Mental Illness/ Psychological Disorders
Schizophrenia

Overview:

  • Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. 
  • Although schizophrenia is not as common as other mental illnesses, its symptoms can be damaging. 
  • It equally affects men and women but may appear earlier in men.
  • The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown; however, the condition is believed to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
  • The earlier schizophrenia is treated, the better.

What is schizophrenia? 
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People who have schizophrenia may also hear voices that do not exist in reality or think that others are trying to harm them. Psychologists often describe it as a form of psychosis, meaning that patients may not always be able to distinguish their own thoughts from reality.

Cause:
The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown; however, the condition is thought to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some events may also cause that condition (e.g Negative life events, drug abuse).

Who is at highest risk? 
Research shows that schizophrenia equally affects men and women but may appear earlier in men.

Symptoms:
They are divided to: 
Positive symptoms:  They includes changes in behaviors or thoughts (e.g. hallucinations, delusions). 
Negative symptoms: They include lack of enjoyment in daily activities, social withdrawal, difficulty showing emotions, and difficulty functioning normally.

Positive symptoms:
  • Hallucinations: Such as hearing voices and seeing feeling or smelling things that aren’t there. Hallucinations are very real for the person experiencing them, even though the people around them cannot hear the sounds or experience the same sensations they do.
  • Delusions: They are firmly held beliefs not supported by objective facts (e.g., paranoia, irrational fears that others are “out to get you”). Delusions can start abruptly or develop gradually over weeks or months. 
  • Thought disorder: Difficulty focusing or moving from one thought to another.  
  • Behavior or thought changes:  A person with schizophrenia may feel confused and show unpredictable behavior. Some people describe their thoughts as being controlled by another person, like their thoughts are not theirs, or that their thoughts have been implanted in their minds by other people.

Negative symptoms:
Negative symptoms of schizophrenia often appear several years before a person experiences their first severe episode of schizophrenia:
  • A schizophrenic person may socially withdraw and become increasingly disinterested in their appearance and personal hygiene.
  • They lose motivation and desire to participate in life and activities. 
  • They suffer from a lack of concentration and lose the desire to leave their home. They also experience sleep pattern changes.
  • They feel uncomfortable around other people and that there is nothing to be said.
  • Negative symptoms of schizophrenia can often lead to relationship problems with friends and family.

When to see a doctor?
See a general practitioner as soon as you notice symptoms of schizophrenia.

Complications:
If left untreated, schizophrenia can lead to serious life problems, including:
  • Inability to work independently;
  • Drug or alcohol abuse;
  • Side effects of medications: Tardive dyskinesia;
  • Suicide, suicide attempts, and suicidal thoughts;
  • Violent behavior. 

Diagnosis:
There are tests to diagnose schizophrenia. Diagnosis is done by a mental health professional who makes sure that symptoms are not due to other things like substance abuse. 
Schizophrenia can be easily diagnosed if: 
  • The patient had one or more of the following symptoms most of the time for a month (e.g, delusions, hallucinations, hearing voices, incoherent speech, or the aforementioned negative symptoms).
  • Symptoms had a major impact on the person’s ability to work, study, or normally perform daily tasks.
  • All other potential causes were ruled out, like: Drug abuse or bipolar disorder. 

Treatment:
There is no cure for schizophrenia; however, it can be treated and managed in several ways:
  • Medications 
  • Psychotherapy (such as: Cognitive behavioral therapy, assertive community treatment, and supportive therapy).
  • Self-management and education strategies.

FAQ:
  • Does schizophrenia make a person dangerous? 
    • A person with schizophrenia is rarely dangerous. Violent behaviors are usually caused by drugs or alcohol. Violent behaviors resulting from schizophrenia are very rare compared to those resulting from alcohol and drug use in our society. Moreover, people with schizophrenia are more likely to be hurt by people than to hurt others.
  • Do people with schizophrenia end up being homeless or living in hospitals?
    • No, most people with schizophrenia live with their families, in shared housing, or on their own.

Myths & Truths:
  • Schizophrenia means having multiple personalities. 
    • Truth: Schizophrenia does not mean having multiple personalities. It is a brain disorder that causes some symptoms (e.g. delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, and difficulty thinking).

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Last Update : 31 March 2021 06:10 AM
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