Overview Of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a complex condition that affects emotions, thinking, and behavior. When someone has schizophrenia, they may have trouble managing their emotions, maintaining clear thought patterns, relating to the people around them, and making decisions.
Hallucinations and delusions are also common features of schizophrenia. This condition can appear at any time but tends to develop in young adulthood. For most people with schizophrenia, lifelong treatment may be required to control symptoms and prevent serious complications.
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Types Of Schizophrenia
Several different types of schizophrenia may be diagnosed. Consider the main types of schizophrenia and how they may impact a person’s life.
People with paranoid schizophrenia experience high levels of paranoia based on irrational beliefs. They may also experience little pleasure in life, show inappropriate emotion, and behave oddly in general.
An individual with catatonic schizophrenia may shut down physically, mentally, and emotionally. They may seem to be paralyzed, with no desire to perform even basic functions. Extended episodes of catatonia may require emergency medical care.
Schizoaffective disorder combines one or more symptoms of schizophrenia, such as delusional thinking, with one or more symptoms of a mood disorder. Examples of mood disorder symptoms include mania, depression, or hypomania.
Someone who has undifferentiated schizophrenia may have vague symptoms. They may be paranoid or confused. They may also be unable to express themselves or care for themselves properly.
Symptoms Of Schizophrenia
The symptoms of schizophrenia can be broken down into three different categories: psychotic symptoms, negative symptoms, and cognitive symptoms.
Psychotic symptoms are those symptoms related to abnormal thinking, behavior, or perceptions of the environment. These symptoms distort the individual’s experience of reality. Examples of psychotic symptoms include:
- disordered thoughts
- disorganized speech
- delusions, which are defined as irrational beliefs
- hallucinations, including episodes of seeing things that aren’t there or hearing voices
Negative symptoms of schizophrenia are symptoms related to an absence of normal mental functioning. Some of the examples of negative schizophrenic symptoms include:
- lack of enjoyment of daily activities
- loss of motivation
- reduced speaking
- reduced expression of emotions, both verbally and nonverbally
- limited ability to plan activities or follow through with tasks
Cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia impact the individual’s cognitive skills, including memory, maintaining attention, and concentration.
The severity of cognitive symptoms may vary considerably among people with schizophrenia, with some people experiencing only mild difficulty and others struggling with daily life. Some examples of cognitive symptoms include:
- trouble concentrating or focusing
- difficulty in making decisions
- difficulty in using information shortly after learning it
- memory deficits
Causes And Risk Factors
Researchers have not identified a single specific cause of schizophrenia. Instead, this condition is believed to have several possible causes or contributing factors. Some of the factors that may contribute to the development of schizophrenia include:
- Differences in brain chemistry — Abnormalities in certain brain chemicals, such as dopamine, may alter brain function and contribute to schizophrenia.
- Environmental factors — Being exposed to certain viruses prior to birth, suffering from malnutrition, or having an autoimmune disorder may put someone at a higher risk of developing schizophrenia.
- Genetic factors — Schizophrenia may run in families. In fact, the chances of developing this disorder are much higher for people who have a close relative with schizophrenia.
- Substance use — The use of certain mind-altering substances during adolescence and young adulthood may raise the risk of schizophrenia.
How Is Schizophrenia Diagnosed?
Schizophrenia can be difficult to diagnose. People with this condition may be in denial and not be open to the diagnosis. In addition, the use of certain drugs or the presence of a brain tumor can cause symptoms that mimic schizophrenia, which complicates the matter even further.
To diagnose a patient with schizophrenia, healthcare providers typically monitor symptoms over a period of at least six months. A patient may be diagnosed with schizophrenia when they have reduced functioning related to at least two of the following symptoms occurring persistently:
- negative symptoms
- disorganized speech
- disorganized behavior
Some patients may be diagnosed with schizophrenia solely on the basis of hallucinations and delusions. Early diagnosis of schizophrenia and a high quality of care during the first psychotic episode tend to improve treatment outcomes.
People who have schizophrenia may be more likely to show symptoms of other mental health conditions as well. Conditions that commonly occur alongside schizophrenia include:
- Major depressive disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Substance use disorder
At this time, there is no cure for schizophrenia. However, the symptoms of this disorder can be managed with appropriate treatment and support. Treatment plans for people with schizophrenia may include a combination of approaches:
- Coordinated specialty care — Patients with an early stage of schizophrenia may benefit from coordinated specialty care, which is a recovery-oriented treatment program led by a team of professionals.
- Medication — Antipsychotic medications are often prescribed to reduce psychotic symptoms.
- Psychosocial treatment — Psychosocial treatment options are aimed at helping patients improve coping skills and quality of life. Examples of psychosocial treatments include supported employment, behavioral skills training, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Family education and support — Educational programs for friends and family members can help build a better support system for the patient.
- Assertive community treatment — Assertive community treatment is a coordinated treatment plan designed specifically for high-risk patients.