If schizophrenia ever required a nickname, it could be ‘misunderstood.’
The easiest way to understand schizophrenia is to figure out what it isn’t! It is not a condition characterized by multiple personalities (aka dissociative identity disorder). It’s not associated with extreme mood swings like mental health mood disorders. And, people dealing with schizophrenia are not inherently violent or genius, no matter what your favorite movie says.
The most common and well-known symptoms of schizophrenia are delusions and hallucinations. It’s not a one-size-fits-all problem; therefore, every person dealing with the condition has a unique experience.
With that said several common themes can help you get a basic understanding of what schizophrenia is and how it affects your life. In this blog post, we will dive into the nuances of what having schizophrenia feels like. We will also look at the causes and available treatment options for the condition.
But before we get started, here’s something important.
Mental and neurological health are diverse and complex. They exist on a spectrum, and every individual has their own experiences. Therefore, don’t start diagnosing yourself with the knowledge you get by reading a few articles on the Internet (though we are incredibly grateful to you for stopping by to enhance your understanding of an important topic). If you find this article helpful or resonate with the symptoms explained in it, consider this as the beginning of your journey of getting the right help.
That’s it. Let’s dive in!
What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a complex mental health condition that affects around 1% of the American population (as per the official statistics of the National Alliance on Mental Illness). People with schizophrenia have a distorted sense of reality due to hallucinations and delusions. It also leads to disorganized thoughts and behavior and a lack of motivation and interest in activities.
Schizophrenia is extremely difficult to diagnose and can lead to frequent stress and disruption in the lives of individuals affected by the condition, along with their loved ones and caregivers. Individuals living with schizophrenia often find it difficult to manage their personal and professional lives.
The condition is diagnosed during the teenage years to early 20s among men and in the early 20s-30s in women. However, it affects both groups equally.
Signs And Symptoms Of Schizophrenia
People with schizophrenia often have episodes where they are completely dissociated from reality. This makes it difficult for them to differentiate whether something is real. Some schizophrenia symptoms are easy to spot because they stand out from a person’s usual behavior.
The symptoms of schizophrenia can be divided into the following types:
1. Early signs of schizophrenia
Most of the early signs and symptoms of schizophrenia begin during the teenage years. This initial period before psychosis is termed the prodromal period.
However, parents or health professionals may usually overlook these signs of schizophrenia as they masquerade as typical adolescent mood swings.
Here are the early signs of schizophrenia:
- Isolating from friends and family members
- Frequently changing friends and social groups
- Concentration problems
- Sleep disturbances
- Poor academic performance
- Stress and anxiety
- Feeling different or excluded from others
- Frequent temper tantrums
2. Positive symptoms of schizophrenia
Positive symptoms of schizophrenia are not used to denote anything good. Positive symptoms are also referred to as altered perceptions. This means they change the way you perceive things. Psychotic symptoms are generally clubbed under this category.
A person having psychotic symptoms loses a sense of reality. The positive symptoms of schizophrenia include the following:
- Hallucinations or events conjured by your brain that seem real to you.
- Delusions occur when you believe something despite having contrary proofs.
- Paranoia is when an individual is uncharacteristically doubtful and distrustful of others.
- Catatonia is a state where a person stops talking, and their body is stuck in one position for a long time.
3. Negative symptoms of schizophrenia
Negative symptoms are characterized by a lack of regular emotional and behavioral responses from the affected individual. These types of schizophrenia symptoms include:
4. Disorganized and cognitive symptoms
People living with schizophrenia have difficulty managing regular activities. Therefore, disorganized schizophrenia symptoms show that the individual is not processing information properly. These include:
- Talking in words or sentences that don’t make complete sense
- Jumping from one thought to another
- Writing excessively without any desired meaning or end goal.
- Regularly forgetting or losing things
- Having problems with senses (hearing, sight, etc.)
Are There Any Types Of Schizophrenia?
Previously, schizophrenia was divided into five different subtypes, depending on the nature and intensity of symptoms. These were:
However, it was noted that people with schizophrenia frequently experience overlapping symptoms throughout their lives and that these subtypes were not always helpful. Eventually, the latest edition of DSM-V has phased out the subtypes of schizophrenia and introduced separate diagnostic criteria.
That being said, these subtypes can still be helpful as diagnostic identifiers to clinicians to describe patients’ various schizophrenia-related experiences and help develop treatment strategies. Read more about the types of schizophrenia here.
What Are The Causes Of Schizophrenia?
Just like most mental health conditions, there are no exact schizophrenia causes that can be associated with the condition. However, a cosplay of multiple factors is responsible for developing the condition.
These factors include the following:
1. Genetics: Schizophrenia is thought to run in families, which means that those who have a close family member with the condition are more likely to develop it.
2. Brain chemistry: People with schizophrenia are not able to regulate the production and functioning of neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters affect how you think and feel.
3. Brain abnormality: As per Los Angeles research, people with schizophrenia have altered brain structures. However, this finding hasn’t been generalized for all the patients with the condition.
4. Environment: Schizophrenia can also be triggered by extreme stress, substance abuse, exposure to toxins, or viral infections. It might also begin when the body is going through significant hormonal and physical changes during the early teenage years.
How Is The Condition Diagnosed?
Schizophrenia can only be diagnosed by a qualified mental health professional. But you can approach your primary healthcare professional as well. They might refer you for a full psychological and physical examination. While there are no specific schizophrenia tests to diagnose the condition, the doctors advise these examinations to rule out any other condition that might be contributing to your condition.
Once other issues are ruled out, you are finally referred to a specialist who can deduce your condition. A mental healthcare professional will conduct interviews and assessments to diagnose schizophrenia. The therapist might also take into account the reports of your family and friends while diagnosing you.
As per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), a person is diagnosed with schizophrenia if they have any two of the following symptoms for six months:
- Disorganized speech
- Catatonic behavior
- Negative symptoms
It is important to note that one of the two symptoms is:
- Disorganized speech
Complications With Undiagnosed Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a chronic health condition and requires proper treatment. Untreated schizophrenia can lead to several health complications, including:
- Suicidal tendencies
- Substance abuse
What Are The Treatment Options Available For People?
While there’s no sure-shot treatment for schizophrenia, there are several treatment options that can help patients manage their symptoms effectively. The most common schizophrenia treatments are a combination of:
- Social Support Treatment
- Self-care tools
- Lifestyle changes
Every person reacts to medications differently. Therefore, working closely with a qualified professional to monitor your condition is imperative until you find a stable treatment plan. The most commonly used medications for schizophrenia are antipsychotics. Along with medications, patients have also shown effective recovery with social support treatment and psychotherapy.
Apart from medical interventions, certain lifestyle changes can also prove beneficial for people living with schizophrenia. These include:
- Following a structured and set routine for their day.
- Supportive company of loved ones or people going through the same condition.
- Stress-relieving activities.
While schizophrenia is a manageable condition, it’s essential that patients stick to the specified treatment plan until told otherwise by their doctor.
Schizophrenia is a complicated and debilitating mental health condition defined by a distorted sense of reality. It is marked by positive, negative, disorganized, and cognitive symptoms. The early signs of schizophrenia are visible during the teenage years. Early detection and diagnosis are key to a person’s effective recovery.
This is why finding the right professional help is of utmost importance. With the advent of online therapy platforms, finding professional help is now easier than ever. To learn more about the most accessible and affordable online therapy platforms, click here.
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