Schizophrenia: The Disease of Two Minds
Schizophrenia, one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses, is characterized by numerous symptoms that have to do with thought, emotions, and behavior. First recognized in the early 1900s by Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler, schizophrenia is an illness that many people don’t understand until they experience it themselves or have a loved one affected by it. This article on schizophrenia breaks down what you need to know about this mental disorder. So you can better support someone close to you who suffers from it or prevent yourself from developing it.
What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that disrupts a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others. People with schizophrenia may hear voices other people don’t hear. They may believe other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts or plotting to harm them. This can terrify people with schizophrenia and make them withdrawn or extremely agitated. Schizophrenia affects about 1 percent of Americans ages 18 and older in a given year. Men suffer with schizophrenia at about twice the rate as women.
Types of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is classified as a psychiatric diagnosis, meaning a person receives that diagnosis by interacting with a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, there is no blood test or other kind of diagnostic tool to definitively determine if someone has schizophrenia; it’s based solely on clinical observation and judgment. There are five main types of schizophrenia, though they vary somewhat in their traits and symptoms. Those five different forms of schizophrenia are: disorganized schizophrenia (the most common), catatonic schizophrenia, paranoid schizophrenia, undifferentiated schizophrenia and residual-type Schizophrenia (the least common). People diagnosed with Schizophrenia have one thing in common—symptoms that impact their ability to think clearly, feel emotions and interact with others. What separates those groups is which symptoms predominate when these behaviors become impaired.
Causes and Risk Factors
To understand schizophrenia, it helps to know a little about what causes psychiatric conditions in general. Schizophrenia has both genetic and environmental influences. In some cases, genetics alone can trigger symptoms. Risk for schizophrenia associates with other factors like stress and drug. More research is needed to determine just how much each factor contributes to overall risk for illness.
According to WebMD, a diagnosis of schizophrenia is made when someone experiences multiple schizophrenic symptoms over a prolonged period of time (at least one month). These signs and symptoms can be both positive and negative. A positive symptom, for example, might be hearing voices in your head when there’s no one around. On top of that voice hearing disorder, other positive psychotic symptoms include delusions (believing something to be true even though it’s not) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there). Negative symptoms include problems with emotions, motivation, speaking and thinking. For example, individuals with schizophrenia may appear lethargic or uninterested in their surroundings. They might also struggle to carry on meaningful conversations or talk at all.
Schizophrenia is a complex mental disorder with symptoms that affect how you think, feel, and act. Common symptoms include positive symptoms such as auditory hallucinations, disorganized thinking and speech, or delusions of persecution or grandeur; negative symptoms such as social withdrawal and apathy; cognitive problems; and anxiety. Most people with schizophrenia also have physical health problems such as obesity, heart disease, or diabetes—most likely due to lifestyle factors like a lack of exercise and poor diet.
There is no cure for schizophrenia, but there are treatments that can manage symptoms, improve functionality and reduce symptoms. Examples include antipsychotic medication and psychotherapy (therapy).Doctor prescribe Antipsychotic medications like clozapine and risperidone to provide some relief of symptoms in people with schizophrenia. However, these drugs also cause side effects including insomnia, restlessness and lethargy, as well as weight gain. Some medications may also have a negative impact on sex drive. Psychotherapy is another option; treatment may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or family-focused therapy. CBT helps patients recognize their thoughts and feelings, which can help them deal with any stressors in their lives more effectively.
Support Groups and Organizations
There are a number of support groups and organizations that help individuals and families dealing with schizophrenia. Web resources may also be found online, but check with your local library or counseling center for more information. If you can’t find any in your area, consider starting one yourself!