What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder related to cognition (a mental process that is involved in understanding or interpretation). A schizophrenic patient understands the reality in an abnormal way and in many cases, it involves hallucinations, delusions, speech disorganization, and dispersed thoughts, resulting in functional abnormalities. Schizophrenia can only be treated symptomatically and no proper recovery is possible.

What are the causes of schizophrenia?

There is no exact known cause of schizophrenia, but according to studies, it may develop because of the combined effects of genes, brain chemicals and environmental factors.

Some important neurotransmitters (dopamine, glutamate) can be involved in the development of this disease. According to studies, there are some differences in the morphology of the nervous system of affected individuals which can be a leading cause of schizophrenia. However, there is no clear evidence regarding this concept.

What is the age of onset of schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia normally expresses itself between the late teens to early thirties. It is manifested earlier in men (at the age of 15 to 25) as compared to women, in which it is expressed lately (in the late twenties).
However, schizophrenia is not a gender or age-specific. Its onset is variable in different people.

What are the risk factors for schizophrenia?

There are some important factors that increase the chances of triggering the disease in some individuals. These actors include:

  • Exposure to some kind of toxic substances, viruses, or lack of nutrition during pregnancy, may interfere with the developing brain of the fetus, later manifesting itself as schizophrenia.

  • Several environmental factors can also be involved in the development of the disease, such as poor living, stressed environment, ignorance by family members, or loved ones.

  • If there is a family history of the disease, as suggested by some gene-related studies, several genes can be involved in increasing the risk of schizophrenia, but not only a single gene can cause the disease. However, genetic information is not enough to predict which person is at more risk.

  • Taking some drugs that affect the brain activity (either brain stimulants or depressants)

Summary
Intoxication, viral infection, or malnutrition in pregnancy are some important risk factors for schizophrenia. Moreover, socioeconomic status, family history, genetic reasons, or use of brain affecting drugs are also the risk factors.

What are the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia can be expressed in the following ways:

  • Alterations in normal patterns of vision, listening, smelling or touching, and taste.

  • Expressing strange behaviors, such as expressionless gaze.

  • Disturbed sleep patterns

  • A person having schizophrenia starts living in an imaginary world

  • Person starts to hallucinate for example he starts hearing the voices or seeing the things or persons that are not actually present.

  • Delusions (strange believes or impressions that are far away from reality) which are firmly held beliefs not supported by objective facts

  • Disorganized thoughts or speech problems

  • Losing motivation, interests or fun in routine activities

  • Social distancing, abnormal functioning

  • Difficulty in paying attention, difficult to concentrate or make a memory

  • Problems in decision making

What is the treatment of schizophrenia?

Because of the complexity and least knowledge about the underlying causes of schizophrenia, the treatment strategies are mainly considered to treat the disease symptomatically.

Treatment is given as follows:

1. Antipsychotics

Antipsychotics are used to decrease the intensity and frequency of the symptoms of schizophrenia. They can be taken as tablets, syrups, or injections.

These antipsychotics are usually associated with some side effects for example weight gain, dry mouth or drowsiness, etc. in the start. Medications that are used in the treatment of mental disorders, should not be stopped on their own, as they cause the withdrawal symptoms.

  • Second-Generation Antipsychotics

Second-generation antipsychotics are relatively associated with fewer side effects but some can cause weight gain and interfere with blood sugar and cholesterol.

There are few examples of second-generation antipsychotics:

  • Aripiprazole

  • Brexpiprazole

  • Clozapine

  • Asenapine

Clozapine is the drug of choice in the patients who are not responding to typical antipsychotics.

  • First generation antipsychotics

They act by blocking dopamine (neurotransmitter) and are more likely than second-generation antipsychotics to cause extrapyramidal symptoms such as dystonia or dyskinesia.

Few examples of these drugs are:

  • Chlorpromazine

  • Fluphenazine

  • Haloperidol

  • Loxapine

2. Psychotherapy

Teaching a patient to control the thought patterns and behavioral problems by a psychiatrist is a better way to treat. This is called psychotherapy. The more the individual knows about his illness, the more it’s easy for them to manage their disease.

3.Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a kind of behavioral therapy in which the patient is taught to deal with hallucinations and delusional voices.

The combined effect of cognitive-behavioral therapy and antipsychotic medicines makes it possible for the individual to interpret the triggering factors and the ways to control them.

4. Cognitive enhancement therapy

In cognitive enhancement therapy, the combination of computer-based mental training and group sessions is used to help the schizophrenic patient to make better control over his disease.

5. Other methods

  • Involvement of family members and loved ones by several educational or training programs about giving awareness regarding causes, symptoms, and management of schizophrenia can help to improve the condition of patients.

  • Assertive Community Treatment is a treatment strategy specifically for schizophrenic patients who are at risk to frequent hospital admissions or suffering from homelessness.

  • In ACT, there is the involvement of a team, consisting of a health care professional, a shared caseload, directly providing the services, frequently patient meetings, to lessen the hospital expenditure

Summary
For the treatment of schizophrenia, antipsychotics, psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, cognitive enhancement therapy, and assertive community disorder are important considerations.

How can others help a patient with schizophrenia?

  • As environmental factors are major contributing factors in developing the disease, so increased attention and care by family and loved ones can play important role in the management of the disease.

  • But it’s always associated with some difficulties because it’s not a child’s play to handle a person exhibiting a serious psychotic issue.

  • One should call 911 if he knows a person with schizophrenia who may cause some danger to others or not able to earn living and shelter for himself.

  • Suicidal thoughts and harmful behavior are two important things that are highly expressed in a schizophrenic person. If one knows a person with these possibilities to happen, he/she must stay with that patient or call security agencies.

Is there any relationship between depression and schizophrenia?

  • Both schizophrenia and depression are interpreted as a sign of some mental problem, by the majority of people. People think that either schizophrenia actually results from extreme stress or depression.

  • But depression and schizophrenia are not the alternate terms, although few symptoms overlap and both are related to brain functioning, yet there are some major differences.

  • The main difference between these two is, while talking about schizophrenia, it triggers negative emotions in the patient. In the case of depression, the positive effect is dominant.

  • A schizophrenic individual is dangerous and extremely unpredictable, as compared to a depressed person who does not evoke fear in people around him.

Summary
Schizophrenia and depression are not the same diseases although both are related to the brain. A depressed person is not dangerous, while schizophrenic patients are extremely dangerous because of their unpredictability.

What are some famous personalities having schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder and can manifest itself at any age and in any gender. Some of the very famous personalities have also been suffered from this disease. Some of them are named below:

Lionel Aldridge

A professional football player, born in 1941 and died in 1998, suffered from schizophrenia in his late twenties. As a result of this illness, he lost each and everything he owned, including his family.

Zelda Fitzgerald

She was a writer, dancer, and wife of famous writer F. Scott Fitzgerald was diagnosed with schizophrenia, most probably because of her extreme alcoholism and toxic married life.

Peter Green

The founder of Fleetwood mac (rock band) and a British musician and guitarist has also suffered from schizophrenia.

Syd Barret

Syd Barret, another famed British music writer, singer, and guitarist became schizophrenic during his late life.

Eduard Einstein

The Son of famous scientist Albert Einstein was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his twenties.

Buddy Bolden

Also known as King Bolden, suffered from schizophrenia, because of alcoholic psychosis.

Darrel Hammond

A famous actor who played the role of Bill Clinton has also suffered from schizophrenia as well as bipolar disorder.

Jack Kerouac

An American novelist was a schizophrenic in his early age.

Frequently asked questions

1. What are the early signs of schizophrenia?

Some early signs and symptoms of schizophrenia are given as:

  1. Depression and anxiety
  2. Social distancing
  3. Intense reactions to any objection or criticism
  4. No personal care
  5. Gazes with no expressions
  6. Inability to express the emotions
  7. Sleep disturbances

2. How do people get schizophrenia?

The exact etiology of schizophrenia is not known. However, studies suggest that there are a lot of reasons that can result into schizophrenia, for example, intoxication during pregnancy, genetic causes, socioeconomic conditions. Some people may be more sensitive to produce schizophrenia or depression and stress can also cause schizophrenia.

3. What are different types of schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is further divided into different types. These types are given below:

  1. Paranoid schizophrenia, includes delusions and hallucinations
  2. Catatonic schizophrenia, characterized by extreme movements.
  3. Hebephrenic schizophrenia, also called as disorganized schizophrenia
  4. Residual schizophrenia, when a person has the past history of at least one episode of schizophrenia.
  5. Undifferentiated schizophrenia, including symptoms of two or more types of schizophrenia

4. What kind of voices do schizophrenics hear?

A schizophrenic person hears different kinds of voices, sometimes louder and become persuasive with the advancement of disease. For example, excessively loud screams, scratching sounds or some musical voices.

Conclusion

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder associated with cognitive psychology. Schizophrenic patient interprets the reality in a way that is far away from normal behavior. It is expressed mostly in the middle phase of age. Disturbance in neurotransmitters is the main cause of schizophrenia. Antipsychotics, psychotherapy, CBT, CET are the main therapeutic components.

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