Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness in which people struggle to interpret reality normally. It affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. The disease not only causes stress for the individual but oftentimes for their family members and friends as well. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality, making it difficult to have meaningful communication with them.
There are many common misconceptions surrounding schizophrenia including the belief that it is a rare condition and that people with the disorder cannot be helped and are dangerous, the reality of these myths is that 1 in 100 people are at risk for developing schizophrenia in their lifetime and although symptoms may frighten the individual and others around them; schizophrenia can be treated and managed leading those who have it to living healthy and productive lifestyles.
There are five main categories of symptoms associated with schizophrenia. These include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, and negativity symptoms. Symptomatology varies from person to person as can the severity of the illness. Symptoms can change over time.
Delusions: A delusion is a strong idea or belief that a person has even though it is clear, and evidence shows that it is not true. Delusions occur in more than 90% of patients who have the disorder. Delusions often involve illogical and bizarre ideas. Examples include the belief that others are out to get you or feeling extreme paranoia, believing that you have unusual or special powers or a famous figure, or a belief that your thoughts and actions are being controlled by outside forces.
Hallucinations: Hallucinations can be described as sounds or other sensations that are perceived as real but are only happening in your mind, Hallucinations can involve any of the five senses. Hearing voices is a common hallucination experienced by those with the illness and often occurs when individuals misinterpret their own inner self talk as an outside voice. People experiencing hallucinations often associate meaning to them and feel like the voices they here or things they experience are coming from someone they know.
Disorganized Speech: Schizophrenia can cause problems in concentration which may affect the way you speak. Sentence structure may be fragmented, not make sense, or you may respond to questions with completely unrelated answers. These symptoms can also include rapidly shifting topics with no connection between thought patterns, repeating words over and over, using made up words that only have meaning to you and talking in rhyming words that when connected have no meaning.
Disorganized Behavior: The mental health disorder often impacts daily functioning, People with schizophrenia often appear to have a decline in overall functioning, unpredictable emotional responses, bizarre behaviors that serve no purpose and a lack of impulse control. These psychotic symptoms often impair and individual’s ability to maintain relationships, career and meet their own basic needs,
Negative symptoms: other mental health symptoms associated with schizophrenia include a lack of affect. This looks like showing no facial expressions, having a flat voice, lack of eye contact. Individuals also tend to experience a lack of motivation and in self-care, there may be an apparent unawareness of the environment and social withdrawal going on as well.
The definitive causes of schizophrenia are not fully knowing but researchers believe that the causes of the disease stem from a variety of internal and external factors.
Genetic causes: There is currently no specific known gene that is traceable to schizophrenia. 40% of individuals with the diagnosis also have family members who suffer from it as well. It is important to note that those who may be genetically predisposed don’t always develop the disease.
Environmental Causes: Much research has pointed out that prenatal stress could lead to a schizophrenic diagnosis, Types of prenatal stress inducing factors include.
Schizophrenia can develop at any time throughout a person’s life. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness the average onset tends to be in the late teens – early 20’s for men; and late 20’s early 30’s for women. It rarely appears suddenly, and most individuals will experience gradual and subtle warning signs before the first severe episode comes one, most times close friends, family members, and those a part of the individuals support system will know there is something wrong.
The most common early warning signs include.
The most effective treatment plans consist of a combined approach of behavioral therapies, lifestyle changes and medication. Schizophrenia is an illness that requires long term treatment. Even when symptoms are absent, treatment should continue to prevent new episodes and remain symptoms free. Treatment can change over time depending upon what the individuals needs are.
Therapy: A combination of talk and skill-based therapies can be helpful in treating schizophrenia. Therapy can help individuals learn coping skills and tools to manage and decrease the persistence of symptoms as well as learn new life skills. Group therapy can also be helpful in connecting individuals who are struggling with similar things and are able to offer valuable insight and support into how they have worked to overcome challenges.
Medication: There are medications that work to reduce and eliminate psychotic symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia. Medications do not cure schizophrenia. Even with medications it is important to treat other symptoms such as social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and emotional apathy with the help of therapy.
Overtime the dosage and kind of medication you need may change as you experience growth and development. For more information on what medications can help you, reach out to a psychiatrist or mental health professional.
Lifestyle Changes: There are steps you can take in your daily routine to help manage schizophrenia. It is important to reach out to family and close friends and stay current with your support system. Participating in healthy activities like getting regular exercise, eating nutritious meals, and getting plenty of sleep will help reduce health problems associated with the disorder.
It is important to avoid drugs, alcohol, and nicotine when you are struggling with schizophrenia as the often worsen symptoms and can negatively impact the effectiveness of some medications. Learning new ways to manage stress will be vital to your recovery in the long term as well.
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