Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is found all over the world - across races, cultures and social classes 1 in every 100 people worldwide is affected by it. The usual age of onset is between 16 and 25 years

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia can present itself in various subtypes In general, the types of symptoms can be divided into positive and negative symptoms.

"Positive" symptoms - These are psychological features "added" as a result of the disorder, but not normally seen in healthy people:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations (hearing voices is the most common)
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Agitation

"Negative" symptoms - These are psychological capabilities which most healthy individuals possess, but which people with schizophrenia seem to have "lost":

There is lack of

  • Emotional responsiveness
  • Enthusiasm Drive or Initiative
  • Social interaction

The early signs in an individuals' behaviour that may indicate the development of schizophrenia include the following:

  • Bizarre behaviour
  • Irrational statements
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene
  • Talking to self
  • Deterioration of social relationships
  • Social withdrawal, isolation, and reclusiveness
  • Inability to express joy or Inability to cry, or excessive crying
  • Shift in basic personality
  • Unexpected hostility
  • Hyperactivity or inactivity -- or alternating between the two
  • Sleeping excessively or inability to sleep
  • Inability to concentrate or to cope with minor problems
  • Peculiar use of words or odd language structures
  • Excessive writing without meaning
  • Strange posturing
  • Dropping out of activities -- or out of life in general
  • Extreme reactions to criticism
  • Unusual sensitivity to stimuli (noise, light, colours, textures)
  • Refusal to touch persons or objects; wearing gloves, etc.
  • Staring without blinking -- or blinking incessantly

Causes

Schizophrenia is a complex illness, and although its exact cause is still unknown, it is thought to be due to a number of different factors acting together.

  • Biochemistry - People with schizophrenia appear to have a neurochemical imbalance. Dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine are considered to be the three neurotransmitter systems primarily involved in its causation.
  • Cerebral Blood Flow - Through modern brain imaging techniques (PET scans), researchers have identified that with schizophrenia appear to have difficulty "coordinating" activity between different areas of the brain.
  • Molecular Biology - People with schizophrenia have an irregular pattern of certain brain cells.
  • Genetic Predisposition - Genetic research continues, but not specific hereditary gene has yet been identified for schizophrenia. While schizophrenia does appear more regularly in some families, many people with schizophrenia have no family history of the illness.

Treatment

  • Medication - Medications restore the neurochemical imbalances that cause symptoms of schizophrenia and are thus absolutely essential in its treatment. Patients who show signs of schizophrenia must be taken to a psychiatrist and put on medications at the earliest. Early medical intervention ensures a significantly better outcome. Newer medications do not have the worrisome side effects of the older medications, and neither do they have serious problems related to long term usage. Medications must be taken under regular psychiatric supervision.
  • Family Counselling - Since both the patient and the family are often under enormous emotional duress, it may be helpful to obtain counselling from professionals who understand the illness. When it comes to schizophrenia, a supportive family environment can go a long way in both recovery and relapse prevention.
  • Hospitalization and Regular Follow-up - Hospitalization may be required for patients who become acutely ill with schizophrenia. This allows the patient to be observed, assessed, diagnosed, and medicated under the supervision of trained staff. The purpose of hospitalization is to ensure proper medical care and protection. Once the symptoms are stabilized and the patient is discharged from hospital, regular follow-up care reduces the chances of relapse.