Schizophrenia: Symptoms, Information, Causes and Treatment

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Overview: Schizophrenia is a severe and long-term mental health condition characterised by a range of symptoms – normally revolving around a difficulty in understanding reality. Schizophrenia is normally a type of Psychosis. The condition usually involves a breakdown in the connection between thoughts, emotions and behaviour. The exact symptoms of Schizophrenia vary in each case, but generally include delusions, hallucinations, difficulty concentrating and a lack of interest in things. Unfortunately, Schizophrenia is a highly-misunderstood condition.

 

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Symptoms: Overall, Schizophrenia changes how an individual thinks and behaves. The condition normally takes a while to develop, and some changes in personality related to Schizophrenia are sometimes dismissed as a mere ‘phase’ someone is going through. Symptoms are normally grouped into positive and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms are related to hallucinations and delusions. Negative symptoms relate to the withdrawal that an individual does as a result of Schizophrenia.

 

Hallucinations: This is when an individual sees, hears, tastes, smells or feels something that doesn’t exist outside of their mind. Hearing voices is the most common form of hallucination. While voices are sometimes complimentary, they are usually rude, abusive and critical. For someone experiencing a hallucination, what they see or hear is very real.

 

Delusions: Strongly linked to paranoia, delusions are where someone has a steadfast belief of something that doesn’t seem logical by others or is just plain false. A common delusion people have is a belief that there is a conspiracy or plot to kill or harm them. These delusions can take a while to form, or can also appear suddenly. Voices heard often lead to a delusion being formed.

 

Thoughts: Anyone experiencing a psychotic episode can struggle to keep track of their thoughts. It becomes difficult to concentrate and hold down a conversation.

 

Changes in Behaviour: Someone suffering from Schizophrenia can have a sudden change in behaviour. This is often through unpredictable behaviour, strange dress choices and inappropriate behaviour. Some people suggest their thoughts are being controlled by someone else.

 

Some people suggest that the Schizoid Personality Disorder and Schizotypal Personality Disorder can be a preliminary phase of Schizophrenia.

 

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Causes: Like many mental health conditions, the exact cause of Schizophrenia is unknown. Most researchers suggest Schizophrenia is caused by a combination of physical, psychological, environmental and genetic factors. It is believed that some people are more prone to developing the condition. We now detail some possible causes:

 

Genetics: Schizophrenia often runs in a family. In identical twins, if one twin develops Schizophrenia, the other twin has a one in two chance of developing it too – even if they are raised separately.

 

Birth Complications: Those who develop Schizophrenia are more likely to have had a low birth weight, or suffered from a lack of oxygen during birth. This could cause a slight effect on brain development.

 

Brain Development: Brain scans taken of people suffering from Schizophrenia seem to suggest there are minor differences in brain structure from those suffering from the condition when compared to others. This suggests that Schizophrenia could be caused by a minor disorder of the brain.

 

Chemical Imbalance: Some research suggests that a chemical imbalance is responsible for the condition developing. This relates too the levels of two neurotransmitters – dopamine and serotonin. An imbalance of the two could cause Schizophrenia.

 

Traumatic Triggers: Some traumatic events can act as a trigger for those at risk. These could include bereavement, sexual abuse, losing a job or another traumatic experience.

 

Diagnosis: If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of Schizophrenia, you are implored to go and see your GP. The quicker you act, the quicker your symptoms will be treated. There isn’t a set way to diagnose the condition. Your GP will immediately refer you to your local community mental health team (CMHT) if Schizophrenia is suspected. A member of the CMHT team will carry out a detailed assessment of your symptoms. Schizophrenia is only diagnosed in the case that you have experienced symptoms for the majority of a month, witnessed a profound impact on your life, and other causes have been ruled out. Sometimes, a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder or Schizoaffective Disorder (a disorder which is often a mix between Schizophrenia and Bipolar or Depression, but doesn’t fit one category alone) is made instead. It should be noted that people with Schizophrenia don’t always feel there is something wrong with them. It is therefore important that family members help them if they are in need. In rare cases, an individual might need to be Sectioned if their symptoms make them a danger to themselves or others. In any case, once a diagnosis has been made, treatment options will be discussed.

 

Treatment: Each treatment course will be individually tailored to the individual suffering from Schizophrenia. Most people who suffer from Schizophrenia are treated by CMHTs. They will provide day-to-day support and treatment, and provide a range of specialists to aid your treatment.

 

Unfortunately, for someone who has serious psychotic symptoms after an acute schizophrenic episode will require a more rigorous care plan than CMHTs can provide. These sort of episodes are normally treated with a mix of PsychotherapyAntipsychotic Medication and additional care. These acute episodes can lead to admission to a psychiatric ward at a hospital. In rare cases, people with Schizophrenia are compulsorily detained. An individual with Schizophrenia who is compulsorily detained might need to be kept in a locked ward, and eventually discharged when appropriate.

 

Antipsychotics are commonly used in Schizophrenia. They can reduce feelings of anxiety and anger rapidly, but will take weeks to reduce symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. Some people only take antipsychotics while undergoing an acute schizophrenic episode. Yet the normal procedure is for antipsychotics to be taken on a long-term basis following a schizophrenic episode. Antipsychotics can certainly help reduce some of the symptoms of Schizophrenia. Find out more about Antipsychotics here.

 

Therapy is often used for people suffering from Schizophrenia. This is usually a form of Psychotherapy. This has been known to be particularly helpful for dealing with delusional thinking and other unhelpful thoughts.

 

While there is no cure for Schizophrenia, the right treatment can make the condition become more manageable.

 

Living With Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia is a severe condition that causes enormous suffering to those diagnosed with the condition. While the treatment plan for Schizophrenia can appear daunting, when done correctly it can alleviate the impact the condition has on your life. It is important to take your medication, and to follow any care plan that is created for your recovery. Coping with acute schizophrenic episodes can be difficult, having support from others is important. Family and friends must support someone suffering from Schizophrenia, and provide help wherever necessary. Rates of suicide are higher for people with Schizophrenia, and so any suicidal thoughts or ideation should also be monitored closely.

 

Extras: www.rethink.org

 

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