What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is believed to be the most chronic and disabling of the major mental illnesses. An individual who suffers from Schizophrenia suffers from distortions in the way they may think, act, express their emotions, in the way they perceive reality, and in the way that they may relate to others. Individuals often have a hard time functioning and controlling their life at work, at school, in society, and in relationships to say the least. Additionally, it is important to note that such disorder cannot be cured, but rather controlled.
IMPORTANT NOTE: It is NOT a split of multiple personality disorder, it is a psychosis in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. Individuals with such disorder often lose touch with reality and it seems to them as if the world was a jungle of confusing thoughts, sounds, and images. Furthermore, individuals tend to undergo a psychotic episode, which is when an individual has a sudden change in personality and behavior while losing touch with reality.
What are the symptoms of Schizophrenia?
The most common symptoms of Schizophrenia can be grouped in the following categories:
- Positive Symptoms- does not mean good, but rather obvious symptoms that are an exaggerated way of thinking or behaving
- Delusions- strange beliefs that are not based on reality, but that the individual refuses to give up
- Hallucinations- involve perceiving sensations that are not real including seeing things that may actually not be there, smelling things that aren’t there, and hearing voices to say the least
- Catatonia- individual becomes physically fixed in one position for a long time
- Disorganized Symptoms
- Talking in sentences that do not make sense
- Suddenly goes from one thought to the next
- Moves slowly
- Inability to make decisions
- Writing excessively, but has not meaning
- Tend to forget and lose things
- Repeating movements and gestures (i.e. waling in circles)
- Have a hard time understanding everyday sights, sounds, and feelings
- Cognitive Symptoms
- Poor executive functioning (i.e. cannot understand information that is being given)
- Cannot stay concentrated
- Difficulty with working memory (i.e. cannot use information learned right away)
- Negative Symptoms- does not mean bad, but rather reflects on the absence of certain normal behaviors
- Lack of emotion
- Withdrawal from social activities (i.e. friends and family)
- Reduced energy
- Reduced speech
- Does not have motivation
- Loss of interest in life
- Poor hygiene
What causes Schizophrenia?
Although the known cause is not yet known, it is a real illness with a biological basis. However, it has been linked to genetics, brain chemistry and circuits, brain abnormality, and environmental factors (i.e. viral infection, extensive exposure to toxins such as marijuana, or highly stressful situations).
It is important to note that anybody can be diagnosed with schizophrenia at any age however, it typically begins to appear in the teenage years or early 20s. Also, the prevalence rate is equal among men and women however, symptoms tend to appear earlier in men.
How is Schizophrenia treated?
Treatment does not cure Schizophrenia, but rather serves to control the symptoms and prevent a relapse (in some cases).
- Medications- help relieve symptoms
- Psychosocial Therapy- help with physiological, social, and occupational problems
- Individuals learn how to manage their symptoms and identify early warning signs of relapse for example
- Focuses on social skills and job training
- Cognitive Remediation
- Individual learns techniques to compensate for their problems with informational processing
- Individual Psychotherapy
- Helps person to better understand their illness and cope with it
- Family Therapy
- Allows families to better understand their loved one
- Group Therapy/Support Groups
- Mutual Support
- Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
How can I help myself if I have Schizophrenia or someone I know?
- Accept the illness and difficulties
- Don’t fall into the idea that individuals with Schizophrenia cannot get better
- Pay attention to your needs
- Maintain a sense of humor
- Remain hopeful
- Become EDUCATED on the subject
- Seek professional support as well as social support