While many people associate this illness to people talking to themselves or wandering the streets aimlessly, there is actually much more to it than just that. But first let’s ask the question: What is Schizophrenia? In its simplest form, schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves, often making it seem like this person has lost touch with reality.
Not as common as other mood disorders, the exact number of Schizophrenia sufferers are estimated to range from .25 percent to .64 percent of US adults. It typically develops between the ages of 17 to 30 in men and women, and although it can occur at any age, it is uncommon for a child under the age of 12 to be diagnosed.
What are the symptoms?
Now that we know what Schizophrenia is exactly, let’s look at what symptoms can occur. And let’s categorize them to make them easier.
Positive symptoms – These are symptoms that a typically not seen in healthy individuals, hence they are added. These symptoms include:
- Hallucinations – This can includes, hearing voices, seeing things that are not typically there or smelling things that other cannot. These symptoms are very real to those suffering from Schizophrenia.
- Delusions – These are false beliefs that includes paranoia, feeling like someone is reading their thoughts, or they are being spied on or controlled.
Negative symptoms – These are associated with disruptions to normal emotions or behaviors, such as:
- Reduced expressions of emotions, whether it be facial expressions or tone of voice.
- Reduced feelings of pleasure in everyday life
- Reduced speaking or activity
Cognitive symptoms – People with these symptoms struggle with memory, organization, thinking or completely general tasks.
How do you get Schizophrenia?
Research suggests that schizophrenia may have several possible causes:
- Genetics – Heredity indeed can play a strong role in developing Schizophrenia. Your likelihood of developing schizophrenia is multiplied by six times if you are related to someone with the illness.
- Environment. Exposure to viruses or malnutrition before birth, particularly in the first and second trimesters has been shown to increase the risk of schizophrenia.
- Brain chemistry – Problems with certain brain chemicals, including neurotransmitters called dopamine and glutamate, may contribute to schizophrenia.
- Substance abuse – It is suggest that taking mind-altering drugs during teen years and young adulthood can increase the risk of schizophrenia. A growing body of evidence indicates that smoking marijuana increases the risk of psychotic incidents and the risk of ongoing psychotic experiences. The younger and more frequent the use, the greater the risk.
How do I get help?
While there are some theories on the causes of Schizophrenia, it is still widely unknown, so treatments focus on eliminating the symptoms of the disease instead of the disease itself, these include:
Antipsychotics – It is important to work closely with your Dr. to find the right Antipsychotic for your symptoms. Examples of antipsychotics are:
Psychosocial Treatments – These are most beneficial in conjunction with medication discovered after you have met with a doctor. These treatments focus on learning and using coping skills to deal with the everyday challenges of having schizophrenia. Patients who regularly participate in these treatments are much less likely to relapse and end up in the hospital.
If you know someone with these symptoms it is important for you to help them get treatment and help them to stay in treatment. It is also important for you to remember that these symptoms are very real to them and to acknowledge them as such and be respectful, supportive and kind to these symptoms.