Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality very abnormally. It may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impairs daily functioning, and can be disabling. People suffering with schizophrenia require lifelong treatment. Early treatment may help get symptoms under control before serious complications develop and may help improve the long-term outlook. However, with treatment, most symptoms of schizophrenia will greatly improve.
While there is no cure for schizophrenia, research is leading to new, safer treatments. Experts also are unraveling the causes of the disease by studying genetics, conducting behavioral research, and using advanced imaging to look at the brain’s structure and function. These approaches hold the promise of new, more effective therapies.
The complexity of schizophrenia may help explain why there are misconceptions about the disease. Schizophrenia does not mean split personality or multiple-personality. Most people with schizophrenia are not dangerous or violent. They also are not homeless nor do they live in hospitals. Most people with schizophrenia live with family, in group homes or on their own
Schizophrenia involves a range of problems with thinking (cognition), behaviour and emotions. Signs and symptoms may vary, but usually involve delusions, hallucinations or disorganized speech, and reflect an impaired ability to function. Symptoms may include:
• Delusions These are the false beliefs that are not based in reality a person faces when he has Schizophrenia disorder. For example, you think that you’re being harmed or harassed; certain gestures or comments are directed at you; you have exceptional ability or fame; another person is in love with you, or a major catastrophe is about to occur. Delusions occur in most people with schizophrenia.
• Hallucinations These usually involve seeing or hearing things that don’t exist. Yet for the person with schizophrenia, they have the full force and impact of a normal experience. Hallucinations can be in any of the senses, but hearing voices is the most common hallucination.
• Disorganized thinking (speech) Disorganized thinking is inferred from disorganized speech. Effective communication can be impaired, and answers to questions may be partially or completely unrelated. Rarely, speech may include putting together meaningless words that can’t be understood, sometimes known as word salad.
• Extremely disorganized or abnormal motor behaviour This may show in a number of ways, from childlike silliness to unpredictable agitation. Behaviour isn’t focused on a goal, so it’s hard to do tasks. Behaviour can include resistance to instructions, inappropriate or bizarre posture, a complete lack of response, or useless and excessive movement.
• Negative symptoms This refers to reduced or lack of ability to function normally. For example, the person may neglect personal hygiene or appear to lack emotion (doesn’t make eye contact, doesn’t change facial expressions or speaks in a monotone). Also, the person may lose interest in everyday activities, socially withdraw or lack the ability to experience a pleasure.
Symptoms can vary in type and severity over time to time, with periods of worsening and remission of symptoms. Some symptoms may always be present. In men, schizophrenia symptoms start in the early to mid-20s. In women, symptoms typically begin in the late 20s. It’s uncommon for children to be diagnosed with schizophrenia and rare for those older than age 45.
It’s not known what causes schizophrenia, but researchers believe that a combination of genetics, brain chemistry and environment contributes to the development of the disorder.
Problems with certain naturally occurring brain chemicals, including neurotransmitters called dopamine and glutamate, may cause schizophrenia. Neuroimaging studies show differences in the brain structure and central nervous system of people with schizophrenia. While researchers aren’t certain about the significance of these changes, they indicate that schizophrenia is a brain disease.
Even if it is unsure to know the researchers believe that a number of genetic and environmental factors contribute to causation, and life stressors may play a role in the disorder’s onset and course. Since multiple factors may contribute, scientists cannot yet be specific about the exact cause in individual cases. Since the term schizophrenia embraces several different disorders, variation in the cause between cases is expected by scientists.
Left untreated, schizophrenia can result in severe problems that affect every area of life. Complications that schizophrenia may cause :
• Suicide, suicide attempts and thoughts of suicide
• Anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
• Abuse of alcohol or other drugs, including nicotine
• Inability to work or attend school
• Financial problems and homelessness
• Social isolation
• Health and medical problems
• Being or feeling victimized
• Aggressive behaviour, very common behaviour.
There’s no sure way to prevent schizophrenia, but sticking with the treatment plan can help prevent worsening of symptoms. There’s no sure way to prevent schizophrenia, but sticking with the treatment plan can help prevent worsening of symptoms. In addition, researchers hope that learning more about risk factors for schizophrenia may lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment.
Helping someone who may have schizophrenia
If you think someone you know may have symptoms of schizophrenia, talk to him or her about your concerns. Although you can’t force someone to seek professional help, you can offer encouragement and support and help your loved one find a qualified doctor or mental health professional. If your loved one poses a danger to self or others or can’t provide his or her own food, clothing, or shelter, you may need to call emergency responders for help so that your loved one can be evaluated by a mental health professional. In some cases, emergency hospitalization may be needed. Laws on involuntary commitment for mental health treatment vary by state. You can contact community mental health agencies or police departments in your area for details.
Medication and therapy can take time to take full effect but there are still ways you can manage symptoms, improve the way you feel, and increase your self-esteem. The more you do to help yourself, the less hopeless and helpless you’ll feel, and the more likely your doctor will be able to reduce your medication