Schizophrenia disorder is a chronic psychiatric condition. A person with this disorder experiences distortion of reality, including hallucinations and delusions. According to estimates, it affects 1 percent of the population even if exact numbers are difficult to obtain.
It is common for people to misunderstand this disorder. Some believe that it manifests as “split personalities.” In truth, schizophrenia and split personalities – dissociative identity disorder is the proper name – are entirely different disorders.
Women and men of all ages can suffer from schizophrenia. Many men develop symptoms during their teenage years or early twenties. Schizophrenia symptoms usually appear in women in their 20s and early 30s. Here are a few things you should know.
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Symptoms of schizophrenia
There are several symptoms of schizophrenia, including:
These schizophrenia symptoms commonly appear in teenagers and young adults. Because of typical adolescent behaviors, the earliest signs may go unnoticed at these ages.
The following early symptoms can occur:
- Leaving friends and family behind
- Social groups or changing friends
- Concentration and focus change
- Sleep problems
- Agitation and irritability
- Poor academic performance, due to difficulty with schoolwork
A person with schizophrenia is likely to exhibit behaviors, which are unusual for otherwise healthy people. The following behaviors are among them:
- Hallucinations. You may experience hallucinations as well as actual experiences, but they are just acting of your imagination. You may see things, hear voices, or smell things that others around you do not.
- Delusions. When you hold on to an idea despite evidence or facts that contradict it, you are experiencing delusion.
- Thought disorders. The way these individuals think or process information is unusual.
- Movement disorders. The body moves in an agitated manner or adopts strange postures.
A person who is suffering from schizophrenia experiences negative symptoms that disrupt their usual emotions, behaviors, and abilities. Some of these symptoms are:
- Thinking or speaking in an unorganized manner, such as changing topics quickly or using made-up words or phrases
- Impulse control problems
- Experiencing odd emotions in certain circumstances
- A lack of feeling or expression
- Loss of enthusiasm or interest in life
- social isolation
- An inability to experience pleasure
- Inability to get started or follow through with plans
- Having difficulty carrying out basic daily tasks
It may be difficult to detect schizophrenia’s cognitive symptoms when they are subtle. Memory and thinking can be affected by the disorder.
Some of these symptoms are:
- An inability to focus or pay attention due to disorganized thinking
- Having difficulty understanding and making decisions as a result of poor executive functioning
- The inability to learn and use information
- Inadequate insight or failure to recognize the symptoms
Schizophrenia symptoms can be hard to detect.
Schizophrenia does not have a specific cause. The following factors have been identified by medical researchers as potentially contributing:
Some recent studies suggest that imaging tests can reveal abnormalities in certain structures of the brain among people with this disorder. There is still research being conducted in this area. Many of the symptoms of schizophrenia can be attributed to chemical abnormalities in the brain.
In addition, researchers theorize that low levels of specific brain chemicals are also responsible for this psychiatric condition.
In some cases, genetic factors may also be involved. There is a higher risk of schizophrenia developing in families with a history of the disorder.
Some other factors can contribute to schizophrenia, including:
- Before birth or during infancy, a child is exposed to toxins or viruses
- Having an autoimmune or inflammatory disorder
- Using drugs to alter your mental state
- High levels of stress
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Historically, schizophrenia was subdivided into five types. As of 2013, all subtypes have been eliminated. Schizophrenia is one of the most prevalent diagnoses today.
Physicians and healthcare providers plan treatments by knowing the types of patients. However, clinical diagnoses no longer rely on these tests.
Types of these included:
- Paranoid. As of 2013, doctors decided paranoia is not a distinct disorder type, but rather a “positive” symptom.
- Disorganized or hebephrenic. These types are diagnosed among people with disorganized speech or behaviors, but no hallucinations or delusions.
- Undifferentiated. It is diagnosed by doctors in patients who show more than one predominant symptom.
- Residual. A person may have been diagnosed with this subtype if they were diagnosed very early with schizophrenia, but didn’t show any symptoms later in life.
- Catatonic. According to its name, this subtype affects people who have mutism or who develop a stupor-like state of awareness.
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Diagnosis and testing of schizophrenia
Schizophrenia cannot be diagnosed with a single test. Your doctor can make a diagnosis after a complete psychiatric examination. To learn about your mental health needs, you should consult a physician or mental health professional.
The following topics will be discussed at your appointment:
- History of your health
- Your mental health
- Medical history of your family
The following tests may be conducted by your doctor:
- Physical examination
- Blood tests
- Testing to image the body, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans
It is possible that your symptoms are caused by something other than schizophrenia, even if they are similar in nature. Reasons for this may include:
- Substance abuse
- Certain medications
- Other mental illnesses
You may be diagnosed with schizophrenia if you experience two or more symptoms in one month. Symptoms of the condition must include:
- Disorganized speech
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Schizophrenia has no cure. It’s important to know that if you are diagnosed with this disorder, treatment will be lifelong. Symptoms can be controlled or reduced through treatment.
People who suffer from this condition need treatment from psychiatrists or mental health professionals experienced in treating such cases. Social workers and case managers may be able to help you as well.
The following treatments are possible:
Antipsychotic medications are the most commonly prescribed treatment for schizophrenia. The following can be prevented with medication:
- Symptoms of psychosis
If you develop psychosis, you may need hospitalization and will be closely monitored by your physician.
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Psychosocial interventions can also be used to treat schizophrenia. It also includes individual therapy for stress management and illness management.
Communication and social skills can be improved through social training.
You can return to your job with the help of vocational rehabilitation. Regular employment may be easier to maintain.
Schizophrenia alternative treatments
Treatment of schizophrenia requires medication. Some people may be interested in complementary medicines if they suffer from a disorder like this. Make sure the alternative treatment you choose is safe by working with your doctor.
Schizophrenia can be treated by alternative methods such as:
- Vitamin treatment
- Gish oil supplements
- Glycine supplements
- Diet management
A limited amount of scientific research supports these alternatives.
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The most common form of schizophrenia is paranoid schizophrenia. According to the APA, schizophrenia subtypes are no longer distinct disorders.
In the current healthcare environment, this condition won’t be diagnosed by a doctor or health care provider. Instead, schizophrenia will be diagnosed. Symptoms such as paranoia are common, though. A doctor will be able to better plan a treatment for you if you know this.
Some people with the disorder do not experience paranoia. A person with paranoid schizophrenia may be able to receive treatment if they recognize the common symptoms.
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Catatonic schizophrenia was another type previously used. The diagnosis has since been abandoned. The diagnosis is instead limited to a single type.
Catatonic schizophrenia included the following symptoms:
- Flat affect
- Stupor-like condition
- Ignorance of directions
It is no longer used as a diagnosis, but learning more about schizophrenia may help you recognize it and receive treatment more quickly.
Schizophrenia is commonly diagnosed among teenagers and young adults. It can also begin earlier than usual, although less common. Early-onset schizophrenia is sometimes called childhood schizophrenia when symptoms appear before the age of 13.
These conditions are difficult to diagnose. It’s not unusual for children and teens to change their behavior as they grow. Some symptoms show up in other conditions that are linked to this mental health disorder. Some of these include:
Children with schizophrenia exhibit the following symptoms:
- Anxiety or fear that is unusual (paranoia)
- Sleep problems
- Mood swings
- Seeing or hearing voices (hallucinations)
- Taking less care of yourself
- Behavior changes suddenly
- Academia deteriorates
The behavioral symptoms associated with a serious mental health disorder should be distinguished from those which affect children and adolescents.
Schizophrenia vs. psychosis
There is a difference between schizophrenia and psychosis, but the two are not the same. An illness is one thing – a symptom is another.
Psychosis is an escape from reality. Psychotic episodes affect your abilities to hear voices, see things that are not real, or believe things that are not true.
Schizophrenia is one mental health disorder in which psychosis is present. Even people without other symptoms can experience psychosis.
Schizophrenia can cause psychosis, but not all people with it suffer from this condition. Seek treatment as soon as you notice the symptoms of psychosis.
Statistics about schizophrenia
- Schizophrenia is most often diagnosed between the ages of 18 and 30.
- Symptoms usually appear sooner in men. Also, they’re discovered earlier, often in their late teens and early 20s.
- The disease tends to be diagnosed in women later, in their early twenties to early 30s.
- Women are less likely to be affected than men.
- Fewer than one percent of people suffer from schizophrenia, according to research. Approximately 21 million people worldwide are affected by this illness.
- There is a 10 percent chance you will contract the disorder if a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, has it.
- Among the most debilitating diseases worldwide, schizophrenia rates among the top 15.
- Deaths from this disorder are twice as likely as those from other diseases.
- Half of those who suffer from the condition also suffer from other mental health issues.
- The suicide rate for people with bipolar disorder is almost five percent. The general population has a lower rate than that.
- The disorder isn’t being treated appropriately by more than half of patients.
Schizophrenia vs. bipolar
Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are chronic mental disorders. There are some similarities between them, but there are also distinct differences.
The moods of people with bipolar disorder change rapidly. These mood swings alternate between depression and mania.
Hallucinations or delusions are possible during manic episodes in someone with bipolar disorder. It may be difficult to accomplish basic tasks when you are experiencing psychosis and mood swings.
Furthermore, people may experience hallucinations or delusions, but they are also very likely to experience disorganized thinking and speech. The symptoms of psychosis are not associated with mania, unlike those of bipolar disorder in the manic phase.
There is no way to determine what condition you have with a test. An examination and tests may be ordered by your doctor to rule out possible causes. Several types of tests may be conducted, such as blood tests, imaging tests, and drug screenings.
If those tests come back negative, your doctor will begin monitoring your behavior and symptoms to determine if it matches what you’re experiencing.
In schizophrenia, the prognosis varies from person to person. The outlook for each individual will be determined largely by their overall health, age, symptoms, and treatment plan.
Despite treatment, only 20% of patients with this disorder reported favorable outcomes, according to a 2014 study. Many people continue to suffer symptoms well into old age.
A significant portion of people with these disorders may not receive adequate treatment because they are more than half untreated. Suicide kills almost 5% of people with this disorder.
Families involved in treatment programs have shown great success. Hospitalization rates are decreased, and the quality of life is improved.
It’s crucial for you to seek the help of a mental health professional or medical professional to make sure you follow a treatment plan that’s feasible and effective.
There is no need to ignore or discount schizophrenia as a severe mental illness. A serious illness can lead to the following complications:
A person with this disorder might also have difficulty working and going to school. A person at risk for poverty or homelessness is unable to work or support themselves financially.
Schizophrenia cannot be prevented. The research community has focused on how to identify at-risk individuals for the disorder and how to prevent it in them in recent years.
There’s a chance to live a symptom-free, healthy life. Symptoms of the disorder may disappear for a long time and then reappear. Your prognosis will be improved if you follow your doctor’s recommendations.
Psychiatrists at the Royal College of Psychiatrists estimate that 3 out of 5 people diagnosed with schizophrenia will recover after receiving treatment. You need to do the following to get on the road to improvement:
- Become familiar with your condition
- Be aware of the risk factors
- Ensure you follow the treatment plan prescribed by your doctor