Schizophrenia is a disorder you may have heard of, but you may not be familiar with its causes, symptoms, and treatment. Movies and other forms of media tend to offer a dramatic portrayal of schizophrenia that focuses on positive symptoms like delusions and hallucinations. This sensationalizing of schizophrenia may contribute to misconceptions of and stigmas surrounding schizophrenia.
In reality, schizophrenia is more complex and nuanced. It is a psychotic disorder characterized by disturbances in cognition, emotional control, perception of reality, and behavior. While there is no cure for schizophrenia, effective treatments are available and those with schizophrenia can live long and fulfilling lives.
Causes Of Schizophrenia
There are a few possible reasons why someone can develop schizophrenia.
There is a chance that a person can have schizophrenia if someone in their family has it. No single gene is responsible for this disease, but scientists think it may be a combination that governs whether or not you will get schizophrenia. Of course, many people with schizophrenia do not have a family member with the disorder.
Many environmental factors may contribute to schizophrenia. One study identified multiple environmental factors that may contribute to developing schizophrenia, including the season of birth, geographical variations, substance misuse, and uterine factors that can affect a person before birth, including prenatal influenza, nutrition, stress, and obstetric complications.
If you suffer from a chemical imbalance, this may also be an underlying cause of this disorder. Mind-altering drugs (hallucinogens) can cause issues in a developing brain, so taking mind-altering drugs at a young age may also affect your brain chemistry and lead to schizophrenia.
The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three categories: psychotic (also known as positive), negative, and cognitive symptoms.
Positive psychotic symptoms may include
Hallucinations: Hallucinations happen when you see, feel, or hear things that are not there. This symptom is more serious when the person having the hallucinations doesn’t realize that’s what they are.
Delusions: A delusion is a thought that isn’t true. For example, if a person thinks everyone is out to get them or that they are being targeted and there is no factual basis for it, this is a delusion.
Not being able to think or speak coherently. People with schizophrenia may be unable to think or speak in a way that makes sense to others. They may sound like they are talking in nonsensical sentences.
Improper motor skills. Making too many movements or none at all is considered improper motor skills. A person with schizophrenia may start to adopt movements that do not align with the current situation.
Negative symptoms may include
Acting emotionless. If someone starts showing no emotion, no matter what is going on, this may indicate a problem.
Isolating behaviors. It is common for a person with schizophrenia to separate themselves from the people that they love.
Displaying very low energy. Someone with schizophrenia may spend their time in passive activities and may even stop moving or talking for a period of time, also known as catatonia. However, this is a rare condition.
Cognitive symptoms may include
Difficulty in processing information and making decisions. When cognitive symptoms arise, even simple decisions may be difficult to process.
Difficulty in applying learned information. Someone may struggle to use information after learning something new.
Difficulty in paying attention and focusing. It can be difficult to stay on task, focus on routine tasks, or carry a conversation.
Although the media often portrays people with schizophrenia as being violent, this is often not the case. People with schizophrenia are actually more likely to be harmed by others, and the risk of self-harm and violence is greatly decreased when a person is receiving treatment. For these reasons and more, it can be critical to seek professional help to learn to manage the symptoms of this disorder.
Often, people with schizophrenia are unaware of the severity of their symptoms or that they signal a mental disorder.
It is not always the person experiencing symptoms who notices a possible problem. If you are around someone exhibiting these symptoms, it can be helpful to monitor their behavior and encourage them to seek treatment.
You may also need a physical examination. These things will help determine that nothing else is affecting you, which is essential as people with schizophrenia sometimes have other health problems.
Treatments For Schizophrenia
Psychotherapy and medication are the two most common forms of treatment for schizophrenia. Ultimately, a professional can provide a tailored treatment likely using these two treatment types to offer a comprehensive approach.
As with other mental illnesses, there is a therapy-based treatment for this disorder.
Overall, psychotherapy is thought to be vital when it comes to treating people with schizophrenia. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), personal therapy, and adherence therapy can all be helpful, especially when it comes to educating patients about the importance of taking their medications. Promoting family involvement within psychotherapy treatments has been shown to decrease rehospitalization and improve social functioning among those with schizophrenia.
Typically, medication is necessary to help treat schizophrenia. A doctor can prescribe multiple prescriptions to help alleviate their symptoms. Over the course of treatment, a doctor may adjust or change medication dosages and prescriptions. Patients with schizophrenia are always monitored closely to ensure the medications are appropriate and they are taking them as prescribed.
You’re Not Alone
Currently, there is no cure for schizophrenia, but that doesn’t mean there is no relief. Early detection and diagnosis can set you up for better long-term outcomes, and ongoing treatment can alleviate some of the more severe symptoms this disorder causes. It can be helpful to build a network of doctors, therapists, friends, and family members to provide support and guidance as you manage this disorder.
If you are a family member, friend, or caregiver who is providing support to someone with schizophrenia, therapy can be a valuable tool to help you care for your loved one and your own mental health. Online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp may be the most convenient and available way to connect with a therapist. It may be easier to incorporate into your schedule because you can meet with your therapist anywhere you have an internet connection. You don’t have to set aside time to commute to a traditional counseling office.
Research shows that online therapy can effectively treat various mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. Online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to improve depression and anxiety symptoms.
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