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What Is Schizophrenia: Causes, Symptoms, Tests And Treatment

Updated on December 27, 2012

Schizophrenia is a grave psychiatric disorder which throughout the history has been a source of confusion. It was a common perception in the old times that schizophrenics were possessed by evil daemons and ghosts. Schizophrenia is characterized by wide range of bizarre behaviors and the most characteristic impairment is seen in how a person perceives or thinks. People with schizophrenia look behind frequently to see if someone is trying to harm them, they may buy many locks for their entrance doors etc. Studies have shown that these people sooner or later may attempt suicide. Due to lack of insight and judgmental capabilities they may not be able to overcome their frequently arising temptations and consequently suffer from some kind of substance abuse for example; alcohol or drug abuse. The underlying disturbance in schizophrenics include; disruption in thoughts, perceptions, behavior and emotions, and as the illness progresses there is gradual decline in the patient’s personality. This disorder is more commonly found in men and is clinically manifested at mid-twenties. Individuals suffering from schizophrenia usually present with hallucinations, delusions, aggression, odd behavior and lack of insight. Worldwide 1-2% of the population reflects psychiatric disorders.

CAUSES OF SCHIZOPHRENIA

A number of factors including biological, psychological, environmental and genetic factors contribute to this disorder. Scientists believe that the rate of occurrence increases to 10% if this disorder is present in first-degree relatives such as parents and siblings. The risk increases to 50% for twins if one of them is suffering from schizophrenia. Many researches have shown over activity of the dopamine receptors contributes to this disorder. Moreover, obstetric complications such as; Rh incompatibility, rubella, chickenpox, measles infections during pregnancy, pre-eclampsia, frequent or ongoing social stress, drug abuse and isolation during childhood also contributes to this disorder. The risk of this disease is increased to 5-8% for children born in winter and spring.

SCHIZOPHRENIA SYMPTOMS

In men, schizophrenia is usually found at teenage and twenties and in women it is found at between ages of 20s and 30s, and is rarely found in people above 45. Following symptoms are mostly found in schizophrenic patients:

DELUSIONS

These are beliefs not based upon reality.

HALLUCINATIONS

These false perceptions involve seeing or hearing things that do not exist. Any sensation can be included but hearing voices is the most common type of hallucination among schizophrenics.

  • Bizarre or odd beliefs
  • Loss of interest in everyday chores
  • Giving up their hobbies
  • Lack of ambition and motivation
  • Social withdraws
  • Behavior may range from extreme aggression to child-like silliness
  • Difficulty in paying attention
  • Memory issues
  • May become immobile or adopt awkward postures for prolonged periods.
  • Thinking is so much affected that the patient becomes impulsive and commit any crime.
  • Sometimes, the patients believe that everyone is against them, and are trying to harm them which is called “Paranoid Schizophrenia”.
  • Suicidal thoughts are common amongst schizophrenics.
  • Poor self-care

SCHIZOPHRENIA TEST

When a person presents with hallucinations, delusions etc. it is not confirmed whether he/she is actually suffering from schizophrenia as the boundaries of the symptoms of other disorders overlap such as maniac episode, drug-induced psychosis, psychotic depression etc. Therefore it is very important to differentiate schizophrenia from other mental disorders. For this purpose, medical and psychiatric histories are taken, physical examinations are conducted and other various medical and psychological tests are performed.

Laboratory tests including “Complete Blood Count (CBC) and other blood tests are carried out to exclude alcohol and drug-induced schizophrenic-like symptoms. MRI or CT scan of the brain of the patient may enlarge the ventricles which aid in diagnosis. After this the suspected schizophrenic patient is psychologically evaluated in which the doctor observes the overall appearance and demeanor of the patient and inquires about certain instances such as; mood swings, hallucinations, delusion, past violent activity or suicidal attempts or thoughts.

When the history along with mental and physical evaluations are obtained, then the condition of schizophrenia is confirmed if,

  • The patient has had these symptoms for 6 months
  • The patient has trouble paying attention to work, friends, family and daily tasks.
  • The patient has at least two symptoms which point to schizophrenia such as; hallucinations, delusions, disorganized behavior and social isolations etc.

SCHIZOPHRENIA TREATMENT

When people are diagnosed with schizophrenia, it is a great disaster for their families. Some people think that they are better-off with some cancer rather than schizophrenia. As soon as someone is diagnosed with schizophrenia, immediate steps should be taken at medical, psychological and social level to help treat their illness. It is highly recommended to make proper moves at the time of diagnosis because the longer the disorder is left untreated; there is increased risk of deterioration of personality, social isolation and disturbance while working or studies. The main aim to treat schizophrenia is to relive ongoing symptoms and prevent further psychotic episodes in future.

As the treatment begins, antipsychotic medications are initiated in the beginning as per prescribed by the psychiatrist. Together with the medications, the patient should try to get plenty of sleep. Alcohol and unnecessary drugs should be avoided. Patients are advised to avoid stress for this exacerbates the symptoms of illness. Moreover, it is very essential that the patient and his/her family should be educated regarding illness, healthy lifestyle choices. While treating schizophrenia, a doctor should employ a supportive attitude and treat the patient how to ignore the hallucinations and delusions and also how to resume his/her hobbies and normal sound life.


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