would be important to know that no age is immune to Schizophrenia.
Signs & symptoms of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia symptoms fall into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.
- “Positive” symptoms are psychotic experiences that are not generally seen in healthy people. People with these symptoms are sometimes unable to tell what’s real from what is imagined. These symptoms can be severe, and at other times, hardly noticeable. Positive symptoms include:
- Hallucinations: when a person sees, hears, smells, tastes, or feels things that are not real. “Hearing voices” is common for people with schizophrenia. People who hear voices may hear them for a long time before family or friends notice a problem.
- Delusions: when a person believes things that are not true. For example, a person may believe that people on the radio and television are talking directly to him or her. Sometimes people believe that they are in danger and others are trying to hurt them.
- Thought disorders: when a person has ways of thinking that are odd or illogical. People with thought disorders may have trouble organizing their thoughts. Sometimes a person will stop talking in the middle of a thought or make up words that have no meaning.
- Movement disorders: when a person has may appear as agitated body movements. A person may repeat certain motions over and over. In the other extreme, a person may stop moving or talking for a while, which is a rare condition called catatonia.
- “Negative” symptoms refer to social withdrawal, difficulty showing emotions, or difficulty functioning normally. People with negative symptoms may need help with everyday tasks.
- Talking in a dull voice
- Showing no facial expression, such as a smile or frown
- Having trouble experiencing happiness
- Having trouble planning and sticking with an activity, such as grocery shopping
- Talking very little to other people, even when it is important
- Cognitive symptoms are not easy to see, but they can make it hard for people to have a job or take care of themselves. Often, these symptoms are detected only when specific tests are performed. Cognitive symptoms include:
- Difficulty using information to make decisions
- Problems using information immediately after learning it
- Trouble paying attention
What causes schizophrenia?
Many factors may cause schizophrenia, including:
- Genetics: because schizophrenia sometimes runs in families. However, it is important to know that just because someone in a family has schizophrenia, it does not mean other members of the family will have it as well.
- Environmental: such as exposure to viruses or nutrition problems before birth, heavy use of psychoactive substances
- Brain structures and brain chemistry
Treatment modalities for schizophrenia
- Medication for Schizophrenia:
Antipsychotic medications help patients with the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia and are the mainstay of treatment strategies.
The discovery of these medication have drastically altered the outcome of schizophrenia from a dreaded and untreatable illness to a completely treatable illness.
These medication can be life saving and can help persons with schizophrenia get back to normative lives. Some people have side effects when they start taking medications, but most side effects go away after a few days
People respond to antipsychotic medications differently, so it is important to report any of these side effects to a doctor. Sometimes a person needs to try several medications before finding the right one.
People should not stop taking a medication without first talking to a doctor. Stopping medication suddenly can be dangerous, and it can make schizophrenia symptoms worse.
- Counseling for Schizophrenia/ Psychotherapy for Schizohrenia:
These help patients deal with everyday challenges of schizophrenia. These treatments are often most helpful after patients find a medication that works.:
- Family education: teaches the whole family how to cope with the illness and help their loved one
- Illness management skills: helps the patient learn about schizophrenia and manage it from day-to-day
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): helps the patient identify current problems and how to solve them. A CBT therapist focuses on changing unhelpful patterns of thinking and behavior.
- Rehabilitation: helps with getting a job or going to school and everyday living skills
- Self-help groups: provide support from other people with the illness and their families
- Treatment for drug and alcohol misuse: is often combined with other treatments for schizophrenia and is critical for recovery because drug and alcohol abuse can interfere with treatment for schizophrenia.. Drug abuse can increase the risk of suicide, trauma, and homelessness in people with schizophrenia as well as the risk of developing other mental illnesses.
- Try to be active and exercise.
- Set realistic goals for yourself.
- Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative.
- Try not to isolate yourself, and let others help you.
- Expect your symptoms to improve gradually, not immediately.
- Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced, or changing jobs until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
- Continue to educate yourself about schizophrenia.
- Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol or taking drugs like cannabis.
Contact us to find out more about schizophrenia.