Schizophrenia, might sound like a new term for many people. I’ll begin this article with few real cases of Schizophrenia patients which might help you get an idea about this condition-
“I remember overeating our 17th birthday cake with my twin brother Scott, then suddenly Scott started saying very strange things like, ‘You are not my sister. You are the daughter of devil.’ We tried to talk Scott out of these bizarre beliefs but mostly we dismissed his irrational speech and hoped it would go away. Instead things turned from bad to worse when one night he shoved my mom up against the wall, started calling her names and began to choke her. Mum said, ‘Call the police’ so I did. The police came handcuffed my brother, arrested him and threw him in the jail. At the police station in front of my mom he told the police, ‘She is not my mother. My mother is Yoko Ono.’ It was only after this arrest, that Scott was diagnosed with Schizophrenia.” – Cyndi Shannon Weickert
“February of 2014, my freshman year of college. My life changed when I tried to take my own life through suicide. If you ask why? Because my life had become a complete waking nightmare. At this time, I started hallucinating. I started hearing, seeing and feeling things that weren’t there. Everywhere I went, I was followed around by a clown that looked very similar to the Stephen king’s adaptation of ‘It’. Everywhere I went he would be giggling, taunting me, poking me and sometimes even biting me. I would also hallucinate small and giant spiders. But it started becoming unbearable when I started hallucinating a girl. She looked sort of like in the movie ‘The Ring’. The thing with her was she was able to continue conversation with herself and would know exactly what to say and when to say it to chip away at my insecurities. But the worst was, she would also carry a knife around with her and she would stab me sometimes with that on my face. These things would make doing my daily activities from difficult to worse.” – Cecilia McGough
These were few stories. There are many symptoms through which you can diagnose Schizophrenia such as hallucination and delusion being the hallmark characteristics. But it is very important to know that a person could have Schizophrenia and not have delusion and hallucination. Each person’s story with Schizophrenia is unique.
WHAT IS SCHIZOPHRENIA?
If we know nothing about psychology and we were asked to describe what a crazy person is like then most of us may describe the behavior of someone with schizophrenia. These quote – unquote crazy people however are still people who live amongst us and they don’t all experience schizophrenia the same way.
Schizophrenia is derived from a Greek word ‘Schizo’, which means split and ‘frenia’, means mind. This term refers to spilt from reality. It doesn’t refer to split personality or multiple personalities like some media sources would portray. Schizophrenia is not a rare condition. 1 out of every 100 persons is probably affected by this disease. Schizophrenia is the disorder of the brain affecting how one acts, thinks and sees the world around them. Person with schizophrenia have an altered perception of reality and may see or hear things that are not real. They speak in strange ways, or feel that they are being spied on and others are trying to hurt them. This makes them difficult to function sometimes with normal activities of daily life.It could arise more suddenly perhaps triggered by stress or trauma although no event can actually cause the disorder.
Some psychotic illness may appear soon after birth but this is not the case with schizophrenia. Infact many can go their whole childhood without anyone suspecting a thing. Cases have been among children over the age of 5 like seeing an imaginary friend etc. but it is more likely to strike during or after adolescence. Schizophrenia appears slightly more in men than in women. The average sign that appears varies somewhat by gender. Most men experiences symptoms between their late teens or early 20s, while majority of women shows signs in their late 20s or early 30s. It is uncommon for someone to be diagnosed who is much younger or older than this. Many will isolate themselves or withdraw from those around them as they experience strange thoughts and fear.
CAUSES OF SCHIZOPHRENIA
Schizophrenia was 1st identified more than a century ago but we still don’t know its exact cause. It’s still a mystery. Since it seems like the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia are pretty unique to humans or at least they are hard to imagine or notice in animal models like rats or mice. It remains one of the most misunderstood and stigmatized illness today. So, let’s talk what we do know about schizophrenia. There likely isn’t one single cause, but a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors that contribute. Schizophrenia has one of the strongest genetic links of any psychiatric illness. There are few factors which contribute to Schizophrenia –
- During the development stage that is pregnancy or early childhood, adverse environmental factors along with genetic predisposition can cause disturbance n brain development which makes the individual prone to developing Schizophrenia.
- When a pregnant mother comes down with a virus or lacks proper nutrition, especially during first two trimester of pregnancy.
- An identical twin of someone with Schizophrenia has a 40% chance of being affected.
- Children or siblings of people with Schizophrenia are 10 times likelier to develop the disease.
- Environmental factors like exposure to certain viruses in early infancy might increase the chance that someone will develop Schizophrenia.
- Use of some drugs including marijuana, cocaine may trigger the onset of psychosis in highly susceptible individuals.
- Neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine which allow the cells of the brain to communicate may not be properly regulated and thus lead to problems with message transmission. This believed to impact the brain’s response to various stimuli which could in turn explain hallucination and delusion as well.
- Multiple genes do play a role but we don’t know many or which one.
Like I said before that the cause hasn’t been known and every patient’s story is different. So, the factors mentioned above doesn’t affect everyone the same way.
Schizophrenia is considered a syndrome which means it may encompass a number of related disorders that have similar symptoms but varying causes. Schizophrenia can be difficult to diagnose due to its broad range of symptoms that are more easily associated with other mental disorders or mental illness. So here are few worst signs and symptoms –
1. POSITIVE SYMPTOMS
Positive symptoms mean they occur in people with schizophrenia but not in the general population.
- Disorganized speech and behavior – They jump from one topic to another without any clear connection in between them. They will fill their speech with words that only have meaning to them or meaninglessly rhyme words.
- Hallucination – They hear voices which are telling them something to do, warning them of something or yelling at them. They also might feel sensations that aren’t physically being inflict on them such as objects touching them.
- Delusion – 90% of patients exhibit this symptom. Delusions are the firm belief in something that is simply not true. For e.g. They start believing that they are famous, their thoughts or actions are being controlled by external forces, more commonly the hold the belief that someone is out to get them.
- Extreme reactions – For e.g. Exhibit paranoia, laugh inappropriately or cry for no reason
2. NEGATIVE SYMPTOMS
Negative symptoms are the qualities that are reduced in people with schizophrenia but are present in normal people.
- Apathy or unable to express emotions
- Deterioration of personal hygiene
- Oversleeping or insomnia
3. COGNITIVE SYMPTOMS
Cognitive symptoms are related to memory and concentration.
- Inability to concentrate.
- Issues with thinking abilities, remembering detail, trouble attempting to do many things at one time.
TYPES OF SCHIZOPHRENIA
- PARANOID SCHIZOPHRENIA
It is one of the most common form of schizophrenia. Here the patient experiences symptoms like hallucination, delusion, anger, social withdrawal, violent and negative behavior, anxiety etc. The patient of paranoid schizophrenia feels that a person or some individual is plotting against him or against his family members. Most individuals with paranoid schizophrenia have auditory delusions such as hearing weird voices. Some may have delusion that they are more powerful than they really are. Individuals with paranoid schizophrenia are often more functional than individuals with other subtypes of schizophrenia
2. DISORGANIZED SCHIZOPHRENIA
This type is characterized by incoherent and illogical thoughts and behavior. These individual often display disinhibited agitated and purposeless behavior. Disorganized schizophrenia is believed to be the most severe form of schizophrenia. Individuals with this condition find it very difficult to function normally and perform daily tasks such as feeding and bathing themselves. They may also display very strange and often inappropriate behavior such as wearing several layers of clothing during a very warm day or exhibit lucid sexual behavior in public.
3. CATATONIC SCHIZOPHRENIA
It is characterized by a dramatic reduction in activity to the point that voluntary movement completely stops. These individuals may also exhibit dramatic increases in movement during a state known as catatonic excitement. These patients may voluntarily assure unusual body positions or manifest facial contortions or limb movements, these things you might have seen in horror movies. Other symptoms include parrot like repetition speech, mimicking other’s movements.
4. RESIDUAL SCHIZOPHRENIA
When a person has a past history of at least one episode of schizophrenia but currently has no symptoms or is the leftover schizophrenia patient after the treatment. The symptoms relapses with less frequency and effect. Symptoms like illogical thinking, odd or weird behavior exists with less frequency. The reason could be because of improper treatment of schizophrenia or imbalance in neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin or lack of social life.
5. SCHIZOAFFECTIVE DISORDERS
It is rarer than other types of schizophrenia. It is seen in only about 0.3% of the population. A person with schizophrenia disease exhibits symptoms of both schizophrenia and affective mood disorder such as bipolar or depression.
Currently there is no cure for Schizophrenia but treatment can help reduce symptoms. The antipsychotic drugs used to cure Schizophrenia have helped researchers work backwards to trace signatures of the disorders in brain. Traditional antipsychotic drugs block dopamine receptors. They can be very effective in reducing positive symptoms like hallucination, delusion, which are linked to an excess of dopamine in particular brain pathways. But the same drug can make negative symptoms worse. And we have found that negative symptoms of Schizophrenia may be tied to too little dopamine in other brain areas.
Antipsychotic drugs have side effects like weight gain etc. . In spite of these complications, antipsychotic can be very effective especially when combined with other interventions like Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) . Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) though it provides relatively short-lived relief but is also emerging as an effective treatment especially when other options have failed. In this therapy the brain is shocked or stimulated to change and improve its function.
While Schizophrenia can be lifelong severe mental illness, the symptoms can be managed with treatment. It is a myth that all Schizophrenia affected patients are dangerous to themselves or others. Infact most persons with Schizophrenia are neither violent or is a danger to other persons.
Unfortunately, most people with Schizophrenia will live a shorter life. This is in part due to high incidence of conditions developing along with it, such as diabetes or heart diseases. This is also because of tendency for those with the disease to become suicidal or engage in self harm. Infact suicide is the leading cause of premature death among the Schizophrenia population.
People with Schizophrenia are often perceived as dangerous, but are actually much more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. That’s why education for patients, their families and their communities helps erode the stigma and improves access to treatment.
SO, this was all about Schizophrenia. I tried to cover all the points known. For more such articles check out the website medicoved.com
Author : Easminara shaikh