Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that generally appears in late adolescence or early adulthood. Characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and other cognitive difficulties. Schizophrenia can often be a life-long struggle.
Positive symptoms – also known as psychotic symptoms. For example, delusions and hallucinations.
Negative symptoms – these refer to elements that are taken away from the individual. For example, absence of facial expressions or lack of drive to do things.
Cognitive symptoms – these affect the person’s thought processes. They may be positive or negative symptoms, for example, poor concentration is a negative symptom.
Emotional symptoms – these are usually negative symptoms, such as blunted emotions aka Lack of Expressiveness.
Below is a list of the major symptoms:
Delusions – The patient has false beliefs which can take many forms, such as delusions of persecution, or delusions of grandeur. They may feel others are attempting to control them through remote control. Or, they may think they have extraordinary powers and gifts.
Hallucinations – hearing voices is much more common than seeing, feeling, tasting, or smelling things which are not there, however, people with schizophrenia may experience a wide range of hallucinations.
Thought disorder – the person may jump from one subject to another for no logical reason. The speaker may be hard to follow.
– If there is no history of schizophrenia in a family, the chances of developing it are less than 1
percent. However, that risk rises to 10 percent if a parent was diagnosed.
Chemical imbalance in the brain
– Experts believe that an imbalance of dopamine, a neurotransmitter is involved in the onset of schizophrenia. Other neurotransmitters such as serotonin may also be involved.
– Although there is no evidence to prove or even indicate that family relationships might cause schizophrenia, some patients with the illness believe family tension triggers relapses.
– Stressful experiences often precede the emergence of schizophrenia. Before any acute symptoms are apparent, people with schizophrenia habitually become bad-tempered, anxious, and unfocused. This can trigger relationship problems, divorce, and unemployment. These factors are often blamed for the onset of the disease, when really it was the other way round – the disease caused the crisis. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to know whether schizophrenia caused certain stresses or occurred as a result of them.
– Cannabis and LSD are known to cause schizophrenia relapses. For people with a predisposition to a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia, usage of cannabis may trigger the first episode. Some researchers believe that certain prescription drugs such as steroids and stimulants can cause psychosis.
Certain tests will be ordered to rule out other illnesses and conditions that may trigger schizophrenia-like symptoms. Examples of some of the tests may include:
Imaging studies – to rule out tumors and problems in the structure of the brain
Psychological evaluation – a specialist will assess the patient’s mental state by asking about thoughts, moods, hallucinations, suicidal traits, violent tendencies or potential for violence as well as observing their demeanor and appearance
Patients must meet the criteria outlined in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). This is an American Psychiatric Association manual used by healthcare professionals to diagnose mental illnesses and conditions.
It is also important to establish that the signs and symptoms have not been caused by for example, a prescribed medication or substance abuse.
Also, the patient must:
1) Have at least two of the following typical symptoms of schizophrenia –
Disorganized or catatonic behavior
Negative symptoms that are present for much of the time during the last 4 weeks
2) Experience considerable impairment in the ability to attend school carry out their work duties or carry out everyday tasks
3) Have symptoms which persist for 6 months or more
The most effective treatment strategy for schizophrenia involves a combination of medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and social support.
Schizophrenia requires long-term treatment. Most people with schizophrenia need to continue treatment even when they’re feeling better to prevent new episodes and stay symptom-free. Treatment can change over time, though, so your doctor may be able to lower the dosage or change medication as your symptoms improve.
Medication for schizophrenia works by reducing psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and disordered thinking. But it is not a cure for schizophrenia and is much less helpful for treating symptoms such as social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and lack of emotional expressiveness. Finding the right drug and dosage is also a trial and error process. While medication should not be used at the expense of your quality of life, be patient with the process and discuss any concerns with your doctor.
Therapy can help you improve coping and life skills, manage stress, address relationship issues, and improve communication. Group therapy can also connect you to others who are in a similar situation and gain valuable insight into how they’ve overcome challenges.
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