Schizophrenia is a condition that usually appears at the early stages of adulthood. However it can occur at any age in life.
It is a brain disease which is associated with delusions, confusion, agitation, social withdrawal, psychosis, bizarre behaviour, loss of personality (flat affect).
What is Schizophrenia?
A common symptom for schizophrenia is hearing of voices which aren’t there (auditory hallucinations). Some of the patients may live under the illusion that they are being followed or that others are reading their minds, controlling how they think, or plotting against them. This can distress patients severely and persistently, making them withdrawn and frantic.
Others may find it hard to make of what a person with schizophrenia is talking about. Sometimes they are spending hours being completely still, without talking. Sometimes they seem fine until they start explaining what they are thinking about.
The effects of schizophrenia reach beyond the patient. In most of the cases the families are also involved and the suffering doesn’t stop at them. There are also friends and society who get involved. This is because most of the patients with schizophrenia aren’t able to hold a job and need constant care and providing by others.
With proper treatment, patients can lead a productive life. Most of the symptoms can relieve under treatment and patients can lead a rewarding, productive and meaningful life in their community.
Schizophrenia most commonly strikes at the ages of 15-25 in men and at the ages of 25-35 in women. It’s symptoms can appear sudden or in a very long time, making the person in cause not realise that he or she has an illness.
Research indicates that schizophrenia is likely to be the result of faulty neuronal development in the brain of the fetus, which later in life emerges as a full-blown illness.
According to scientists, schizophrenia is affecting both men and women equally.
The brain consists of billions of nerve cells with billions of connections one to each other. They have branches that send and receive messages form other nerve cells. The nerve cells transmit messages through chemicals which are being released at the endings of the nerve cells.
In the brains of people with schizophrenia that messaging system does not work properly.
There is to this day no psysical or lab test that can absolutely diagnose schizophrenia. The psychiatrist will make a diagnose based on the patients clinical symptoms. However clinical test are important to rule out other illnesses that have similar symptoms, such as thyroid dysfunction, drug use, seizure disorder, metabolic disorders and brain tumors.
Symptoms can vary by patient. They are classified in four categories:
- Positive symptoms – known as psychotic symptoms. These symptoms are present and which people without schizophrenia do not have.
- Negative symptoms – these are elements that should be present and are taken away from the person. Loss or absence or normal traits or abilities that people without schizophrenia normally have.
- Cognitive symptoms – These symptoms are developing in the person’s thought process. They may be positive or negative symptoms, like poor concentration which is a negative symptom.
- Emotional Symptoms – symptoms within the patients feelings. Blunted emotions are such an example and are usually negative symptoms.
- Delusions – these are false illusions of persecution,of grandeur, the illusion that things are controlled from outside. Somebody or something is plotting against them and it is usual that they believe that they are gifted or have extraordinary powers.
- Hallucinations – auditory hallucinations are more frequent than visual, tactile, taste or smell.
- Thought Disorder – ideas have no order. Patients are usually skipping from one subject to another without a logical reason. The speech is most of the time incoherent.
Other Symptoms may include:
- Lack of motivation (avolition)
- Poor expression of emotions
- Social withdrawal
- Unaware of illness
- Cognitive difficulties (ability to concentrate, remember things, plan ahead are altered)
Risk Factors for Schizophrenia
- Genetics – If in a family are cases of schizophrenia present, like parents, then the chances grow by 10% for developing schizophrenia.
- Chemical imbalance in the brain – researchers say that the neurotransmitter dopamine is involved in the onset of the illness, although this imbalance is caused by a genetic factor.
- Some drugs – Cannabis and LSD are known to cause schizophrenia relapses. For people with a predisposition to a psychotic illness like schizophrenia, usage of cannabis may trigger first episodes in what can be disabling conditions that last a lifetime.
Treatments for Schizophrenia
Most commonly, symptoms respond to an antipsychotic therapy: