Individuals suffering from schizophrenia are often stigmatized, misunderstood, and mischaracterized, often because this condition manifests as violent, erratic, or unpredictable behavior.

Schizophrenia | Living In One’s Reality

Psychosis is a major symptom of schizophrenia. This refers to a distorted perception of reality often characterized by seeing and hearing things, behaving erratically, or having generally upset cognitive responses. A negative effect of schizophrenia would be an abnormal response to stimuli in one’s environment. Schizophrenic individuals commonly become withdrawn and isolated.

Proper care, love, and attention are needed for the individual from their loved ones since this disorder can reach debilitating levels. It isn’t uncommon for schizophrenic individuals to forget things like their birthdays, places of work, homes, etc. Once someone has displayed psychosis, hallucinations, and any of the other symptoms, it is important to take them to a doctor and get them assessed for schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia | What Are The Signs Of This Condition?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which a person can’t tell what’s real from what’s imagined. Five major symptoms characterize schizophrenia, of which at least two have to manifest themselves at the same time continuously to diagnose this condition. These include:

  • The patient can’t be convinced that what they believe is wrong (deluded);
  • An aware and awake person hallucinates (sees or hears things that don’t exist);
  • One’s thoughts or way of thinking as showcased by their responses only make sense to them and not the listener;
  • The individual has completely erratic behavior, for example, walking right into the middle of moving traffic;
  • Environmental stimulation is lacking.

Psychosis may show up mildly; for example, the person starts hearing voices speaking to them that only they hear. A deluded person, for example, thinks that the whole world is plotting against them. In extreme behavioral cases, the person may be so impaired that they keep themselves disheveled or pay zero attention to their hygiene.

These symptoms cause serious problems in the social, professional, and academic lives of those affected. Due to the complex nature of schizophrenia, affected individuals are often misunderstood by those around them. In the past, such individuals were even characterized as possessed by demons or evil spirits.

Schizophrenia | Where Does This Condition Arise From?

No one knows for certain what causes schizophrenia. A high likelihood is that certain folks are genetically predisposed to manifesting this disorder. The chances of this are further increased by environmental and situational stressors. An environmental stressor would, for instance, be something like a birth defect. Situational stressors may be the use of certain psycho-addictive substances like marijuana or alcohol.

While genetics is believed to play a huge role in one’s susceptibility towards schizophrenia, it cannot be pin-pointed to a fact that persons with this gene predisposition will show symptoms.

A distorted perception of reality has been proposed to be caused by anomalies in the brain circuitry. Further imbalances are shown in neurotransmitters and brain chemicals such as dopamine in the affected individuals.

Brain scan comparisons between healthy and affected individuals show significant differences between the frontal lobe and temporal lobe and the hippocampus regions of the brain. Studies have also further suggested that brain volume is affected due to schizophrenia, with individuals losing brain volume until the condition is properly managed.

Schizophrenia has also been linked to older people, although the catch may be that these older people were already predisposed to the disease.

How Frequently Does Schizophrenia Occur?

According to the NHIM, about 8 people out of every 1000 will suffer from or be treated for schizophrenia in their lifetime. This is a significant number, bearing in mind that public knowledge of schizophrenia is quite limited.

Perceptions and misinformation around schizophrenia are made worse by the fact that while most people have heard of it, few people have had any form of experience with it. Only a trained psychologist or psychiatrist can provide a proper diagnosis of an affected individual.

When Does Schizophrenia Generally Show Up?

Due to denial or lack of early diagnosis, individuals may stay for a long time without ever knowing that they suffer from schizophrenia. Since these symptoms also vary from person to person, the condition is easy to miss. Persons close to the individual can, however, start to notice weird behavior or digression from regular habits and character.

For most patients, the onset of schizophrenia is usually in early adulthood for both men and women. Men have an earlier detection age from the late teens to the mid-twenties. Onset in women is usually in the mid-twenties to the early thirties. Affected persons may be in a constant state of denial and may not know or believe that they suffer schizophrenia for years.

“Affective” disorders that result in bipolarity, mood anxiety, and depression can affect a patient first before they are ever diagnosed with schizophrenia. This usually happens in the late teen years.

Management And Therapy For The Condition

Detailed diagnosis has to be properly carried out by a qualified doctor. Neuroleptic treatments are administered, with the goal being a complete resolution of the reduction of symptoms. A variety of anti-depressants and psychotropic treatments such as lithium may be administered to calm the person’s mood and anxiety.

Treatment of schizophrenia is usually aimed at the long term, and this approach can be combined with counseling and social skills training. A proper support network full of love is necessary for the individual before, during, and after treatment, especially where severe symptoms manifest. Drugs may have mild to severe side effects, for example, weight gain. The therapist can administer different doses of the drugs or try out different combinations of medicine to get a proper balance.

Researchers have tried to trace signs of the disorder in the brain. Traditional antipsychotics have been known to reduce cognitive-affective traces of schizophrenia, which have been linked to too much dopamine in certain brain pathways. These antipsychotics have, however, been known to aggravate the mood-affective symptoms, which are, in turn, linked to little dopamine in other brain areas.

In extremely severe cases, adults who don’t respond to drugs and psychotropic treatments might need hospitalization.

What To Expect From The First Visit To A Psychiatrist

If the symptoms above appear in a person you love, that alone doesn’t qualify a diagnosis for schizophrenia. A visit to a trained mental health doctor such as a psychiatrist or psychologist is necessary to provide a further prognosis for your loved one. Keep in mind that someone can show psychotic symptoms due to depression or bipolarity, though these don’t automatically mean that they suffer from schizophrenia.

The first visit will usually involve an intake specialist in which the patient’s information and bio-data are recorded. That includes their age, sex, family history, previous medical history, symptoms (continuous or occasional), any current medication being taken, and other fact checks. Once all the patient’s data is filled out, a psychiatrist will provide a diagnosis at this stage or guide further medical tests.

It is always advised that someone accompanies the patient on this first visit. The psychiatrist will answer all questions related to the disorders that manifest through psychosis. Since a universal testing method for schizophrenia is lacking, further tests such as brain scans may be required for further diagnosis. Only once the psychiatrist is sure that the condition in question is indeed schizophrenia will the patient be given a treatment plan or placed on medication.

It isn’t uncommon for two or more doctors to handle a schizophrenia patient and to develop a treatment regimen for them. That is because the disease affects people differently, and different individuals react differently to the same treatments.

Should One Seek Help For A “Schizophrenic” Loved One?

It isn’t far-fetched to think that this disease can affect your loved one since schizophrenia isn’t all that rare. While psychotic signs can show, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual will be treated for schizophrenia. Comprehensive testing has to be carried out by a trained psychiatrist to ascertain the status of the individual.

Schizophrenia doesn’t have a cure, although therapy and medication reduce the symptoms and can help manage them. Psychotherapy can help the person to improve their thought patterns and regain a level of normalcy.

How To Find The Right Professional To Contact For Help

A qualified doctor will make a big difference in helping a schizophrenic transition through treatment into a state of normalcy. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists all work together to treat the patient and get them rehabilitated, depending on the severity of the condition.

These professionals should all be licensed and have valid credentials. You’ll find the right person by checking on referrals from your employer or health insurer, or even from other professionals in the medical field. In most cases, a psychologist who is the first point of contact will refer you to a psychiatrist and other caregivers in this field.

Due to the constant mischaracterization of schizophrenia, education for patients, families, and their communities is necessary. There are different mental health platforms that provide a wealth of knowledge and resources in this area. You can compare different approaches to treatment and find something that works for you or your loved one.