Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impairs daily functioning, and can be disabling. People with schizophrenia require lifelong treatment. Early treatment may help get symptoms under control before serious complications develop and may help improve the long-term outlook.
Schizophrenia is a long-term mental disorder that it makes it difficult for an individual to focus, think clearly, interact easily with other people, and keep emotions in check.There is currently no cure for schizophrenia, though there are medications and other treatments that have proven effective in managing certain symptoms, allowing individuals with schizophrenia to achieve quality of life.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia:
- Persistent delusions: The person has fixed beliefs that something is true, despite evidence to the contrary. These are false beliefs that are not based in reality. For example, you think that you’re being harmed or harassed; certain gestures or comments are directed at you; you have exceptional ability or fame; another person is in love with you; or a major catastrophe is about to occur. Delusions occur in most people with schizophrenia
- Persistent hallucinations: These usually involve seeing or hearing things that don’t exist. Yet for the person with schizophrenia, they have the full force and impact of a normal experience. Hallucinations can be in any of the senses, but hearing voices is the most common hallucination.
- Experiences of influence, control or passivity: The experience that one’s feelings, impulses, actions, or thoughts are not generated by oneself, are being placed in one’s mind or withdrawn from one’s mind by others, or that one’s thoughts are being broadcast to others
- Disorganized thinking: Disorganized thinking is inferred from disorganized speech. Effective communication can be impaired, and answers to questions may be partially or completely unrelated. Rarely, speech may include putting together meaningless words that can’t be understood, sometimes known as word salad
- Highly disorganised behaviour: This may show in a number of ways, from childlike silliness to unpredictable agitation. Behavior isn’t focused on a goal, so it’s hard to do tasks. Behavior can include resistance to instructions, inappropriate or bizarre posture, a complete lack of response, or useless and excessive movement. For e.g. the person does things that appear bizarre or purposeless, or the person has unpredictable or inappropriate emotional responses that interfere with their ability to organise their behaviour
- Negative symptoms such as very limited speech, restricted experience and expression of emotions, inability to experience interest or pleasure, and social withdrawal
- Extreme agitation or slowing of movements, maintenance of unusual postures
People with schizophrenia often also experience persistent difficulties with their cognitive or thinking skills, such as memory, attention, and problem-solving. At least one third of people with schizophrenia experiences complete remission of symptoms (1). Some people with schizophrenia experience worsening and remission of symptoms periodically throughout their lives, others a gradual worsening of symptoms over time.
In men, schizophrenia symptoms typically start in the early to mid-20s. In women, symptoms typically begin in the late 20s. It’s uncommon for children to be diagnosed with schizophrenia and rare for those older than age 45. Schizophrenia symptoms in teenagers are similar to those in adults, but the condition may be more difficult to recognize. This may be in part because some of the early symptoms of schizophrenia in teenagers are common for typical development during teen years.
Causes of schizophrenia
The exact causes of schizophrenia are unknown. Research suggests a combination of physical, genetic, psychological and environmental factors can make a person more likely to develop the condition. Some people may be prone to schizophrenia, and a stressful or emotional life event might trigger a psychotic episode. However, it’s not known why some people develop symptoms while others do not.
● Genetics: Schizophrenia tends to run in families, but no single gene is thought to be responsible. It’s more likely that different combinations of genes make people more vulnerable to the condition. However, having these genes does not necessarily mean you’ll develop schizophrenia.
● Brain development: Studies of people with schizophrenia have shown there are subtle differences in the structure of their brains. These changes are not seen in everyone with schizophrenia and can occur in people who do not have a mental illness. But they suggest schizophrenia may partly be a disorder of the brain.
● Neurotransmitters: Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry messages between brain cells. There’s a connection between neurotransmitters and schizophrenia because drugs that alter the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain are known to relieve some of the symptoms of schizophrenia. Research suggests schizophrenia may be caused by a change in the level of 2 neurotransmitters: dopamine and serotonin.
● Pregnancy and birth complications: Research has shown people who develop schizophrenia are more likely to have experienced complications before and during their birth, such as: a low birthweight, premature birth, a lack of oxygen (asphyxia) during birth
● Triggers: Triggers are things that can cause schizophrenia to develop in people who are at risk. For example, Stress, Drug abuse
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Treatment – Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is usually treated with an individually tailored combination of talking therapy and medicine. Schizophrenia requires lifelong treatment, even when symptoms have subsided. Treatment with medications and psychosocial therapy can help manage the condition. In some cases, hospitalization may be needed. A psychiatrist experienced in treating schizophrenia usually guides treatment. The treatment team also may include a psychologist, social worker, psychiatric nurse and possibly a case manager to coordinate care. The full-team approach may be available in clinics with expertise in schizophrenia treatment
- Most people with schizophrenia are treated by community mental health teams. They do provide day-to-day support and treatment while ensuring you have as much independence as possible.
- People with complex mental health conditions are usually entered into a treatment process known as a care programme approach
Some potential treatment options include:
- Antipsychotic drugs. These can be for daily use or for less frequent use if the person opts for injectable medications, which can last up to 3 months between injections (depending on the medication).
- This can help a person develop coping skills and pursue their life goals.
- Coordinated special care. This integrates medication, family involvement, and education services in a holistic approach.
- Self-management strategies and education
Treatment is a lifelong necessity for someone with schizophrenia, and assistance with certain aspects of daily living is required for many people with the illness. Like depression or bipolar disorder, schizophrenia can sometimes present with very intense symptoms, while at other times signs of the conditions are much less obvious. Working closely with a mental health professional with experience treating schizophrenia is vital to helping people with the disorder live as healthy a life as possible.
There’s no sure way to prevent schizophrenia, but sticking with the treatment plan can help prevent relapses or worsening of symptoms. In addition, researchers hope that learning more about risk factors for schizophrenia may lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment.
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