Schizophrenia is a relatively uncommon condition, affecting nearly 24 million individuals worldwide, or roughly one out of every 300 people (0.32%). It may have a significant impact on both a person’s life as well as the life of those close to them.
Schizophrenia is a life-long illness, but medical treatment may help manage its symptoms.
Here, the symptoms, causes, and diagnosis of schizophrenia are explored, and a few of the available treatment options are discussed.
What exactly is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition. People suffering from this disorder have reality distortions, which often manifest as hallucinations or delusions.
Although it is difficult to obtain precise figures, schizophrenia affects less than 1% of the population.
This condition is frequently misunderstood. Some people believe that schizophrenia causes a ‘split personality’ disorder. In fact, split personality and schizophrenia, also known as dissociative identity disorder, are two separate disorders.
Schizophrenia can affect both women and men of any age. Men typically experience symptoms in their late teen years or early 20s. Women typically exhibit symptoms in their late 20s and early 30s.
What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?
A person with schizophrenia can present with various symptoms depending on the progress of the condition. Schizophrenia symptoms may include the following:
Early signs and symptoms
The symptoms of schizophrenia disorder commonly appear in the teenage years and early 20s of a person. The early signs may be ignored at these ages due to their ‘typical’ teenage behaviours.
Early signs and symptoms may include:
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Changing social groups or friends
- A shift in concentration and focus
- Anxiety, agitation, and irritability
- Sleep issues
- Vague suspiciousness
- Weird ideasFeeling distinct from others
More advanced symptoms are classified into three types: negative symptoms, positive symptoms, and cognitive symptoms.
The terms negative and positive hold different meanings here. The absence of normal behavioural patterns is referred to as a negative symptom. Positive symptoms refer to additional thoughts or actions (that are not present in reality) in addition to one’s normal behaviour.
The schizophrenia disease hinders a person’s normal behaviours, emotions, and abilities. The following are a few symptoms of this condition:
- Social isolation
- Decrease in speaking
- Odd reactions to situations
- Lack of expressions or emotions
- Difficulties experiencing pleasure
- Difficulty initiating or execution of plans
- Difficulties completing everyday tasks
- Loss of enthusiasm or interest for life
Positive schizophrenia symptoms are not common in people who do not have schizophrenia or another serious mental disorder. These are a few of the behaviours:
- Hallucinations: Hallucinations are illusions formed by the mind that appear real. They include hearing, seeing, and smelling stuff that others do not.
- Paranoia: When someone has paranoia, they are suspicious of others and firmly believe that they are being persecuted or followed.
- Delirium: When a person has strongly held beliefs that are untrue and appear irrational to others, they are said to be in delirium. Individuals suffering from delusions, for example, may think that individuals on television and radio are trying to send special messages that need a specific response, or they might think that they are in trouble or that someone is attempting to harm them.
These symptoms are sometimes termed to as ‘disorganised’ symptoms because they indicate that a person is having difficulty with certain mental or cognitive functions. They are as follows:
• Disorganised speech or thinking, for example, a person abruptly switches topics while speaking or employs made-up phrases or words
• Disorganised thinking, for instance, involves difficulty paying attention or focusing
• Poor executive functioning, or comprehending information and applying it to make a decision
• Issues with learning and application of this information
The symptoms of the schizophrenia disorder can differ in type and severity and can be exacerbated if a person is using substances, under stress, or not taking their prescription medicines correctly.
What are the causes of schizophrenia?
It is unknown what exactly causes schizophrenia. Several factors, according to medical researchers, may be involved, including:
If there is no family history of schizophrenia, the likelihood of developing it is low. A person’s risk increases if either of their parents has schizophrenia.
The following are some environmental aspects that may raise the likelihood of developing schizophrenia:
- Viral infections
- Trauma caused during birth
- Before birth malnutrition
- Psychosocial factors, for instance, trauma
Chemical imbalance within the brain
Schizophrenia appears to arise when dopamine (the neurotransmitter) and presumably serotonin are out of balance in the brain.
Certain medications and drugs
In 2017, scientists found evidence that certain substances in cannabis could cause schizophrenia in those who are particularly prone to it.
Others, on the other hand, think that being diagnosed with schizophrenia makes an individual more inclined to use cannabis in the first place.
Are there any risk factors associated with schizophrenia?
Despite the fact that no one knows how schizophrenia is caused, it is believed that genetics may have an influence on the onset of the disease. Individuals who have a familial history of schizophrenia are more likely to develop the disorder than those who don’t have such a history.
Other possible risk factors may include:
- Exposure to a virus, toxins, or undernutrition before birth or during infancy
- Mind-altering drug usage
- Being in a high-stress situation
- Consumption of mind-altering drugs during adolescent years or early adulthood
How is schizophrenia diagnosed?
There is no single test for diagnosing schizophrenia. A comprehensive psychiatric exam can assist a doctor in making a diagnosis. A person will be required to see a psychiatrist or other mental health professional for this diagnosis.
During the appointment, the patient will be asked questions about:
- Family medical history
- Medical history
- Mental health
The doctor may perform the following procedures:
- Physical examination
- Imaging tests such as computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Blood work
Even if the symptoms match with those of schizophrenia disorder , there may be other causes for them. Among these reasons are:
- Certain medications
- Substance use
- Other mental disorders
If an individual has a minimum of two symptoms for one month, the doctor might diagnose schizophrenia. These signs and symptoms must include:
- Disorganised speech
- Behaviour that is grossly disorganised
- Negative symptoms such as emotional flatness, loss of speech, or motivation
What if schizophrenia is left untreated?
Untreated schizophrenia individuals have a greater tendency than treated patients to self-harm and can be violent towards others.
In 2015, in a Chinese study, researchers compared the outcomes of 123,572 individuals with untreated and treated schizophrenia disorder 14 years after their diagnosis.
After 14 years, compared with people who were treated, the individuals who did not receive the treatment were likely to:
• Be homeless
• Be older
• Have died due to other causes
• Have a few family members
• Live alone
• Be without a caretaker
• Have low-income family attitudes
• Be single or unmarried
The researchers also discovered that 57.3% of those who were treated experienced either complete or partial remission.
It is critical to seek treatment as soon as someone exhibits the symptoms of schizophrenia.
What is the treatment for schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic illness, and yet, effective therapy can help an individual manage their symptoms, avoid recurrence, and prevent hospitalisation.
Each person’s experience will be unique, and the treatment will be tailored to the individual symptoms and needs.
It is critical to seek treatment from an experienced psychiatrist or mental health provider who has treated people with this disorder in the past.
Among the possible treatments are:
Individuals may consume these drugs on a daily basis or even less often if they choose injectables; they can last up to three months based on the medication used. These medications do not cure schizophrenia, but they do help to relieve the most distressing symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, and thinking problems.
If an individual’s schizophrenia does not quite improve even after taking certain medications and the individual is in danger of injuring themselves or harming people around them, doctors may suggest adding electroconvulsive therapy. When medication alone is ineffective, this treatment can provide rapid results.
Psychosocial treatments assist people with schizophrenia in overcoming daily challenges and managing symptoms while working, attending school, and building relationships. These treatments are frequently used in conjunction with antipsychotic medications. People who receive proper psychosocial treatment are much less inclined to have their symptoms recur or to be admitted to the hospital.
A few examples of psychosocial treatments are:
- Cognitive-behavioural therapy
- Supported employment
- Behavioural cognitive remediation interventions
- Skills training
Education and support for the family
If you or somebody you love has been given a schizophrenia diagnosis, having family and friends by your side can help reduce stress and make you feel like you belong. There are educational programmes available for members of the family to help everyone spot the symptoms as well as provide support when necessary.
Specialty Care Management (CSC)
CSC programs are recovery-oriented programmes for people suffering from an early stage of schizophrenia (the first episode of psychosis). Specialists and health professionals collaborate as a team in order to provide CSC, which includes medication, psychotherapy, case management, education, employment support, and family support, and education. For treatment decisions, the treatment team collaborates with the individual and involves the members of the patient’s family as much as possible.
Are there any complications from schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia disease is a serious psychological disorder that should not be neglected or left untreated. The disorder increases the likelihood of severe complications, including:
- Suicide or self-harm
- Drug or alcohol use
- Family issues
Schizophrenia can also impair the ability to attend school or work. If you are unable to work or financially support yourself, you are more likely to fall into poverty or become homeless.
How do I take care of myself if I am diagnosed with schizophrenia?
If you are suffering from schizophrenia, you can do the following to look after yourself and manage the illness:
- Take medications precisely as prescribed
Taking medications is one of the most important things an individual with schizophrenia can do in order to help themselves. If you are suffering from schizophrenia, you must not stop taking your medication without first consulting your doctor. The abrupt discontinuation of medication frequently causes a rapid return of psychotic symptoms. Antipsychotics commonly cause side effects; however, there are a multitude of antipsychotic medications available. You may consult your doctor to find one that works well for you and has few or no side effects.
- Consult your doctor regularly or as directed
The consultation visits are particularly important for helping you manage your condition.
- Do not avoid or ignore symptoms
Early detection and treatment of schizophrenia increase the possibility of a favourable outcome.
- Abstain from recreational drug and alcohol use
The use of alcohol and drugs can exacerbate schizophrenia symptoms and lead to other problems. This would include using prescription drugs in ways that are not recommended.
- Consider getting help
There are organizations available that can provide information and resources that can be helpful.
Are children affected by schizophrenia?
Individuals in their adolescence and early twenties are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than the rest of the population. Although it is less likely to occur, it can start early. When symptoms appear prior to the age of 13, the condition is referred to as childhood schizophrenia or early-onset schizophrenia.
This disorder is difficult to diagnose. Changes in behaviour are common as children and adolescents grow. Besides this, a few of the common symptoms of schizophrenia are also seen in other conditions. A few examples include attention disorders, bipolar disorder, and depression.
Childhood schizophrenia symptoms include:
- Unusual anxieties or fears (paranoia)
- Sleep issues
- Emotional ups and downs
- Seeing strange things or hearing voices (hallucinations)
- Decreased focus on self-care
- Sudden behavioural changes
- Decline in academic performance
- Strange beliefs or ways of thinking
It is critical to distinguish between behaviours that occur in growing kids and teens and symptoms of schizophrenia; however, if you are worried that your kid has developed some new, concerning behaviours, it is critical that you consult with a professional in mental health as soon as possible. Whatever the issue, a professional can assist you in making the best decision.
A note by LivLong
Schizophrenia disease can be a disturbing condition for both the person suffering from it and their loved ones. Contrary to what many believe, this is not a condition in which recovery or living a fulfilling, happy life is impossible. If you think you are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia, it is important that you consult with a doctor as soon as possible. They can help you with disease management. If you notice a loved one exhibiting signs and symptoms that suggest psychosis or schizophrenia, supportively and gently encourage them to seek treatment. Early detection and treatment could make a significant difference in people’s chances of being able to recover from as well as manage this condition.
An Overview of Schizophrenia FAQs:
What is a schizophrenic person like?
It is important to remember that schizophrenia disease is a varied and complex condition, and different people will have different symptoms and experiences; however, some common schizophrenia symptoms include:
• Disorganised speech, which is difficult for others to understand
• Lack of emotions
• Lack of expression on the face
• Difficulty concentrating
• Psychosis, which may include hallucinations and delirium,
• Lack of motivation
A person may exhibit the following symptoms prior to experiencing these symptoms: anxiety, lack of concentration, and a tendency of being out of sorts.
Is schizophrenia very serious?
Yes, schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that can severely impair a person's ability to function in daily life and necessitates appropriate treatment and care. Without treatment, it can severely hinder an individual's ability to function in daily life and raise the likelihood of suicide if left untreated. Many people with schizophrenia, however, are able to manage their symptoms and live happy lives with proper treatment.
At what age do you notice schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia usually appears in the late teenage years or early adulthood, with symptoms appearing in men in their early 20s and women in their early 30s . Even so, schizophrenia can manifest itself earlier or later in life. It is worth noting that the onset of schizophrenia can be gradual and subtle, and signs and symptoms may not be recognised until later in the disease process. If you or someone you know is exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia, it is critical that you seek a diagnosis and therapy from a professional in mental health right away.
Can schizophrenia go away?
Schizophrenia is a long-term mental condition that necessitates ongoing treatment and has no known cure. People with schizophrenia, however, can significantly improve their symptoms and quality of life with appropriate treatment, including therapy and medication. People with schizophrenia must continue their treatment even when they are feeling better in order to manage their symptoms and avoid relapse.
How can I lower my risk or avoid developing this condition?
Since experts still do not know the exact cause of schizophrenia, there is no means to prevent it or decrease your likelihood of getting it