Schizophrenia is an often misunderstood and misrepresented disorder. For example, the media commonly portrays schizophrenia as someone suffering from a split personality. Schizophrenia and split personality – known as Dissociative Identity Disorder – are two different mental illnesses. Schizophrenia is also often directly linked to violent behavior – another false claim. Though the symptoms of schizophrenia can lead to delusions, violence and schizophrenia do not go hand in hand.
In this article, we will:
- Define schizophrenia
- Describe its causes and symptoms
- Cover the treatment options
A better understanding of this mental illness will encourage people living with schizophrenia to get help when they need it while breaking down the harmful stigma related to the disorder.
Schizophrenia Signs and Symptoms
Schizophrenia is a serious, long-term psychotic disorder. Signs of schizophrenia include disordered thoughts, perceptions and behaviors. Patients will often become withdrawn from reality and relationships. They may also experience delusions and a variety of sensory hallucinations. For this reason, schizophrenia impacts your ability to function in your daily life.
Around 1 in 100 people will develop schizophrenia. The symptoms of schizophrenia include:
- Confused thoughts and disorganized speech
- Changes in body language and emotions
- Loss of interest in social activities
- Lack of motivation
- Trouble concentrating
- Slow movement
- Change in sleep patterns
- Poor hygiene
- Low sex drive
Everyone has a different experience with schizophrenia. Doctors will look for at least two of the symptoms over the course of a month to make a diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Schizoaffective disorder is a combination of schizophrenia symptoms and a mood disorder (e.g. depression or mania).
The Causes of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia does not have a clear cause, but a mix of genetic and environmental factors seem to be at play. For instance, you may be vulnerable to the condition if schizophrenia runs in your family. Common environmental triggers for schizophrenia include stressful or life-changing events, such as:
- Money issues
- Losing your home
- The death of a loved one
Others may develop schizophrenia after using recreational drugs, such as marijuana. Researchers are still not clear if substance use causes schizophrenia or the other way around. We do know that people living with psychotic disorders often abuse marijuana. Following a 2014 study on this issue, study author Dr. Lynn E. DeLisi of Harvard Medical School notes:
“My study clearly shows that cannabis does not cause schizophrenia by itself. Rather, a genetic predisposition is necessary. It is highly likely, based on the results of this study and others, that cannabis use during adolescence through to age 25, when the brain is maturing and at its peak of growth in a genetically vulnerable individual, can initiate the onset of schizophrenia.”
Other possible causes of schizophrenia include chemical differences in the brain or brain injury. Problems with neurotransmitters such as dopamine and glutamate may contribute to schizophrenia. Other risk factors may increase the chance of a person developing schizophrenia. These factors include:
- Family history
- Father who was of an older age
- Malnutrition or exposure to toxins during pregnancy that impact brain development
- Taking psychotropic drugs during young adulthood
- Autoimmune diseases
Treatment for Schizophrenia
Though there is not cure for schizophrenia, there are many treatment approaches to schizophrenia that help symptoms subside. Schizophrenia treatment is lifelong, but it can allow you to live a normal life with fewer unwanted symptoms. When you receive your diagnosis, your medical team will design a personalized treatment plan. Common treatments of schizophrenia include:
- Antipsychotic medication: This includes prescription drugs like Abilify, Risperdal, and Zyprexa. Antipsychotic medications can help ease the symptoms of schizophrenia to improve daily life.
- Psychosocial treatments: These treatments examine how people and society influence your thoughts and behaviors. Psychosocial treatments may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to manage the symptoms of schizophrenia. Other treatment options are psycho-education, arts therapies, family therapy, group therapy, social skills training and vocational support
- Residential treatment for schizophrenia: Schizophrenia can be debilitating. In this instance, you may benefit from staying at a residential facility. Here you will engage in treatment programs to help you reintegrate back into society. Your treatment plan may also include a combination of medication and behavioral therapy.
- Outpatient programs: For some patients, residential treatment for schizophrenia isn’t necessary. Instead, receiving outpatient care may be enough. Clients may spend the day completing a variety of treatment sessions and then return home.
Many people living with schizophrenia thrive in transitional living – residential centers dedicated to the recovery of adults with schizophrenia. Transitional living can help people struggling with schizophrenia stabilize their lifestyle and symptoms.
Clients can also pair residential or outpatient treatment with drug or alcohol counseling. Adults with schizophrenia may struggle with substance abuse as well, known as a dual diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder. Drug and alcohol treatment are crucial in these cases as substance abuse tends to worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Living with schizophrenia can be very distressing without support. Many schizophrenic patients even experience suicidal thoughts. For this reason, schizophrenia can be all-consuming and life-threatening, but treatment is available.
Lucida Treatment Center offers effective recovery plans for all stages of recovery. Call us today to learn how to manage schizophrenia and to live a full, healthy and happy life.