Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that can occur at any age. People with schizophrenia interpret reality abnormally, affecting their thinking, emotions, decisions, and relationships. Early treatment may help get symptoms under control and improve a patient’s long-term prognosis.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
It’s difficult to diagnose schizophrenia, so a continuous medical evaluation can help track the patient. Experiencing these symptoms for at least six months is an indication of the disorder. Symptoms may include:
- Hallucinations: The most common are auditory hallucinations — hearing voices — but the hallucinations may involve any of the senses. While the hallucination isn’t real, the sufferer gets the full impact of the experience.
- Delusions: A person with schizophrenia may hold on to false beliefs even in the presence of evidence against them. Delusions cause confusion, frustration, and the inability to concentrate.
- Negative symptoms: These are symptoms that reduce a person’s functioning. For example, a person with schizophrenia may have flat emotions, neglect personal hygiene, or withdraw from others.
- Disorganized thinking: Cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia make the person struggle to remember things and organize their thoughts. The person may be unable to plan or complete tasks. Patients usually experience anosognosia, which is the lack of ability to recognize one’s own condition.
Causes of Schizophrenia
Possible causes of schizophrenia include:
- Genetics: Heredity plays a substantial role in inheriting this illness. A person is six times more likely to develop schizophrenia if a close relative suffers from the disorder.
- Gestation: Exposure to malnutrition or viruses during the first and second trimester increases the risk of schizophrenia to the unborn child.
- Biochemistry: Chemical imbalances in the brain may contribute to schizophrenia and affect how neural networks function.
- Substance use: Use of mind-altering drugs during teen and adulthood increases the risk of schizophrenia. Lower age and greater frequency raise the risk of acquiring the illness.
Diagnosis of Schizophrenia
There is no physical or laboratory testing that can provide an accurate diagnosis. Lack of awareness also contributes to the difficulty of diagnosis, which makes the patient ignore their condition.
It takes more than six months to provide a correct diagnosis for schizophrenia. There is a risk of misdiagnosis due to cultural perspectives and structural barriers. The healthcare provider should rule out other factors such as possible medical conditions that affect the patient’s behavior.
Treatment of Schizophrenia
There is no cure yet for schizophrenia. However, treatment and help managing symptoms are available. Even when symptoms have subsided, schizophrenia will require lifelong treatment. Some options that may help a person with schizophrenia live a productive and independent life include:
- Psychotherapy and counseling
- Case management
- Psychosocial rehabilitation programs
- Housing programs or drop-in centers
- Self-help and employment programs
- Crisis services
It’s crucial to seek medical services to help the person and the family understand the illness. Activities from recovery programs can help the person regain skills and alleviate negative symptoms.