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What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder that is quite common in India. In this disorder, the affected people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia causes a combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behaviour that impairs normal life.

Research is extensively being carried out to find treatments for Schizophrenia. Experts are trying to unravel the causes of the disorder through the study of genetics and behavioural research and the use of imaging technology. These advanced approaches promise new and better therapies to help schizophrenic patients.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe mental illness that affects the way an individual thinks, feels, behaves, perceives reality, and also relates to others. If left untreated, Schizophrenia symptoms can be persistent and disabling.

As per the current analysis, we know that Schizophrenia affects women and men equally, but there is an early onset in males. The rate of occurrence is similar all around the world. Due to associated medical problems like heart diseases, diabetes, etc. schizophrenic people may die earlier than ordinary people.

Some important terms are commonly used while discussing Schizophrenia. These are:

  • Psychosis is an abnormal condition of the mind that results in difficulties determining what is real and not real.
  • Delusions are the false beliefs held by a person. These beliefs are untrue and hold no evidence of truth. In paranoid delusions, a person perceives being harmed, hurt, or harassed by imaginary people.
  • Hallucinations refer to the experience of seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling, or tasting things or people who are not there. People going through them have a clear memory of them and can tell about them to other people.
  • Disorganized thinking and speech refer to jumbled or incomprehensible thoughts and speech. A person switching from one topic to the other rapidly makes it difficult for the sufferer to communicate at times.
  • Disorganized or abnormal motor behavior ranges can manifest rapidly and without purpose at any time. When such behavior is abrupt and severe, it can create problems in daily chores.

What are the symptoms of Schizophrenia?

In its active state, the disease can be characterized by phases where the sufferer cannot discern between real and unreal situations. Similar to any other ailment, Schizophrenia can also have varied duration, severity, and frequency of symptoms. Though, in schizophrenic people, the severity of symptoms reduces with age. Some conditions like not taking medicines regularly, alcohol or drug use, and stressful conditions can increase the psychotic symptoms. Symptoms of this mental disorder can be classified as follows:

  • Positive symptoms: Patients normally manifest these symptoms. Hallucinations, paranoia, exaggerated or distorted perceptions, behaviors, and beliefs are the common ones.
  • Negative symptoms: These symptoms are normally absent in schizophrenic patients. Generally, patients exhibit a loss in the ability to initiate, plan, speak, express emotions, or find pleasure.
  • Disorganized symptoms: The patients experience confusion and disorderly thinking and speech. The trouble with logical thinking and exhibiting abnormal behavior is also common.

Cognitive functions are also affected due to Schizophrenia. This causes problems with different brain functions, like attention, focus, and memory, and adds to declining career performance.

Symptoms for the disorder might start appearing in teenagers. A person should have persisting symptoms for at least six months to get diagnosed. Troubled relationships, poor school performance, and lack of motivation are some early signs of Schizophrenia. Usually, men start showing symptoms earlier than women.

Before the diagnosis of Schizophrenia, a psychiatrist conducts a medical examination to secure a history of substance misuse and neurological or medical illness, if any. These are done to rule out other conditions that mimic the symptoms of Schizophrenia.

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What are the risk factors associated with Schizophrenia?

Studies point out that genetic and environmental factors contribute to causing Schizophrenia. Stress plays a role in the initiation of the symptoms and deciding the course of the disease. Scientists are not yet sure about the exact cause and trigger in each case of Schizophrenia.

What is the treatment for Schizophrenia?

No cure has been found for Schizophrenia yet, but patients cope well with the available antipsychotic medicines, which help soothe the psychotic symptoms. These medicines also help to keep future bouts of illness at bay or at least reduce their severity.

Psychological treatments are also available to reduce symptoms. These methods include cognitive behavioral therapy or supportive psychotherapy, which help enhance the function of the patients. Other treatments aimed at improving the lives of the patients have also been developed.

People who have Schizophrenia are prone to substance abuse. In such cases, the treatment for schizophrenia and substance abuse are run side by side.

What are the other conditions related to Schizophrenia?

There are a few other related conditions to Schizophrenia:

  • Delusional disorder: In this condition, a person holds false beliefs that might persist for a month. These beliefs can be ‘wild’ things that are possible but do not occur. Such delusions can cause problems at home or office and even lead to legal troubles.
  • Brief psychotic disorder: When a person experiences a brief episode of psychotic behavior, it is a brief psychotic disorder. Such episodes might last from a day to a month. After such a brief episode, the person returns to normal. This condition involves symptoms like delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, and grossly disorganized behavior. It can happen to any person. It is twice as common in females than in men.
  • Schizophreniform disorder: This is very similar to Schizophrenia, but the symptoms are less severe and last for a short time. The symptoms last for at least a month and less than six months. The disorder has certain symptoms, which are present for a certain time in that one-month. These symptoms include:
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Disorganized behavior
  • Negative symptoms
  • Disorganized speech
  • Schizoaffective disorder: Major mood swings are a part of schizoaffective disorder. People have both bipolar disorder and Schizophrenia at the same time. There are different phases or time divisions between the symptoms of both; it is one-third as common as Schizophrenia. It can begin in early adulthood.

Rehabilitation and life with Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is not curable but can be controlled with the help of therapy. Most people who have Schizophrenia live comfortable lives and do well, whereas others might continue to show symptoms and need support and assistance.

Once the symptoms of Schizophrenia are under control, various therapy sessions can help manage the illness and improve lives. Psychological support and therapy can help people develop social skills for their future lives.

As Schizophrenia develops in early adulthood, it is highly likely that rehabilitation can help individuals develop the required skills to lead a successful life. These programs also prove helpful in finding jobs.

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are common in schizophrenic people. If a loved one is likely to attempt suicide or has already attempted, then ensure that somebody stays with that individual.

For people living in a family with someone who has Schizophrenia, it is important to maintain their own physical and mental health. Family members must be aware of and informed about different support groups. Optimism is very important for the patient as well as the family members. A doctor must understand the patient’s strengths and utilize them in every way possible.

Medical treatment

The doctor prescribes antipsychotic medicines for managing Schizophrenia. Electroconvulsive therapy (ETC) is also administered in certain cases.

Psychotherapy

  • Social skills training: This helps the patient improve their communication skills. Social interactions and the capability of engaging in the day to day activities are also enhanced.
  • Individual therapy: Recognizing early symptoms of relapse and learning to manage stress can help manage Schizophrenia. Psychotherapy can help normalize thought patterns.
  • Family therapy: Education and support are given to the members of a family that is dealing with a Schizophrenia patient.
  • Vocational rehabilitation and supported employment: In this, Schizophrenia patients are assisted in preparing for, finding, and keeping a job.

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