You have probably heard about schizophrenia, but how much do you really know about it? What are its symptoms? What are the treatments for schizophrenia?
If you are like most people, you could not answer these questions confidently. But understanding this serious mental illness and what a person with schizophrenia goes through is key in reducing the fear and misunderstanding that surrounds it.
Knowledge empowers friends and family members, making it easier for them to provide the right treatment and support that will help people with schizophrenia.
This is exactly what we want to impart through this article: actionable information.
Our dream is to help build an environment filled with understanding and active support, where people with schizophrenia may live happy and meaningful lives along with family and friends.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a severe mental health disorder that makes a person interpret reality in abnormal ways. As a result, it affects the way that person thinks, acts, shows emotions, and relates to people around them, even family members. This often leads to difficulties at home, school, work, and in relationships.
What Are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?
If you have schizophrenia, you may experience several psychotic symptoms, including the following:
When a person starts having delusions or strange beliefs, there is a chance that he or she may be suffering from schizophrenia. For instance, a person diagnosed with schizophrenia may think that someone is listening to their thoughts, or that someone is telling them to do certain things telepathically.
Next to delusions, hallucinations are one of the most common symptoms of this mental illness. It often comes in the form of voices that persons with schizophrenia hear in their heads.
In some cases, the symptoms of schizophrenia include seeing things that are not really there, feeling sensations even if nothing is touching the skin, or smelling odd odours.
There are times when someone with schizophrenia just stops moving altogether, becoming almost like a statue. When this happens, the patient can remain in this position for hours or even days.
The onset of catatonic schizophrenia is often preceded by a psychotic episode of impulsive hyperactivity.
What Causes Schizophrenia?
While the exact cause of schizophrenia is not known, there are known risk factors that researchers are looking into:
Schizophrenia has a tendency to run in families, so the risk is higher for someone who is related to a person living with the illness.
If nature can play a part in the illness, so can nurture. Exposure to stressful situations or even toxins like those found in marijuana can trigger schizophrenia, especially to those who are predisposed.
In some cases, the brain is unable to regulate some chemicals, affecting the neurotransmitters that control behaviour and thought processes.
When Does it Start?
This mental health condition often starts to manifest in men in their late teens or early 20s and in women in their early 20s or 30s. It can take days, weeks, or even years from the first episode to the time it becomes full psychosis. The time it takes for schizophrenia to develop fully is called the prodromal period.
Diagnosis of Schizophrenia
Before a person can get proper schizophrenia treatment, a mental health professional must first make the diagnosis. This can be done by performing a comprehensive medical history, but there are times when a physical exam would help.
If you think that you or a family member might have schizophrenia, you can ask your doctor to do various tests. If there are no physical reasons that could cause the illness, your doctor can refer you to someone from a college of psychiatrists.
What is the Typical Treatment for Schizophrenia?
While there is no cure for schizophrenia, there are ways to treat its symptoms. Each treatment plan has its own benefits and side effects.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a good option for the treatment of schizophrenia. It teaches the persons being treated to change the beliefs or behaviours that trigger the negative emotions, and is implemented in two ways:
In this part of the treatment, schizophrenia patients are trained to modify their thinking of certain situations.
This part of the treatment focuses on how the patients react to trigger situations.
Another way of treating schizophrenia is by prescribing antipsychotic medications. Antipsychotics help relieve the symptoms, including delusions and hallucinations.
There are older antipsychotics, including Chlorpromazine, Fluphenazine, Haloperidol, Oxilapene, and Perphenazine.
This new generation of antipsychotics includes Aripiprazole, Asenapine, Clozapine, Iloperidone, and Olanzapine.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
In this procedure, a small electric shock is sent to the patient’s brain while under general anaesthesia. It is usually done two to three times a week for several weeks to control seizures.
What is the Most Effective Treatment for Schizophrenia?
Studies show that Clozapine is the most effective among the medications in managing cases resistant to treatment, with a success rate of 30%.
However, a combination of treatments for schizophrenia, specifically individual psychotherapy and antipsychotic medications, gives the best chance of managing the symptoms.