A young woman looking anxious and fearful

Schizophrenia

What Is Schizophrenia?

With a variety of symptoms that could be disabling, a diagnosis of schizophrenia requires lifelong treatment.

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder that affects approximately 1% of the people in the United States. However, while this mental disorder is less common in comparison to others, this is a complex disease that impairs daily functioning.

This brain disorder affects an individual’s ability to think, feel, and behave.

What are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is generally diagnosed in teens but can be diagnosed in adulthood as well.

The signs of schizophrenia may vary, and this can be a challenging disorder to diagnose early on in life. The first signs may intertwine with typical adolescent behavior, including irritability, withdrawal, insomnia, and academic decline. However, with a thorough evaluation, this condition could be diagnosed and treated accordingly.

Some of the signs evaluated include the following:

  • Delusions – Fictional beliefs that are not based on reality are considered delusions. This often results in irrational thinking and issues concentrating.
  • Hallucinations – People who hallucinate may report seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or feeling things that are not witnessed or perceived by others. The most common is hearing voices that can be demanding or even threatening.
  • Disorganized behavior – This may be evident in a variety of elements. This may include childlike behavior, lack of response, unusual posture, excessive movement, or resistance to commands.
  • Disorganized speech – In this case, communication may be impaired, leading to unrelated responses or an inability to put together comprehendible statements.
  • Negative symptoms – This involves an individual’s diminished abilities, including emotional flatness, social disconnection, neglect of personal hygiene, loss of interest, and social isolation.

What are the Types of Schizophrenia?

Now that we identified what schizophrenia is, we can discuss the different classifications.

  • Paranoid schizophrenia – An induvial experiencing irrational thoughts of conspiracy or threats aimed towards themselves or loved ones. They are typically preoccupied in devising plans to protect themselves from perceived harm. Negative traits tend to be less frequent.
  • Catatonic schizophrenia – This includes strange, excessive, or extreme behaviors. This may involve resistance, rigid posture, grimacing, rocking, and nail-biting.
  • Disorganized schizophrenia (hebephrenia) – This is identified by disorganized traits such as incoherence, flat facial expressions, inappropriate behavior in social situations, and an inability to effectively communicate.
  • Undifferentiated schizophrenia – An individual who does not fit in any of the above categories may be experiencing a host of vague signs. However, they will exhibit behaviors that may apply to at least two of the other types of schizophrenia.

What are the Causes of Schizophrenia?

The specific causes of schizophrenia are uncertain. However, researchers have found that the brain structure differs in people who have schizophrenia in comparison to individuals who don’t. It is believed that environmental factors combined with genetics and the brain’s chemistry may contribute to the development of schizophrenia.

Is there Treatment for Schizophrenia?

The goal of treating schizophrenia is maintaining the illness as there is no cure. Treatment is generally facilitated by a psychiatrist as well as a team of other professionals.

Medication in the form of antipsychotics is typically prescribed to control the areas of the brain that are affected. Often, a variety of medication is prescribed, sometimes in combination, to reach the most desired outcome in terms of the patient’s response and tolerance to the drugs.

Psychotherapy is another crucial component of treating this disorder. There are different focuses of therapy, but overall, they’re geared at normalizing thought patterns, identifying triggers, teaching how to cope with life stressors, improving social encounters and communication, providing support to families, and organizing vocational and employment opportunities.

With the right care plan, an individual with schizophrenia can manage the disorder and live a productive life.