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People with the disorder may hear voices other people don’t hear. They may believe other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. This can terrify people with the illness and make them withdrawn or extremely agitated.
People with schizophrenia may not make sense when they talk. They may sit for hours without moving or talking. Sometimes people with schizophrenia seem perfectly fine until they talk about what they are really thinking.
Families and society are affected by schizophrenia too. Many people with schizophrenia have difficulty holding a job or caring for themselves, so they rely on others for help.
Treatment helps relieve many symptoms of schizophrenia, but most people who have the disorder cope with symptoms throughout their lives. However, many people with schizophrenia can lead rewarding and meaningful lives in their communities. Researchers are developing more effective medications and using new research tools to understand the causes of schizophrenia. In the years to come, this work may help prevent and better treat the illness.
Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia isn’t a split personality or multiple personality. The word “schizophrenia” does mean “split mind,” but it refers to a disruption of the usual balance of emotions and thinking.
Schizophrenia is a chronic condition, requiring lifelong treatment.
There is, to date, no physical or laboratory test that can absolutely diagnose schizophrenia. The doctor, a psychiatrist, will make a diagnosis based on the patient’s clinical symptoms. However, physical testing can rule out some other disorders and conditions which sometimes have similar symptoms, such as seizure disorders, thyroid dysfunction, brain tumor, drug use, and metabolic disorders.
Symptoms and signs of schizophrenia will vary, depending on the individual. The symptoms are classified into four categories:
♦ Positive symptoms – also known as psychotic symptoms. These are symptoms that appear, which people without schizophrenia do not have. For example, delusion.
♦ Negative symptoms – these refer to elements that are taken away from the individual; loss or absence of normal traits or abilities that people without schizophrenia normally have. For example, blunted emotion.
♦ Cognitive symptoms – these are symptoms within the person’s thought processes. They may be positive or negative symptoms, for example, poor concentration is a negative symptom.
♦ Emotional symptoms – these are symptoms within the person’s feelings. They are usually negative symptoms, such as blunted emotions.
List of the major symptoms:
♦ Delusions – The patient has false beliefs of persecution, guilt of grandeur. He/she may feel things are being controlled from outside. It is not uncommon for people with schizophrenia to describe plots against them. They may think they have extraordinary powers and gifts. Some patients with schizophrenia may hide in order to protect themselves from an imagined persecution.
♦ Hallucinations – hearing voices is much more common than seeing, feeling, tasting, or smelling things which are not there, but seem very real to the patient.
♦ Thought disorder – the person may jump from one subject to another for no logical reason. The speaker may be hard to follow. The patient’s speech might be muddled and incoherent. In some cases the patient may believe that somebody is messing with his/her mind.
Some symptoms schizophrenia patients may experience include:
♦ Lack of motivation (avolition) – the patient loses his/her drive. Everyday automatic actions, such as washing and cooking are abandoned. It is important that those close to the patient understand that this loss of drive is due to the illness, and has nothing to do with slothfulness.
♦ Poor expression of emotions – responses to happy or sad occasions may be lacking, or inappropriate.
♦ Social withdrawal – when a patient with schizophrenia withdraws socially it is often because he/she believes somebody is going to harm them. Other reasons could be a fear of interacting with other humans because of poor social skills.
♦ Unaware of illness – as the hallucinations and delusions seem so real for the patients, many of them may not believe they are ill. They may refuse to take medications which could help them enormously for fear of side-effects, for example.
♦ Cognitive difficulties – the patient’s ability to concentrate, remember things, plan ahead, and to organize himself/herself are affected. Communication becomes more difficult.
Types of schizophrenia
♦ Schizoaffective Disorder For some people, depression or bipolar disorder symptoms are also part of the mix.
♦ Brief Psychotic Disorder Like the name says, symptoms are relatively brief but still quite severe.
♦ Schizophreniform Disorder Find out how this short-term type of schizophrenia is different.
♦ Delusional Disorder Delusions are the main features of this serious condition.
Shared Psychotic Disorder This is a rare condition in which an otherwise healthy person joins in on the delusions of a psychotic person.
Causes of schizophrenia
t’s not known what causes schizophrenia, but researchers believe that a combination of genetics and environment contributes to development of the disorder.
Problems with certain naturally occurring brain chemicals, including neurotransmitters called dopamine and glutamate, also may contribute to schizophrenia. Neuroimaging studies show differences in the brain structure and central nervous system of people with schizophrenia. While researchers aren’t certain about the significance of these changes, they support evidence that schizophrenia is a brain disease.
♦ Schizophrenia Medications This overview looks at schizophrenia medications and their side effects.
♦ Therapy for Schizophrenia Through therapy, people can develop social and work skills to improve their lives and relationships.
♦ Electroconvulsive Therapy and Schizophrenia ECT is often misunderstood, but it’s highly effective for certain types of schizophrenia.