The term “schizophrenia” is familiar for almost everyone everywhere in the world. However, most people do not know for sure what it is and how to recognize a schizophrenic person. The word “schizophrenia” means “split mind” in Greek. However, this is not the same as ‘split personality’ used in everyday language. It is a split between different mental functions such as thinking, emotional life, and behavior.
Schizophrenia is a spectrum disease
Spectrum disease is a group of disorders of varying severity with a variety of symptoms. The most common symptoms involve thinking, perception, attention, emotional-volitional life, and behavior. Often other mental disorders accompany such as depression, obsessive-compulsive, or posttraumatic disorder.
Schizophrenia affects about 1% of the population in every society and culture in the world.
Schizophrenia is usually developing slowly. The first symptoms most often occurring in adolescence and young adulthood. 15-25 years for men, 25-35 years for women.
To our knowledge (which is not too much about the brain), the probable cause of the symptoms, like for any mental disorder, is the imbalance of neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, glutamate and some neurons in different areas of the brain.
Genetic and environmental factors play a role in the development of schizophrenia. The predisposition for the disease can be inherited. There is a chance of 10% for people who have a first-degree relative with the disorder.
Environmental factors that associated with the development of schizophrenia include the impact of the living environment (living in a big city, poverty, homelessness), drug use — also, stress, virus infection, and undernourishment during the pregnancy of the mother.
The symptoms of schizophrenia are quite diverse, with several subdivisions. The two main divisions are the positive and negative symptoms. The negatives appear many years earlier than the positives. We call that “prodromal period.” It is challenging to diagnose the disorder at this stage. Particularly, when first appearing during the teenage years.
Positive symptoms of schizophrenia
Include, for example:
Hallucination is a sense perception not caused by an external stimulus.
Patients most often hear voices, sounds, noises, music, etc. They hear that others are not. Critical, commentary or command-type hallucinations may also occur, in which case the voice will direct the patient.
Patients usually develop adamant misconceptions that contradict reality and sticking to it. The content of the paranoid delusion may be persecution (when they believe that they are persecuted, watched, chased, or harassed) or reference (believe that the person on TV directly talks to them).
Also, the delusion can be jealous, religious, nihilistic, extravagant, guilt, hypochondriac, etc.
Typical symptoms of schizophrenia are the delusion of blocked thoughts, implantation of thoughts into the head, taking away of thoughts from the head, radiation of ideas out from the head (patients sometimes wrapping their head with aluminum foil), alienation from their own beliefs (the person feels the thoughts come from outside).
Bizarre or Disorganized Behavior
Strange, disorganized behavior, or speech. For example, motor anxiety or inhibition, or negativism, the patient interrupts, refuses to communicate with their environment, does not speak, doesn’t moves or eat, etc.
Negative symptoms of schizophrenia
The cognitive symptoms of the disease are such as impaired concentration or attention, memory impairment, and reduced motor functions.
Lack of emotional life
diminishing emotions, feeling of emptiness.
Lack of Motivation
A decrease in creativity, diminishing willpower, and inability to make decisions. Also, a reduced urge for activity accompanies all.
Retrograde social life
Distrust, doubt, withdrawal from the outside world, and retreat to one’s inner world is typical. They are the consequence of the other symptoms and partly because the environment’s reactions to the symptoms are usually adverse.
The disease occurs in two stages. The negative symptoms of schizophrenia are often latent and slow to develop, so they can often be confused with depression. However, there are significant differences too. The patient or family must seek the help of a specialist for diagnosis.
Recognition of positive symptoms is usually not a problem.
Due to the nature of the disease, patients often do not recognize that they are ill. Also, 30-50% deny the existence of their disease. Even so, the patient must receive appropriate treatment as soon as possible, because the longer the untreated period, the more unlikely the recovery is.
Medication for Schizophrenia
The antipsychotic medication should be started as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms. Long-term maintenance (medication and counseling) can improve long-term recovery. In some cases, complete recovery is likely, while for the majority, more or fewer symptoms persist in a mild form throughout life with continuous treatment. The individual, group psychotherapies, and family can help with recovery.
Reference: American Psychiatric Association