Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Schizophrenia may cause a person to have hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there), delusions (believing things that are not true), and disorganized thinking. The symptoms of schizophrenia can be very disabling. However, schizophrenia can be managed with medication and therapy. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment of schizophrenia, as well as some Frequently Asked Questions about the disorder!
What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior. It can spark paranoid delusions in some and catatonia in others. It is also known for causing problems expressing and managing normal emotions. People with schizophrenia may have a hard time discerning the difference between reality and fantasy and may have trouble making decisions.
What Are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia presents differently for each individual, but there are some symptoms that are universal throughout the global population. Patients experiencing schizophrenia can expect:
· Thought disorders, hallucinations, or delusions (sometimes referred to as psychosis)
· Trouble putting thoughts together and communicating clearly
· Troubling psychomotor problems—from prolonged catatonic rigidity to compulsive repetitive movements or clumsiness
· Reduced ability to feel emotions, motivation, or find pleasure in life
· Lack of expression, emotional “flatness,” or apathy
· Trouble with memory, attention, and concentration
Because schizophrenia is a chronic condition, patients typically experience these emotions from the onset of the disorder for the rest of their lives. However, symptoms of schizophrenia can be managed with medication and regular treatment. Most people who experience schizophrenia typically struggle the most with their ability to concentrate or recall information, as this may impact one’s ability to pay bills on time, hold down a job, or maintain social relationships. Symptoms like psychosis can be managed with prescriptions.
What Causes Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia does not have any single known cause; rather, it is thought to stem from a combination of brain chemistry, environmental stressors, and inherited genetics. What is known about schizophrenia is that some naturally occurring chemicals in the brain like dopamine and glutamate may be correlated to a diagnosis.
Common Risk Factors of Schizophrenia
While we do not know for sure what causes schizophrenia, there are certain behaviors or environmental conditions that may put an individual at risk. Some common circumstances that may put an individual at risk for schizophrenia include:
· A family history of schizophrenia
· Complications during pregnancy or birth
· Abusing psychoactive or psychotropic drugs during developing young adult years
· Comorbid conditions, like depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues
Is There a Cure for Schizophrenia?
There is no cure for schizophrenia, but it can be managed with antipsychotic medications and sometimes also with anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants. Frequently, psychiatrists will also prescribe talking therapy to help patients work through their experiences.
What Is the Treatment for Schizophrenia?
The primary means of treating schizophrenia is through antipsychotic drugs, though different forms of therapy may help patients to succeed in maintaining relationships and basic self-care. Increasingly, psychiatrists are prescribing second-generation antipsychotics, as they are less likely to produce side effects. Some common second-generation antipsychotics include:
What Are the Subtypes of Schizophrenia?
While there are some underlying symptoms of schizophrenia that may present, there are several different subtypes of schizophrenia that further distinguish it from the general diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Paranoid schizophrenia is the most prevalent form of schizophrenia, though it may present later in life. Symptoms that distinguish this form of schizophrenia include paranoid delusions, hallucinations, and thinking, such as the intrusive idea that others are controlling your thoughts or emotions, or that the FBI is looking for you.
Catatonic schizophrenia is the least common form of schizophrenia. During this form of the disorder, an individual may oscillate between periods of extreme physical activity and stillness, or simply have extremely limited movements. Patients with catatonic schizophrenia may also mimic others’ mannerisms, behavior, or speech.
Hebephrenic schizophrenia (or disorganized schizophrenia) is characterized by disorganized speech patterns, behaviors, and thoughts. This form of schizophrenia typically develops in people between 15-25 years old.
Residual schizophrenia stems from individuals with a history of psychosis, but who only experience negative symptoms of schizophrenia-like memory and concentration issues or hygiene issues.
By specifying the schizophrenia diagnosis, psychiatrists are better able to treat their patients—increasing their likelihood of living a fulfilling, functioning life.
How Many People Are Diagnosed With Schizophrenia?
In the United States, it’s estimated that roughly 3 million adults experience schizophrenia. This disorder affects 1.1% of the global population, but it is one of the 15 leading causes of disability across the world. For most people, symptoms present relatively later in life, between their mid-20s to their mid-30s. It is estimated that patients diagnosed with schizophrenia have a reduced life expectancy by between 15-30 years.
What Are Some Other Schizophrenia-Like Disorders?
There are several disorders in the world of psychiatry that share some symptoms with schizophrenia but are not quite the same thing. Here are some of the known disorders that are classified as “schizophrenia-like”:
· Brief psychotic disorder: This diagnosis is appropriate for patients who experience psychosis for longer than one day but less than one month.
· Delusional disorder: Without the psychosis associated with schizophrenia, this diagnosis occurs when a patient has had delusions for at least one month.
· Schizoaffective disorder: This diagnosis includes the symptoms of schizophrenia but also has an associated mood disorder such as mania.
· Schizophreniform disorder: This form of schizophrenia occurs when symptoms of the disorder last for 6 months or less.
Delray Beach Psychiatry: Your Trusted Schizophrenia Resource
While the exact cause of schizophrenia is not known, there are ways to manage the symptoms through regular treatment and medications. While 1.1% of the population may not seem like that many, especially compared to the more common diagnosis of depression at roughly 5.7%, to the three million Americans experiencing schizophrenia, this number is significant. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, it is important to seek treatment right away. Because those afflicted with schizophrenia tend to withdraw socially, they are less likely to seek treatment on their own; rather, family members and friends often urge them to seek care.
Are you concerned about a loved one in your life who has recently become reclusive, easily disoriented, or confused about reality, it may be time to reach out for help. Contact the team of experts at Delray Beach Psychiatry today!