“Schizophrenia” is derived from two words “Schizo” which means split and “phrenia” which means brain. So, it literally means split of mind. It is also presented as a split of personality but actually, the disease is characterized by a fragmented pattern of thinking. It is a severe and chronic disorder which accompanies a lot of symptoms which differ from a person to another. Schizophrenia is not a common disease. Only few that is 7 or 8 out of 1000 suffers from it.
Most of us have watched the movie “A Beautiful Mind” where the character has suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and endures delusional episodes. Similarly, some people say they hear voices and see things which are not present. They perceive that other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts or trying to harm them. The patient sometimes does really unusual and strange conversation. Sometimes the person seems really perfect unless they start to explain what they have been perceiving.
Causes of Schizophrenia
Research has identified several factors that contribute to the risk of developing schizophrenia including:
- Genes and environment
Heredity could be one of the factors of causing schizophrenia. Only 1% of the population are likely to suffer from schizophrenia among the general population but it is found to occur in 10 percent of the people who have first degree relatives like parents or siblings. It is found that the risk of people having second-degree relative the disorders is also vulnerable to suffer from schizophrenia. Similarly, the chances of developing the disease are higher for an individual schizophrenia with the disease. It is believed that many different genes contribute to increasing the risk of schizophrenia.
Many environmental factors are also involved in the development of schizophrenia such as exposure to viruses or malnutrition before birth, problems during birth and other psychosocial factors.
- Different brain chemistry and structure
The imbalance in the complex, interrelated chemical reactions of the brain may play role in the progression of Schizophrenia. A scientist is trying to find out how the brain chemistry is associated with schizophrenia. It is also found that the people with less grey matter are also the vulnerable group of the illness.
During the development of the brain, the faulty connections in the brain usually after puberty could also lead to schizophrenia.
Risk Factors for Schizophrenia
- Pregnancy complications: If a woman suffers from infection, stress, and complications during pregnancy, this may raise the chance the likelihood of her child to be schizophrenic but that’s not certain.
- Depression or other major stressful events during pregnancy may also play a vital role for a schizophrenic child.
- Harmful childhood experiences: If a child undergoes some awful experiences such as brain injury, and traumatic early experiences may raise the risk.
- Drug abuse: The consumption of marijuana or any other strong drugs irrationally could increase the risk.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
There are 3 types of symptoms of schizophrenia: positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms.
In positive symptoms, one does not show any form of psychotic behaviors, though they may lose touch with some aspects of reality. The symptoms are often fluctuating for some people whilst some may have stable symptoms. Some of the positive symptoms include:
Hallucinations which are defined as the sensory experiences that occur in the absence of a stimulus. Many people with this disorder hear voices. Some may experience the internal voices while some may assume that another person speaking in front of them.
Delusions are the strong false beliefs that are contrary to the person’s culture. Delusions continue even when there is evidence that the beliefs are not true or logical. For instance, they may think that their neighbor is making the plan to kill them or the person’s wife has affair with another man.
Thought disorders are unusual ways of thinking. The patients may undergo trouble in organizing his or her thoughts logically. He or she may talk in a garbled way that is hard to understand. This is often called “word salad.”
Movement disorders may occur as agitated body movements. A patient who has movement disorder may repeat certain motions again and again. Sometimes the patient may suffer from catatonia which means the body organs of the person may stop functioning.
- Negative symptoms are related to interruption of normal emotions and behaviors. These symptoms are harder to recognize as part of the disorder and can be mistaken for depression or other conditions. These symptoms include the following:
- Flat affect
- Reduced feelings of pleasure in daily life
- Difficulty beginning and sustaining activities
- Reduced speaking
Cognitive symptoms include the following:
- Poor ability to understand any form of information and use that information to make decisions.
- Trouble focusing or in paying attention.
- Problems with the ability to use information immediately after learning it.
- Poor cognition is related to worse employment and social outcomes and can be distressing to individuals with schizophrenia.
Treatment of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia could be treated in two ways: antipsychotic medications and psychosocial treatments.
These medications help patients with the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia but some people have side effects when they start taking medications, but some may go through some side effects like blurry vision, difficulty in controlling own body, skin rashes and stiffness of the body.
As schizophrenic patient undergoes social challenges in their community, psychosocial treatment could be a catalyst to provide them support and help them in coping the illness.
Some of the treatment methods are:
- Family Education: facilitates the entire family to cope with the illness and helps their loved one.
- Illness management skills: help the patient learn about schizophrenia and manage it from day-to-day.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): helps the patient identify current problems and help them to solve those problems.
- Rehabilitation: Helps the patients in coping with their environment, family, colleagues, and friends.
- Self-help Groups: provides support for other people with the illness and their families.
- Treatment for drug and alcohol misuse: is often combined with other treatments for schizophrenia.
Preventive measures of Schizophrenia
Although some definite preventive measures have not found, some of the preventive measures that can minimize the genetic risks could be adapted:
- Avoiding drug abuse especially by teenagers is really important as their brains are on the developing stage.
- It is necessary to avoid abusive or traumatic situations and ask for help during a distressful situation.
- Keeping strong social ties could be beneficial to maintain self-esteem, lower stress and keep busy.
- Learning to manage stress helps to maintain our brain healthier.