What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, and perceives reality.

Schizophrenia is not as common as compared to other mental disorders, but it can have a profound impact on a person’s life, as well as the lives of those around them. Schizophrenia can be hard to eliminate, but early treatment may help get symptoms under control before serious complications develop.

The age of onset for Schizophrenia generally starts in the mid to the late 20s. A person with Schizophrenia may lose touch with reality. Actions and behaviors of people with Schizophrenia may be bizarre and even shocking

What are the 4 significant symptoms of Schizophrenia?:

Symptoms of Schizophrenia may vary from person to person, but there are some common symptoms. These are:

  1. Positive symptoms: Positive symptoms refer to thoughts and actions that aren’t real. They’re also called psychotic symptoms that include:
  • Hallucinations: Hallucinations are sensations that are unreal and created in the minds. But to a schizophrenic patient, these sensations are like ordinary real experiences. For example, a person may see, feel, taste, or smell things that are not really there. Hallucinations can affect all the senses, but the most common type is hearing voices.
  • Delusions: Delusions are false beliefs that are not based in reality and occur in most people with Schizophrenia. For instance, a person who has Schizophrenia may think that

          a. He is being harmed or harassed

          b. He has exceptional ability or fame,

          c. People can hear his thoughts,

          d. He is God or the devil,

          e. People are putting thoughts into his head or plotting against him.

 

  • Catatonic: In this condition, the person may stop speaking, and their body may be fixated in a single position for a very long time.

2. Negative Symptoms: This refers to reduced or lack of ability to function normally. Some of the negative symptoms are:

         a. Lack of emotion

           b. Withdrawal from family, friends, and social activities

           c. lack of motivation

           d. Loss of enjoyment or interest in life

           e. Poor hygiene

 

  1. Cognitive Symptoms: The person will have:

          a. Trouble in making decisions.

          b. Trouble in Focusing

          c. Trouble with memory

4. Disorganized Symptoms: These symptoms show that the person can’t think clearly or respond as expected. Examples include:

         a. Talking in sentences that don’t make sense, using nonsense words

         b. Shifting quickly from one thought to the next without obvious or logical connections between them

         c. Repeating movements or gestures, like pacing or walking in a circle.

         d. Being unable to decide

         e. Forgetting or losing things

What are the 4 causes of Schizophrenia?:

The exact cause of Schizophrenia is still unknown. But researchers believe that genetics, brain chemistry, brain abnormality, and environmental factors contribute collectively to the development of the disorder.

1.    Inheritance: Schizophrenia can run in families, which implies a greater chance of having Schizophrenia to be passed on from parents to their children.

2.    Brain abnormality: Research has found that some people with Schizophrenia also have abnormal brain structures.

3.    A chemical imbalance in the brain: People with Schizophrenia might not be able to regulate brain chemicals called neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin) that affect thinking and behavior.

4.    Environmental Factor: Environmental factors that may increase the risk of Schizophrenia include:

          a. Trauma during birth

          b. Malnutrition before birth

          c. Viral infections

          d. Psychosocial factors like the death of loved ones or trauma

What are the 5 primary treatments for Schizophrenia?:

Schizophrenia can be a lifelong condition, but effective treatments can help them manage the symptoms and avoid hospitalization. Some potential treatment options include:

1.    Medication: The primary medications used to treat Schizophrenia are called antipsychotics. These drugs don’t cure Schizophrenia but help in delusions, hallucinations, and thinking problems. Some of the foremost common used medications are:

           a. Olanzapine

           b. Lurasidone

           c. Paliperidone Palmitate

           d. Aripiprazole

           e. Asenapine

2.    Psychosocial Therapy: Psychosocial Therapy helps with psychological, behavioral, and occupational problems. It also helps in managing and recognizing early signs of relapse. Psychosocial therapies include:

          a. Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation focuses on social skills to help people with schizophrenia function and live in the community independently.

          b. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Schizophrenia involves establishing a collaborative therapeutic relationship, developing a shared understanding of the issue, setting goals, and teaching the person techniques or strategies to scale back or manage their symptoms. CBT used in treating Schizophrenia includes cognitive restructuring, behavioral experiments/reality testing, self-monitoring, and coping skills training. CBT involves learning techniques to make up for problems with information processing. It uses drills, coaching, and computer-based exercises to strengthen mental skills, attention, memory, planning, and organization.

           c. Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy helps the person to understand his illness better and learn coping and problem-solving skills.

           d. Family therapy: Family members and friends play an essential role in helping people who have Schizophrenia by adapting and supporting them. Family therapy helps families deal with their loved one who has Schizophrenia, equipping them with better approaches to handle the symptoms and effects of Schizophrenia. Family Therapy for Schizophrenia includes education, stress reduction, emotional processing, regulating, structured problem-solving, and empathy within family members.

           e. Group therapy: Support groups provide continuing mutual support through a psychotherapist with people suffering from Schizophrenia. People with Schizophrenia within a support group could learn from each other on the positive ways to better manage the symptoms and keep the effects under control.

3.     Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): ECT is a procedure in which electrodes are attached to the scalp of the person with Schizophrenia. While asleep under general anesthesia, a small electric current is delivered to the brain. Each electric shock treatment causes a controlled seizure, and a series of treatments over time leads to improvement in mood and thinking. In Schizophrenia, ECT is beneficial for catatonia. Doctors may also use ECT to ease other symptoms of Schizophrenia, such as delusions, hallucinations, or disorganized thinking.

4.     Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC): CSC combines medicine and therapy with social services, employment, and educational interventions. Early treatment is key to helping patients lead an everyday life. CSC offers the following six key components:

          a. Case management approach: Helps people develop problem-solving skills, manage medications, and coordinate services.

          b. Psychotherapy Sessions: Focus on personal resiliency and managing the condition.

          c. Medication management: Antipsychotic medicines can work well, but it can take time to find the most effective medication at the most appropriate dose that the patient can adhere to over time.

          d. Supported education and employment: A psychotic experience often disrupts significant life activities. It is crucial to support the ability of the person with Schizophrenia to continue or return to school or work.

          e. Family support and education: Psychosis affects many others beyond just the person who experiences Schizophrenia. Family members need to have the knowledge and skills to co-support treatment and recovery.

          f. Peer support: Given the stigma that still unfairly surrounds mental illness, connecting with others of similar experiences could help people with Schizophrenia cope with their diagnosis.

5.     Hospitalization: In the past, many schizophrenia patients ended up in hospitals for extended stays. Due to the current advancement in medication treatments and therapies, the frequency and length of hospital stays have been significantly reduced. However, hospitalization may still be required for severe cases such as those:

          a. With severe symptoms.

          b. Who might harm themselves or others?

          c. Who can’t take care of themselves at home?

Fortunately, with proper treatment, most people with Schizophrenia can still lead productive and fulfilling lives.

Co-Authored by Shereen Sakhawat (M.sc Applied Psychology)