Schizophrenia is a type of mental illness that is characterized by hallucinations, paranoia, delusions and disorganized thoughts. During episodes of schizophrenia, the person may interpret reality abnormally and may start believing their own delusions as reality. This can make them extremely paranoid and in most cases, manic, especially if it goes untreated. Most people who suffer from schizophrenia are between the age of 18 and 35 and is most common in males. It’s typically diagnosed in late adolescence or early 20s for men, and late 20s or early 30s for women.
There are several subtypes of schizophrenia that used to exist as separate disorders. However, they are no longer recognized as separate but they are still helpful to identify the right treatment plan. They include:
Paranoid Schizophrenia – this was the most common type of schizophrenia but in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association determined that paranoia was one of the symptoms of this disorder.
Undifferentiated Schizophrenia – this type was used to describe people who displayed symptoms of more than one type of schizophrenia. Nowadays, this simply means that they have multiple symptoms of the disorder.
Residual Schizophrenia – residual schizophrenia was used to describe people who had been previously diagnosed with the disorder but no longer have prominent symptoms. However, it’s normal for people with this disorder to experience periods when symptoms change in intensity and frequency.
Hebephrenic Schizophrenia – in this subtype the person doesn’t experience paranoia but experiences disorganized thoughts, behaviour and speech.
Catatonic Schizophrenia – this subtype is generally characterized by immobility such as a stupor-like condition, mutism and mimicking behaviour.
Childhood Schizophrenia – when this occurs, it can be severe but it is very uncommon. Young individuals with schizophrenia are less likely to experience delusions but can experience hallucinations.
The exact cause of this disorder remains unknown though researchers suggest that it could be a combination of genetics, psychological and environmental factors.
Genetics – this disorder tends to run in the family but there’s no single gene that is said to be responsible. Additionally, if you have a history of the disorder in your family, it doesn’t automatically mean that you will also suffer from it. It only increases the likelihood.
Brain Changes – Brain changes, especially those caused by drug usage, alter the levels of neurotransmitters which relieve some symptoms of schizophrenia. Research has found that the disorder may be caused by changes in two main neurotransmitters – dopamine and serotonin.
Pregnancy And Birth Complications – People who experience schizophrenia are more likely to have experienced complications before or during birth. This could be because complicated pregnancies affect the development of the fetus’ vital organs such as the brain. Some of the complications may include low birth weight, lack of oxygen, and premature birth.
People who are prone to schizophrenia may experience an episode when in certain circumstances. Some of them include:
Lead Exposure – we know about some of the dangers of lead exposure such as the increased risk of cancer, infertility and kidney failure. However, you can also develop schizophrenia from lead exposure, especially prenatal or early life lead exposure.
Stress – stress is probably the main trigger of schizophrenia. A stressful event such as a job loss, divorce or loss of a loved one can cause extreme emotions which may cause someone who is vulnerable to schizophrenia to experience an episode. How Stress Changes Or Affects Your Brain And Body
Drug abuse – as mentioned, drugs alter the brain’s neurotransmitters which can leave you vulnerable to an array of mental disorders. People who are prone to schizophrenia should avoid doing any type of drugs as it can lead to a manic episode. What Is A Substance-Induced Psychosis
Schizophrenia affects every aspect of a person’s life. It changes the way they think, feel and act. In most cases, there are gradual changes in the person’s behaviour before experiencing severe symptoms. Symptoms also come and go and no one has all of them at the same time. They happen less often as the person gets older and with proper treatment. It’s not easy to diagnose the disorder on your one and in most cases, the person doesn’t know they have it until a doctor examines them. Therefore, if you experience certain symptoms, it’s advisable to go see a doctor. Some of the symptoms of schizophrenia include:
Hallucinations – the person may start seeing, hearing, feeling or smelling things that others around them don’t.
Delusions – they may think someone is trying to control them and may come up with outlandish theories that they believe are true such as a bizarre health problem or delusions of grandeur. How To Deal With Intrusive Thoughts
Disorganized speech – people with the disorder find it hard to have a consistent train of thought and might not be able to follow when you talk.
Psychosis – schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder and this is one of its most prominent symptoms. In psychosis, the person may act irrationally since the higher functions of the brain are disrupted.
Flattened affect – the person may show little to no emotions to situations that should trigger emotions. They have a noticeable blankness that can scare those around them.
Reduced speech – they may start to speak less and less than they used to. They can also speak less fluently or coherently than they used to.
Attention and memory problems – schizophrenia affects the normal functions of the brain, especially memory. Poor memory can also lead to attention disorders and the person may seem spacey and confused.
Anxiety And Depression – schizophrenia can also lead to other mental problems such as anxiety and depression. Mental Health: 7 Common Types Of Depression
5 Ways To Deal With Anxiety And Panic Attacks
While the disorder is chronic, you can manage it with therapy, medication and support. It’s important for people with schizophrenia to receive treatment as soon as possible to avoid developing severe symptoms.
Medication – medication is the cornerstone of managing schizophrenia. Patients have to be vigilant about taking their medicine to improve their condition. Psychiatrists may try different drugs, doses and combinations to achieve the best result. Unfortunately, the drugs had serious side effects that make many patients reluctant to take them. In the event that a patient doesn’t take medicine, they may be given injections.
Therapy – in addition to medications, psychological intervention is also important. This helps patients with their socialization skills, processing emotions and coping with stress. Families can also go for therapy to not only help their mental health but also learn more about schizophrenia and how to manage it. 6 Ways To Make The Most Out Of Your Therapy Sessions
Hospitalization – in cases where the patient becomes a danger to themselves or those around them, they may require hospitalization for closer observation and care.
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