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What is Schizophrenia? Symptoms, Causes, Risk factors, Diagnosing and Treatment | My Fit Brain

18 hours ago 236 Reads 14 min read
What is Schizophrenia? Symptoms, Causes, Risk factors,  Diagnosing and Treatment | My Fit Brain

Schizophrenia is basically a chronic psychiatric disorder in which the patient might experience distortion of reality and real things happening around him. They often experience delusion or hallucinations. This means sometimes they feel like voices in their heads and it generally feels like someone is controlling their mind. They feel like talking with themselves sometimes.

Schizophrenia is a rare mental disorder and tends to occur in just 1% of the total population. This disorder is generally confused with "split personality disorder " which are actually two different terms.

Split personality is also termed as Dissociative Identity Disorder. The tendency of occurrence of schizophrenia in men is in their early 20s or teenage while in women, its tendency to occur is in the late 20s or early 30s. 

Symptoms of Schizophrenia: 

Schizophrenic patients often tend to show these symptoms: 

Early symptoms: The early symptoms in men and women tend to show in their 20s or 30s. At this age, the person might develop these signs in the early stage: 

  1. Self-isolation from friends and family
  2. Change in friends or social groups
  3. Lack of focus and concentration power
  4. Irregular sleep cycle
  5. Irritated behavior and agitation

Facing Difficulty with school tasks, and low academic performance level Here are some other "Positive" symptoms that aren’t typical in otherwise healthy individuals. These might include: 

Hallucinations

Hallucinations is an experience that appears to be real but is actually created by your mind. It includes watching things that are imaginary, hearing voices in the head, or smelling things that are around you. 

Delusions

A delusion is a sort of illusion or illusionary thoughts that occur when you believe in something wrong even when you have evidence for facts to the contrary. ● Thought disorders. These include unusual ways of perceiving or thinking or processing information. 

Movement disorders

This includes unusual body movements or strange postures sometimes. While on the other side, Some of the negative symptoms might include:

  1. Distorted or disorganized thinking or speech, here the person changes the topics of talking more frequently when speaking or uses idioms or phrases while describing anything 
  2. Facing trouble while controlling their impulsive behavior
  3. Every time tends to give an emotional response to all the situations
  4. No emotion or expressions while talking
  5. Lack of interest and excitement for the coming life days
  6. Isolating himself from society
  7. Facing trouble while experiencing pleasure
  8. Facing difficulty on a new beginning or following through with pre-planned things
  9. Facing difficulty while completing everyday chores.
  10. Difficulties or lack of concentration in academics and job profiles. 

Schizophrenia might affect the memory and thinking ability of the patient. But these are somewhat hard to detect. So schizophrenic patients may also have some cognitive symptoms like: 

  1. Loss of positive and organized thinking, such as trouble focusing or paying attention to the surrounding environment
  2. poor decision making power, poor capability to perceive information, make plans, and execute.
  3. Facing problems in learning information and during its usage
  4. Lack of proper insight about some information or being unaware of their persisting symptoms. 

Possible causes of schizophrenia:

vector graphic of a girl facing Schizophrenia

The possible reason behind schizophrenia is still unknown but the researchers still consider the following factors that contribute to this disorder: 

  1. Biological
  2. Genetic
  3. Environmental 

Some recent studies claim that " imaging tests completed on people with schizophrenia may show abnormalities in certain brain structures. Ongoing research in this area continues. Chemical abnormalities in the brain are believed to be responsible for many of the symptoms seen in schizophrenia. 

Researchers also believe low levels of certain brain chemicals that affect emotions and behavior may contribute to this psychiatric disorder." 

Schizophrenia also travels with generations like other physical ailments such as - Diabetes. If one of your ancestors had this disorder then you are on the radar too. It might be possible to travel this disorder in generations since it is hereditary. The surrounding environment also plays a major role in the development of this disorder. If your surrounding environment is disturbing and not fit to survive then you might be prone to develop this disorder faster than those living in a happy place and happy society.

Risk factors of Schizophrenia

  1. An exposure to some toxins or virus before birth or during early childhood
  2. A history of having an inflammation-related disease or an autoimmune disease
  3. An unprescribed use of mind-soothing drugs
  4. High level of stress 

Types of Schizophrenia 

At one time, Schizophrenia was classified into five subcategories but later on, in 2013, these categories have been eliminated from the classification and now schizophrenia is considered as one diagnosis only. 

Here are subcategories of Schizophrenia that helps doctors to ensure what type of schizophrenia is this and what should be the treatment plan. 

These subcategories include: 

  1. Paranoid - In the year 2013, the Paranoid type of Schizophrenia was termed as a Positive symptom by the doctors and it was removed with the separated tag.
  2. Hebephrenic or Disoganised - In this type of schizophrenia, no hallucination or delusions are noticed in the patients but they are diagnosed with speech problems i.e. they tend to increase their speed while talking or lack of ability to talk properly.
  3. Undifferentiated - In this type of schizophrenia, the doctors diagnose patients with more than one major symptom of this disorder.
  4. Residual - This type of term for schizophrenia is generally used when the patient is diagnosed with schizophrenia in the early stage of their life but doesn't show any symptoms later in their life. 
  5. Catatonic - This subtype of schizophrenia is generally used for patients who showed signs of autism or patients developing stupor-like symptoms. 

Although these subcategories are not in use by the date for the diagnosis it has been included for the information to the readers. 

Diagnosing and Testing of Schizophrenia: 

Schizophrenia problem in mind

There is no particular test for schizophrenia. The psychiatrist may conduct a psychic exam to ensure the occurrence of schizophrenia. The patient needs to rush to the psychologist to get examined about the disorder. 

When the patient visits his psychologist to get examined, the psychologist may ask about:

  1. His medical history 
  2. His present mental state
  3. His family medical history or past medical history of all family members 

Also, the mental health expert may conduct the following test: 

  1. Physical examination
  2. CBC
  3. Imaging tests such as MRI, CT scan 

Sometimes, apart from physical health problems there can be many reasons that encounter schizophrenia. These generally include: 

  1. Drug addiction/usage
  2. Certain medications that suppress the mind
  3. Other mental illness such as anxiety and stress if left untreated 

You may be diagnosed with schizophrenia if you include at least two of the following symptoms: 

  1. Hallucinations
  2. Delusions
  3. Lack of proper speech i.e. disorganized speech 

Schizophrenia Treatment plan: 

There is no such cure to vanish this disorder up to the root. This disorder requires proper medication that goes on to lifelong. The treatment can only control and reduce the severity of symptoms. 

The treatment plan for schizophrenia includes: 

  1. Medication - Antipsychotic or Antidepressants medicines are generally prescribed in the case of schizophrenia. These medications are helpful to stop hallucinations, delusions, and the possible symptoms of psychosis. In case of severity of psychosis, the patient may need to be hospitalized to receive treatment with strict medical supervision.
  2. Psychosocial Interventions - These interventions generally includes talk therapy to help patients cope up with stress and anxiety and to reduce symptoms. Social training and social activities are helpful in this case.
  3. Vocational Rehabilitation - Vocational rehabilitation is required to help the patient do better in the workplace. These include the skills that you will need to return to your work and tips to maintain the regular job at ease.
  4. Some alternatives for the treatment of Schizophrenia - Apart from the regular antidepressants and antipsychotics, your doctor may also prescribe you some complementary medicines that help you to reduce symptoms of this disorder. You only need to confirm that if those medications are suitable for you or not. These medications might include: Essential vitamin treatment, Some fish oil supplements like- Salmon, Recommended Glycine supplements, A complete diet management plan

As we have discussed earlier the types of Schizophrenia are not in use for now for the diagnosing purpose but is quite useful to particulate about the type of Schizophrenia. These subcategories or subtypes of Schizophrenia are: 

1. Paranoid 

When the schizophrenic patient is diagnosed then the doctor doesn't categorize the disorder in any subcategories. It will only be Schizophrenia. Rather if we consider its subcategories, if the predominant symptom is Paranoia, then it is Paranoid Schizophrenia. In the case of Paranoid Schizophrenia, the following symptoms may be seen in the patient:

  1. Delusions 
  2. Hallucinations
  3. Disorganized speech
  4. Disorganized or irritating behavior 
  5. Negative thoughts and thinking
  6. Suicidal thoughts 

Where Delusions is something that makes you have some strong belief rather you have the evidence of the truth of the contrary side. There can be many types of delusions, some of which may include: 

  1. Delusions of control: The patient may believe that someone else is controlling you and your mind may be by an external force, such as the spirit or some invisible powers. 
  2. Delusions of grandeur: The patient may believe that they are owned with exceptional abilities, wealth, and importance. 
  3. Delusions of persecution: The patient may also believe that everyone is out to get them and to use them. 
  4. Delusions of reference: The patient may also believe that this insignificant and luxurious thing was designed specifically for them. 

"About 90 percent of people with schizophrenia experience delusions. Not everyone will have the same types of delusions." 

Hallucinations are generally the sensation that you tend to perceive those things which are not real. Schizophrenic patients tend to hear voices in their mind and these voices can be any- suggesting, telling, describing, scolding, or sometimes commanding. These voices are many times related to your known people and if the patient gets himself isolated from the others, the symptoms might worsen. 

Disorganized speech means the schizophrenic patients tend to interfere with the words while listening. Sometimes they repeat words, taking in phrases or constructs their own phrases and talking in between. This is the foremost symptom of lack of concentration. 

Disorganization of speech is a disorder and not an impairment such as speech impairment. Disorganized Behavior refers to the overall inability to do work. It may be due to a lack of interest, a lack of focus and concentration, or a lack of constructive thinking ability. It includes a lack of control over your behavior as well.

The patient may experience trouble with: 

  1. Performing daily chores
  2. No control over the impulsive behavior
  3. Keeping the emotions in check
  4. An odd or inappropriate behavior 

Negative thoughts and thinking:

This generally includes a lack of proper behavior that a normal person has and a Schizophrenic patient lacks. 

These negative thoughts include: 

  1. Anhedonia i.e. lack of enthusiasm for the activities they once loved
  2. Emotional instability 
  3. Lack of expression
  4. Lack of interest in the surrounding world 

Suicidal Thoughts:

Suicidal thoughts are more common in Schizophrenic patients. They may also create problems if left untreated. Before they harm themselves or the other, they may be hospitalized to receive necessary medical attention. 

2. Catatonic Schizophrenia 

The symptoms of Catatonic schizophrenia includes- 

  1. Immobility
  2. Lack of responsiveness
  3. Flat affect
  4. Stupor-like condition
  5. Mutism
  6. Refuse to obey the instructions 

3. Childhood Schizophrenia: 

This type of schizophrenia occurs generally in childhood i.e. early 20s or late teens. When the symptoms start to show around the age of 13, that is called early or childhood schizophrenia. 

Diagnosis of childhood schizophrenia is most difficult as its symptoms are similar to that growth cycle in teenagers. But here are some symptoms by which the doctors can be ensured that the ongoing condition inpatient is due to childhood schizophrenia. Here are those: 

  1. Depression or depressive stage
  2. Bipolar disorder
  3. Lack of Attention
  4. Phobias, unusual fears, or anxiety
  5. Irregular sleep cycles
  6. Emotional mood swings
  7. Hearing voices in the head or seeing things that are not real i.e. Hallucinations
  8. Lack of attention to self-care
  9. Irritated behavior or irritability
  10. Declined academic performance 

Some important statistics of Schizophrenia: 

Many researchers showed their research in their journals that: 

  1. "Schizophrenia is typically diagnosed in people in their late teens to early 30s.
  2. Men tend to show symptoms earlier. They’re also diagnosed earlier, between late adolescence and their early 20s.
  3. Women tend to be diagnosed later, from their early 20s to early 30s.
  4. The disorder is more common in men than women. 
  5. Research suggests that schizophrenia occurs in less than 1 percent of people. It affects more than 21 million people around the world.
  6. Your risk for the disorder is 10 percent if you have a first-degree relative with it, such as a parent or sibling. 
  7. Worldwide, schizophrenia is one of the 15 most debilitating disorders.
  8. People with this disorder are two to three times more likely to die prematurely.
  9. Almost half of the people with the disorder also have other mental health issues.
  10. Nearly 5 percent of people with the disorder die by suicide. That’s higher than the general population.
  11. More than half of people with the disorder aren’t receiving appropriate care." Complications arising with Schizophrenia: 

Schizophrenia is a chronic disease that if left untreated can be more harmful to the patient. This disorder is not that kind to be ignored. This mental illness can give rise to other serious complications also. 

  1. Getting self-injured or suicide attempt 
  2. Anxiety
  3. Some sort of Phobias or maniac attacks
  4. Depressive mood
  5. Increased use of alcohol and drug
  6. Increase in dispute with family members 

Recommended read: Overcome Anxiety in Simple Steps | Anxiety Treatment

Schizophrenia Prevention: 

There isn't found out anyways by which this disorder can be prevented but there are some ways for sure by which symptoms of this disorder can be reduced to prevent getting it worsens over time. 

It is indeed possible that a schizophrenic patient might lead a healthy and peaceful life. The symptoms might go away with time but if the conditions are not favorable, the symptoms can return. The patient must not stop the medication by themselves until it is prescribed by the doctor himself. 

On the track to improvement, the patient must:

  1. Know about your mental health condition
  2. Understand the risk factors associated with the disorder
  3. Strictly follow the treatment plan prescribed by the doctor 

Some mental health disorders that are not confused with Schizophrenia:

1. Schizophrenia and Psychosis 

Both of these disorders are different as compared to their symptoms and treatment plans. Psychosis means that the patient lives in the imagination. He doesn't want to accept reality and real things. They may hear some voices that are not real.in any way or they may visualize and believe things that are also not real when it comes to reality. Psychosis is a separate disorder as well as it is also one of the symptoms of schizophrenia. Psychosis has a tendency of occurrence in normal people sometimes. Although it is one of the symptoms of schizophrenia but not every schizophrenic patient might experience psychotic problems. 

2. Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder 

Both of them are chronic mental health conditions. Some characteristics of both are the same while some characteristics of both disorders are distinct. Bipolar disorder causes a strong level of mood swings which has a frequency or strength between mania and depression episodes. 

Sometimes they may also experience delusions or hallucinations in association with symptoms of psychosis in case of severity. But the Schizophrenic patient experiences hallucinations, delusions with disorganized speech, and thinking. The symptoms of psychosis are not associated with schizophrenic patients. 

Although no tests are available to let know whether it is bipolar disorder or schizophrenia but the psychiatrists always examine the patients with some evaluation techniques. These tests could include blood tests, imaging tests, and drug screening tests. 

After the report of these tests, the doctor may examine your symptoms and might start with the appropriate treatment plan for the patients.

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