What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder affecting 20 million people worldwide. It affects the person’s thinking, perception, emotions, language, sense of self, and behavior. Common experiences include hallucinations, like hearing voices or seeing things that are not there, and delusions or fixed, false beliefs. There are no definite causes of schizophrenia. If left untreated, the symptoms of schizophrenia may worsen. However, schizophrenia is treatable. The earlier a person receives schizophrenia treatment, the better chance that person has to reach recovery.
Schizophrenia can occur at any age. But, the average age of onset tends to be in the late teens to the early 20s for men. Also, the late 20s to early 30s for women. Schizophrenia treatment can help affected person to engage in school or work when delivered in a timely, and sustained manner.
Schizophrenia does not mean split personality or multiple-personality. In this case, most people with schizophrenia are not any more dangerous or violent than people in the general population. To clarify, it is a misconception that people with schizophrenia end up homeless or living in hospitals. Most people with schizophrenia live with their families, in group homes, or on their own. Above all, it is possible to live well with schizophrenia.
According to World Health Organization , research has not identified one single factor. Furthermore, the interaction between genes and a range of environmental factors may cause schizophrenia. Apart from this, psychosocial factors may also contribute to schizophrenia.
- Genetic factors. Schizophrenia can run in families. Only one percent of people develop it over their lifetime. However, if one parent has schizophrenia, the children have a 10 percent chance of developing the condition – and a 90 percent chance of not developing it.
- Biochemical factors. Certain biochemical substances in the brain may cause the symptoms of schizophrenia. Especially a neurotransmitter called dopamine. One likely cause of this chemical imbalance is the person’s genetic predisposition to the illness.
- Stress. Stressful incidents often happen at the start onset of schizophrenia. Most of the time, people with schizophrenia become anxious, irritable and unable to concentrate before any acute symptoms occur. The illness itself has caused the stressful event. Therefore, it is not always clear whether stress is a cause or a result of schizophrenia.
- Alcohol and other drug use. Harmful alcohol and other drug use, may trigger psychosis in people who are vulnerable to developing schizophrenia. Examples are cannabis and amphetamine use. To clarify, substance use does not cause schizophrenia, but it is strongly related to relapse.
Before a diagnosis, a psychiatrist should conduct a medical examination to rule out substance misuse or other neurological illnesses. Due to the fact that it might mimic the symptoms of schizophrenia. To emphasize, a person must have two or more of the following symptoms occurring persistently to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.
- Hallucination: most commonly involve hearing voices. Apart from this, other less common experiences can include seeing, feeling, tasting, or smelling things that to the person are very real, but that is not actually there.
- Delusion: are firmly held beliefs not supported by objective facts For one thing, people who have delusions often also have problems concentrating, confused thinking, or the sense that their thoughts are blocked.
- Abnormal behavior: disorganized behavior such as wandering aimlessly, mumbling or laughing to self, strange appearance, self-neglect, or appearing unkempt
- Disorganized speech: incoherent or irrelevant speech
- Disturbances of emotions: marked apathy or disconnect between reported emotion and what is observed such as body language or facial expression.
Most people with schizophrenia improve and regain normal functioning and even become symptom-free. No matter what challenges you presently face, there is always hope.
Schizophrenia is treatable. If you have schizophrenia, it’s important to get treatment as quickly as possible. Schizophrenia treatment with medicines and psychosocial support is effective. However, most people with chronic cases lack access to professional schizophrenia treatment. There is no known cure for schizophrenia, but it can be treated and managed in several ways.
Effective schizophrenia treatment depends on several factors. Medication alone is not enough. Self-education is important. Also, clients and families can talk to their doctors and therapists about schizophrenia treatment options. Additionally, building a strong support system, taking self-help measures, and sticking to a professional schizophrenia treatment plan can contribute to recovery success. Schizophrenia treatment modalities include:
- Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and assertive community treatment, and supportive therapy. This will likely also be a big part of the plan to help you understand and manage your symptoms.
- Antipsychotic medications can help reduce the intensity and frequency of psychotic symptoms. These drugs work on chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin. In effect, they ease symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.
The right schizophrenia treatments, along with practical and emotional support from your loved ones, will go a long way to help you navigate your life.
Schizophrenia and Co-occuring Issues
Around 50 percent of individuals suffering from schizophrenia also struggle with drug and alcohol abuse. For instance, the most commonly abused legal and illegal drugs among schizophrenic patients are alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, and marijuana. Substance abuse can intensify the severity of schizophrenic symptoms. Also, increase the number of psychotic episodes, and increase the risk of outcomes like hospitalization, incarceration, and suicide attempts.
Some people who abuse drugs may display symptoms similar to those of schizophrenia, which may lead people to think that those with schizophrenia may be “high on drugs.” This can, at times, make it difficult to diagnose schizophrenia or co-occurring disorders. Thus, alcohol or drug abuse can mask the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Alcohol and marijuana are both central nervous system depressants. In essence, it can have a sedative effect on the mind. Stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamine, and methamphetamine can temporarily help the mind feel more focused. Given these points, schizophrenic patients with cocaine use disorder are at increased risk of suicide, low-treatment compliance, and hospitalization. Seventy percent of people with schizophrenia have nicotine dependence, which can make them more likely to experience a relapse of symptoms.
We Level Up FL Mental Health Center offers a schizophrenia treatment suitability assessment. And learn which schizophrenia treatment options are right for your circumstances and personal situation.
 World Health Organization – https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/schizophrenia