Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects the way a person behaves, thinks, and sees the world. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality. About 1% of Americans have it.
Anyone can. Symptoms usually start between ages 16 and 30, but not during childhood or after age 45. Men often develop symptoms at a younger age than women. People from a family with psychotic disorders are more likely to get it.
Positive symptoms(generally they respond well to medication): hallucinations; delusions; disordered thoughts and speeches.
Negative symptoms(they are less responsive to medication): little emotion; reduced speaking; inability to experience pleasure; lack of desire to form relationships; lack of motivation.
Cognitive symptoms: inability to understand information; trouble focusing or paying attention.
People with schizophrenia may have trouble making logical connections because their mind is always racing from one unrelated thought to another. Sometimes they may feel that their thoughts are removed from their head, or that their flow of thinking can suddenly get interrupted.
Schizophrenia affects behaviors in many ways. This can range from having problems with routine activities like hygiene or choosing proper clothes for the weather to nonsensical speech. Despite their abnormal behaviors, the risk of violence against others is small.
The exact cause of schizophrenia is still unclear. Some theories about the cause of the disease include: experiences, genes, biology (abnormalities in the brain’s chemistry or structures), possible viral infections and immune disorders.
Without available lab tests to find schizophrenia, doctors usually base a diagnosis on a person’s history and symptoms. It’s better to see a doctor if you have two or more of the typical symptoms mentioned above.
Prescription drugs can reduce positive symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and abnormal thinking. Some people may have troubling side effects like tremors and weight gain, but in most cases, medication is a must to treat schizophrenia.
Counseling helps people develop better ways to recognize and handle their problem behaviors and thoughts, and improve how they relate to others. Some therapies aim to help patients tell reality from delusions, others aim to improve self-care, communication, and relationship skills.
In rehabilitation programs for schizophrenia, people learn how to do everyday things, like shop for groceries, use public transportation, find and keep a job. Treatment for schizophrenia works best when medications, therapy, and rehabilitation programs are all involved.
If people with schizophrenia quit their medications, it can cause serious symptoms returning. Regular counseling can help people stick with their treatment and avoid a relapse.
People with schizophrenia are more likely to abuse alcohol and illicit drugs, which in turn can make symptoms worse. Drug abuse also interferes with treatments for schizophrenia. If you know someone with that condition, substance abuse programs will be more suitable.
Women with schizophrenia who want to have babies should talk with their doctors first to make sure their medications won’t interfere with pregnancy.
When people have schizophrenia, their unusual thoughts and behaviors may keep friends and family members away. But you can help him or her through the following ways.
1. Encourage the person to stay on medication; 2. Go with them to their follow-up appointments; 3. Be supportive and respectful.
To learn more about schizophrenia, contact the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) or the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).