According to the World Health Organization, around 24 million people in the world suffer from the problem of schizophrenia. Men and women are equally affected from schizophrenia. As it is a chronic and severe mental disorder, people should be aware of it so that it can be controlled within time.
What is Schizophrenia?
It is a long-term mental health problem where a patient often experiences delusions, hallucinations, social and emotional withdrawal and unexplainable behavior. For a schizophrenia patient, it becomes really difficult to differentiate between reality and imaginary things. Schizophrenia seriously disturbs the way people think, feel and relate to others.
Although this mental health problem has been present throughout human history, it was only in the early 20th century when German psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler gave the ‘schizophrenia’ to describe this kind of illness. The word ‘schizophrenia’ comes from the Greek words for ‘split’ and ‘mind’. But it is important to bear in mind that schizophrenia does not mean split personality. It is a kind of mental illness where a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined.
How many people suffer from Schizophrenia?
Statistics show that about 1% of the population in the world suffers from Schizophrenia. More than 2 million Americans suffer from this mental problem and every year new cases are diagnosed.
Schizophrenia can affect anyone from any walk of life. It is usually diagnosed in people between the age groups of 17 to 35 years. But at times it can even appear in middle age or even later. At the same schizophrenia also tends to be more severe in men as compared to women.
What causes schizophrenia?
Till date, no single cause has been found for schizophrenia, although there are certain factors that can cause schizophrenia. Some of the factors are:
Genetic: Schizophrenia has a strong connection with hereditary. People who have first degree family member suffering from schizophrenia have a higher chance of having this kind of mental disorder. Scientists also believe that several genes are associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia, but that no gene causes the disease by itself.
Environmental issues: There are also certain environmental factors that can trigger this kind of mental disorder.Stress during pregnancy increases the production of the hormone known as cortisol in the body. This hormone can trigger schizophrenia. Other factors that may cause schizophrenia are viral infection during the prenatal stage,low level of oxygen at the time of birth, viral infection during infancy, malnutrition before birth, taking marijuana during teenage days and suffering from some kind of abuse in childhood.
Abnormal brain structure: It has been found that abnormalities in brain structure can also cause schizophrenia. For instance, enlarged brain ventricles can cause schizophrenia as it affects the planning and decision making capacity of the brain. Experts also suggest that imbalance in the neurotransmitters dopamine,glutamate, temporal lobes and amygdala can also cause schizophrenia.
Who is at a risk of having schizophrenia?
There are certain things that increase your chances of getting this mental problem.
Some of the risk factors are:
- Someone from the family has schizophrenia.
- A child is at a risk of having schizophrenia is during the pregnancy period; the mother suffered from malnutrition, had a viral infection, or took certain medicines for high blood pressure.
- If someone from the family suffers from delusional disorder, then you may have this problem in later years.
- If you have a problem with alcohol or drugs then you are more likely to have this problem.
What are the Symptoms and Signs of Schizophrenia?
A person with schizophrenia may not look like as if he or she is suffering from some kind of illness. In some cases, the symptoms may be more apparent. In order to properly understand schizophrenia, the symptoms are divided into different categories:
Positive symptoms refer to behaviors and experiences of people with schizophrenia that people without schizophrenia do not have. A person showing positive symptoms will show signs such as:
- Hallucinations where people start hearing voice, seeing things and feeling something that actually does not exist.
- Suspicious feeling which makes it difficult to perform everyday tasks.
- Delusions which means having illogical or bizarre ideas or fantasies
- Making up words without a meaning which makes it difficult to communicate with people.
- Become more sensitive in nature.
- Having difficulty to express feelings or at times there is intense bursts of emotions.
Negative symptoms refers to traits that are absent or reduced in people with schizophrenia. A person showing negative symptoms will show signs such as:
- Social withdrawal which means loss of interest in the feelings and lives of others.
- Difficulty in expressing emotions.
- Cannot take care of themselves.
- A general loss of interest or enthusiasm in life and the ability to experience and feel pleasure.
- Having speech difficulties.
- Inappropriate reactions to events.
However, the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia can differ from person to person. Both the pattern and severity of symptoms will also vary with time.
What are the different types of Schizophrenia?
There are differnet subtypes of schizophrenia which are classified according to their most prominent symptom. The different types of schizophrenia are:
Paranoid-type schizophrenia: This type of schizophrenia is mainly characterized by delusions and auditory hallucinations. Here a person can have normal intellectual functioning and expression of affect. Some of the common symptoms that a person with paranoid-type schizophrenia can exhibit are suspiciousness, anger and anxiety.
Disorganized-type schizophrenia: Disorganized schizophrenia usually happens at an earlier age as compared to other types of schizophrenia. The most prominent characteristics of this type of schizophrenia are impaired communication skills, illogical speech, inappropriate reactions, emotional indifference, infantile behavior and different types of facial expressions. At times, people suffering from disorganized schizophrenia may have symptoms of hallucinations and delusions, but not in an organized manner.
Catatonic-type schizophrenia: This type of schizophrenia is mainly characterized by disturbances of movement. Here people show signs of disturbance in movement that can be either be decrease or increase in motor activity. It means a person may keep himself completely immobile or move all over the place. Such change in behavior does not allow people to take care of themselves.
Along with these, there are also two other types of schizophrenia known as undifferentiated-type schizophrenia and residual-type schizophrenia.
How to diagnose schizophrenia?
To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, there are certain criteria which a person must meet. Such guideline is described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association. Mental health experts from across the globe use it to diagnose schizophrenia.
A diagnosis of schizophrenia can be done by a medical expert only with the help of different techniques like psychiatric evaluation, medical history, physical exam and lab tests. At times more than one techniques are used by medical experts to come to the final conclusion as whether a person is suffering from schizophrenia or not.
Psychiatric evaluation: Here a doctor checks the mental status of a person by observing the behaviour of the person and by asking questions related to thoughts, moods, delusions, hallucinations and so on.
Medical history: A doctor will also ask question about the personal and family health history of a person.
Physical exam: A doctor will physically examine a person to find out medical issues behind this mental problem.
Laboratory tests: Till now there are no laboratory tests that can diagnose schizophrenia. But with simple blood and urine tests,the possibility of other health problems can be ruled out. At times MRI or a CT scan are also done to study brain abnormalities.
At times, it becomes very difficult to distinguish schizophrenia from other mental conditions like depression or bipolar disorder. It is only through proper medical check-up the problem can be diagnosed.
What are the treatment options for schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a serious and life-long disease that cannot be cured, but usually can be controlled with proper treatment. Also, as schizophrenia is a chronic condition, it usually requires treatment for a long period of time. Generally treatments are offered through the below mentioned options:
Antipsychotic medications are the most effective treatment for schizophrenia. These medicines change the balance of chemicals in the brain and can help in controlling the symptoms. Some of the common Antipsychotic medications prescribed by doctors are:
All the above mentioned medicines can have certain side effects such as dizziness, feelings of restlessness, sleepiness, slowed movements, tremor and weight gain.
At times, doctors also prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications to control the symptoms.
Medications are the best options for schizophrenia treatment, but at times doctors even recommend psychosocial treatments.Some of the psychosocial treatments used in schizophrenia are:
- Social skills training
- Family therapy
- Individual therapy
A variety of programs, such as case management, academic and employment counseling and housing programs, are often used to help people develop these skills. With correct treatment, most people suffering from schizophrenia can easily control the symptoms.
Self care treatment options
A person suffering from schizophrenia needs a lot of care at home care. Infact, care at home can make a lot of difference in the health of a person.
- First, family member of the patient must ensure that he or she is taking prescribed medications on time.
- The family should provide such an environment where a person suffering from schizophrenia can enjoy freedom of action.
- A person with schizophrenia must learn to manage stress as stress can make the symptoms of schizophrenia worse.
- A person with schizophrenia must get plenty of sleep. It is good to sleep more than the standard 8 hours.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs as it can worsen the symptoms and a person will not be benefitted by the treatments. If necessary seek professional help.
- It is very essential for a person having schizophrenia to remain physically fit. To remain fit try to do regular physical exercises for at least half an hour daily.
- Try to indulge in activities that can make you feel good about yourself. This way you proviwill remain busy and will also give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
On top of all these treatment options, you can also try some natural remedies to control the symptoms associated with schizophrenia. For instance, green cardamom seeds when used for making herbal tea can be used in the treatment of schizophrenia. Green cardamom seed have got healing properties as well as it can be very soothing to the nervous system. Similarly, basil leaves, Indian gooseberry, carrot and so on can also be used. For such simple and easy to follow home remedies, you can visit www.top10homeremedies.com.
No matter, what type of treatment is offered for schizophrenia it is impossible to predict the recovery time period. While in some cases a person can have just one episode of symptoms and in some cases people may need medication and support for the rest of their lives.
List of famous people with schizophrenia
There are many well known people, living or dead who suffered from schizophrenia. Some of those famous people are:
- Lionel Aldridge, a professional football player.
- Antonin Artaud, a well known theater artist from France.
- Parveen Babi, a popular actress from India.
- Syd Barrett, a well known musician.
- Buddy Bolden, a famous jazz musician.
- Will Elliott, an Australian writer.
- Darrell Hammond, a comedian.
- Tom Harrell, a successful Jazz Musician.
- Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln and First Lady of the United States.
- Michaelangelo, a well known painter.
- John Nash, an economist and mathematician.
- Vaslav Nijinsky, a well known dancer.
- John Ogdon, a pianist and composer.
- Ezra Pound, an American poet.
- Katherine Routledge, an archaeologist.
- Elyn Saks, a writer and researcher.
- Alexander Spence, a rock musician.
- Gene Tierney, an American actress.
- Wesley Willis, a musician and artist.
- Brian Wilson, a well known rock musician.
Schizophrenia can be very challenging but that doesn’t mean there is no hope at all. It can be successfully managed once the signs and symptoms are identified. With proper medical help and right treatment, a person with schizophrenia can lead a happy, fulfilling life.
Organizations Working for Schizophrenia:
- National Institute of Mental Health
- NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
- Mental Health America
- National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD)