Schizophrenia is a severe, lifelong brain disorder. People who have it may hear voices, see things that aren’t there or believe that others are reading or controlling their minds. In symptoms usually start in the late teens and early 20s. Other symptoms include
- Unusual thoughts or perceptions
- Disorders of movement
- Difficulty speaking and expressing emotion
- Problems with attention, memory and organization
No one is sure what causes schizophrenia, but research suggests there is a strong genetic component to schizophrenia, with brain chemistry playing an important role. Medicines can relieve many of the symptoms, but it can take several tries before you find the right drug. You can reduce relapses by staying on your medicine for as long as your doctor recommends. With treatment, many people improve enough to lead satisfying lives.
Facts of Schizophrenia
- 90% of the people with Schizophrenia experience delusions at some stage
- What people with Schizophrenia see or hear absolutely seems real to them in spite of how unrealistic or unbelievable others may find it.
- Treatment for Schizophrenia is most effective if it begins as soon as the symptoms
Causes of Schizophrenia
It’s not known as to what causes schizophrenia, but experts believe that a combination of brain chemistry, chemical imbalance in the brain, genetics, family relationships and environmental conditions contribute to the development of this disorder.
Certain issues with brain chemicals may develop the illness. Many research studies show the differences in the structure of the brain and the central nervous system (CNS) of the people with schizophrenia.
While some researchers are not certain about the importance of the changes as they indicate that it is a brain-related disease.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia vary from person to person, depending on the individuals. The early symptoms of schizophrenia include –
- Sleep disturbance
- Appetite disturbance
- Unusual Behaviour
- Blunted feelings
- Speech that is difficult to follow
Schizophrenic people can exhibit signs of reduced physical or mental activity by sitting in one place and doing nothing for hours. On the other hand, they can exhibit signs of a high level of excitement by shouting, talking fast and acting in a violent manner.
The extreme symptoms of schizophrenia can be classified into three categories:
- Positive Symptoms – People with schizophrenia show positive symptoms when their perception of reality does not exist in the real world. Some of the positive signs and symptoms of schizophrenia are –
- Hallucinations – The person can touch, feel, hear, smell and see imaginary things which do not exist in reality. Such symptoms are because of the deterioration in the brain’s reception which makes the brain respond to fake sensory inputs. These hallucinations are sometimes interpreted by friends and family as unconventional imagination.
- Delusions – This is one of the most common symptoms experienced by Schizophrenic patients. Close to 90% of all Schizophrenic patients suffer from delusions. When a person undergoes delusion, s/he holds on to her/his belief whether or not it is true. For example, if a person is not rich or famous and everybody around him knows that, this person might think otherwise and behave like a famous movie star or a person in an eminent position.
- Negative Symptoms – Negative symptoms are the absence of the characteristics of normal function. Compared to the positive ones, they are less apparent and therefore are more difficult to identify. Here are a few negative symptoms –
- Disorganised thinking – People who suffer from nebulous or distorted thinking is not able to process their thoughts in an orderly manner. Therefore, they are unable to express themselves properly and speak in a manner which nobody understands. They are unable to process their thoughts, thereby making it hard to go about their daily activities.
- Emotional Instability and Social withdrawal – People who are emotionally unstable and socially withdrawn are scared and lack confidence. They prefer to be alone than to go out and intermingle with people. Their personal and professional lives are affected as a result of their behaviour.
- Loss of Enthusiasm – A complete loss of enthusiasm and interest in things that were once important to them. People with schizophrenia can take no pleasure in everyday life.
- A perplexed form of speech – People feel frightened, confused and not confident about themselves. This might occur in combination with hallucination where they are instructed or warned by a voice about some kind of approaching danger.
Negative symptoms for schizophrenic people also include apathy, appearing completely indifferent to things going on around them and showing no interest in taking part. They may spend all day doing nothing to the degree that they may even neglect personal hygiene.
- Cognitive Symptoms – Just like the negative symptoms, cognitive symptoms are also hard to identify as they are subtle. They include difficulty in focusing attention, as well as difficulty in understanding information and not knowing how to use them to make decisions. These symptoms can cause emotional distress and sufferers who experience cognitive symptoms will find it difficult to live a normal life.
The symptoms of schizophrenia are numerous and can mimic other mental health challenges, such as depression and bipolar disorder. There is no litmus test for diagnosing schizophrenia; only a psychiatrist can correctly diagnose and treat it.
Effects of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia, if left untreated, can lead to severe health issues that can affect all the areas of life. Some of the complications or effects which schizophrenia can cause include:
- Recurring thoughts of suicide or attempts to suicide
- The person can develop severe anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and depression
- Self-harm or Self-injury
- Difficulty to perform daily life activities
- Tobacco, drug, or alcohol abuse
- Social withdrawal or social isolation
- Homelessness or legal financial problems
- Individual becomes victimised
- Increasing health problems persistently
- Aggressive behaviour, although it might seem to be uncommon.
- Feelings of restlessness, nausea, seizures.
- Weight gain and associated sexual problems.
- Blurred vision, Low blood pressure, etc.
Psychosocial Rehab – Aimed at reintegrating patients back into society to find purpose and dignity.
Developing awareness and understanding – Awareness about various aspects, such as causes and treatment of schizophrenia
Specific treatment goals – Milestone based treatment plans to keep patients motivated
Support help groups – Sharing individual experiences with a group of similar people
Stress management and relaxation techniques – Relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation may help
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