Schizophrenia: Symptoms, causes, tests, treatment and medication
Schizophrenia is a treatable long-term brain disorder that affects the movement, behavior, emotions and thoughts of affected persons.
There are specific types of schizophrenia as well, classified according to identifiable symptoms. The five major subtypes are:
Symptoms of schizophrenia
Although schizophrenia shares symptoms with other forms of psychosis and mental health conditions like depression, plural and enduring symptoms are unique to it. They can be divided into three groups:
- Positive – presence of abnormal behavior
- Negative – absence of normal behavior
- Cognitive – affects reasoning and information processing
Positive symptoms of schizophrenia include, but are not limited to, delusions, hallucinations and violent behavior. Some negative symptoms of schizophrenia are catatonic stupor, hyperactivity, social withdrawal and inability to speak, while cognitive symptoms include being unable to apply logic to solving basic problems.
Causes of schizophrenia
While the causes of schizophrenia are still the subject of research, psychiatrists believe that schizophrenia results from a combination of genetic, brain and environmental factors. Environmental factors, such as trauma and stress are viewed as triggers instead of actual causes. Genetic predispositions to schizophrenia, as well as brain factors, are the subject of current research and experiments.
Researchers estimate that those whose immediate family (parent or sibling) has schizophrenia have a nine percent greater risk of developing the condition compared to the rest of the population. Brain factors involve the brain’s structure and biochemistry, since many symptoms of schizophrenia might be the result of brain damage and chemical or hormonal imbalances.
While researchers are exploring the possibility of designing tests for schizophrenia, like special IQ and DNA tests, there is not yet any physical test for it. However, physical tests (like brain scans) can eliminate other conditions that share symptoms with schizophrenia. Only a psychiatrist can offer an accurate schizophrenia diagnosis after observation. However, online schizophrenia tests allow persons to determine whether or not they need to see a psychiatrist for evaluation.
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While each subtype of schizophrenia has specific emphasis on certain treatments, there are five general treatment methods utilized.
- Electroconvulsive therapy
- Social and vocational skills training
Medication is the primary treatment for all forms of schizophrenia. The main form of mediation is antipsychotic drugs, but antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can also be used to treat some symptoms. Psychotherapy is used to complement medication, once the schizophrenic is stabilized using the prescribed drugs. Like social and vocational skills training, psychotherapy addresses the individual and social needs of the schizophrenic and those around them.
Electroconvulsive therapy sends electrical pulses through the brain to alter the brain chemistry. However, it is generally only used when other treatments have failed and usually to treat symptoms of catatonic schizophrenia. Hospitalization is also used by exception – in critical cases where the schizophrenics needs monitoring and pose a danger to themselves and others.
While a schizophrenic can rely on treatment, taking medication for life is the only known way to treat schizophrenia; there is no known schizophrenia cure. Antipsychotic drugs can be split into conventional or traditional antipsychotics (Haloperidol and Perphenazine) and atypical or second-generation antipsychotics (for example Aripiprazole and Paliperidone). Atypical antipsychotics are better able to treat positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
Aside from antipsychotics, antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs are useful for treating negative symptoms, particularly Benzodiazepines – a type of sedative for treatment ofsymptoms of catatonic schizophrenia. Although the schizophrenia medications have short term and long term side effects, they should be taken on a lifelong basis to prevent relapses.
Although there is much more to be discovered about schizophrenia, researchers are continually striving to learn more about its causes, alternative treatments, diagnosis and medications. Some researchers believe that schizophrenia caused by brain factors might be curable, but that remains to be seen.