Overview

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder affecting over 21 million people worldwide. It is characterised by extreme disruptions in perception and thinking, affecting language and a sense of self. Though severe, schizophrenia is actually treatable.

With all the discrimination and stigmatisation surrounding mental health disorders caused by a lack of knowledge on mental health issues, schizophrenia is no different; very few people know about this condition. This article aims to help you understand what schizophrenia is and what signs and symptoms are brought about by this condition.

The exact cause of schizophrenia is not known. However, it is believed that a combination of brain chemistry, environmental factors and genetics somehow contribute to the development of this condition. Some of the risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing schizophrenia are:

Causes 

The exact cause of schizophrenia is not known. However, it is believed that a combination of brain chemistry, environmental factors and genetics somehow contribute to the development of this condition. Some of the risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing schizophrenia are:

  • Autoimmune diseases or inflammation that cause increased activation of the immune system can increase schizophrenia risk.
  • Having a family history of schizophrenia where a close family member has the same condition can increase your risk of the same.
  • Taking certain medications such as psychotropic and psychoactive drugs that are mind-altering can also increase the risk for this condition.
  • Older people are at a higher risk of developing this disorder. In young people, late adolescence and early adulthood is the stage when schizophrenia is likely to start.
  • Certain pregnancy and birth complications like exposure to toxins and malnutrition or even viruses can have an impact on the development of the brain.

It can be quite difficult to distinguish between one mental health condition and the other and that is why knowing the different symptoms is important. Schizophrenia is one of the common mental health conditions, and knowing the symptoms it causes can help in ending the stigmatization against people living from the condition.

Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia simply changes the way a person thinks, feels and acts and may affect people differently. The symptoms of this condition come and go and the majority of people with this condition do not realise it until a doctor or counsellor diagnoses it. In fact, most people will think the symptoms they are having are due to stress or being tired.

Schizophrenia usually causes the following symptoms:

  • Delusions: False beliefs that are not based on reality despite the fact that there is obvious evidence they are not true and other people find strange and easy to prove wrong. Some examples include feeling that someone is stalking you, believing that public forms of communication such as television have a special message just for you or even thinking that a person is in love with you.
  • Hallucinations: This refers to seeing, smelling, hearing or feeling things that other people do not. People with hallucinations often hear voices in their head that can make them angry or demand that they do things. They may also feel tactile things like insects or hands are moving on their body or smell either bad (or good) tastes which can even make them feel like they are being poisoned.
  • Disorganised speech and confused thoughts: People with schizophrenia might find it difficult organize their thoughts and they may seem like they are zoning out or are distracted and their talking can seem jumbled or not make sense. They can also say the same thing over and over again.
  • Extremely disorganised behaviour: Schizophrenia can also cause disruption in everyday activities and impair an individual’s ability to take care of themselves, their interaction with others and their work.

Other negative symptoms caused by schizophrenia include:

  • Lack of motivation and self-care
  • Having a problem expressing emotions; maintaining eye contact and restricted facial expressions
  • Social withdrawal
  • Having trouble staying on schedule
  • Struggling with basic daily life like taking baths

In teenagers, the condition might be difficult to diagnose as some of the symptoms can be confused with typical development issues in teenagers, like:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Drop in school performance
  • Feeling depressed and irritated
  • Having trouble sleeping

A doctor diagnoses schizophrenia by observing the actions of a patient. An understand

Schizophrenia Diagnosis

A doctor diagnoses schizophrenia by observing the actions of a patient. An understanding of the patient’s medical and psychiatric history is also important in diagnosing this condition. However, other tests can be done to rule out conditions that can cause similar symptoms. These tests include:

  • Blood tests to rule out drug use and other physical causes of illness.
  • Psychological evaluation to assess a patient’s mental state; their moods, thoughts, behaviour such as violence, and also to observe their appearance.
  • Imaging tests can also be carried out to rule out problems with the brain structure and tumours.

Schizophrenia Diagnosis

In teenagers, the condition might be difficult to diagnose as some of the symptoms can be confused with typical development issues in teenagers, like:

  1. Medication: Antipsychotic medications are used to control schizophrenia symptoms by affecting dopamine which is a brain neurotransmitter. A psychiatrist can prescribe different drugs, different doses or even a combination of drugs to achieve the desired results. Apart from these drugs, antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs can also be incorporated in schizophrenia treatment. These medications do not work instantly and in some cases, a patient might need to wait for weeks to notice any improvement. Some patients may be resistant to taking medication which might require the doctor to give medication to them intravenously.
    Patients who do not respond to drug therapy may need to go through electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This therapy can also be used for people with depression. It involves attaching electrodes to the scalp and a small electric shock is delivered to the brain which causes a controlled seizure and over time, it can lead to improvements in the thinking and mood of a person with schizophrenia. This treatment is however, more commonly used in treating depression and bipolar disorder.
  2. Psychological counselling: Psychological and social interventions are important for schizophrenia patients and can be done through:

• Individual therapy: Through this, the patient can learn to cope with stress and be able to identify early warning signs of relapse so as to manage the condition.

• Family therapy: Families of people living with schizophrenia get support and are taught how to help the family member with the condition.

• Social skills training: This is done to help patients improve their social interactions and communication as well as their ability to do day-to-day activities.

• Vocational rehabilitation and supported employment: People living with schizophrenia are assisted to find and keep jobs through vocational training

3. Hospitalization: In cases where the condition is severe, a patient might need to be hospitalised to ensure they have a proper diet, adequate sleep, good basic hygiene a/4nd are safe.

Schizophrenia Diagnosis

There is no specific way to prevent schizophrenia. However, by taking the right medication as prescribed by a specialist, a person living with the condition can better manage the condition and prevent the symptoms from worsening or having a relapse.

Mental health conditions like schizophrenia are serious and need to be treated early before they get worse. People living with these conditions need not be discriminated against but should, instead, get the necessary medical assistance they need to live better and more productive lives.

At International Medical Treatment Ltd (IMT) we take mental health seriously and that is why we only partner with some of the best hospitals that offer high quality treatments for mental health conditions using the latest medical technology. To get quality medical treatment for schizophrenia or other mental health conditions, contact IMT today.

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