Schizophrenia: Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis

Overview

Schizophrenia is a complex and long-term disorder which affects how a person thinks, feels and acts. People with schizophrenia may have difficulty distinguishing between reality and imagination, as well as expressing normal emotions in social situations.

Contrary to public perception, schizophrenia does not split personality into multiple personalities. Most people with schizophrenia are not violent and do not pose a danger to others.

Schizophrenia affects about 1.1 percent of the total population
in America. The average age of onset tends to be in the
late adolescence to early adulthood, usually between the ages of 18 to 30.

Causes

Research suggests that schizophrenia may have several
possible causes:

  • Genetics

Schizophrenia occurs at roughly 10% of people who have a first-degree
relative with the disorder, such as a parent or sibling. It may appear when the
body undergoes hormonal and physical changes or after dealing with highly
stressful situations.

However, the gene is not the only decisive factor. About 60% of people with schizophrenics have no family members with the disorder, and individuals genetically predisposed to schizophrenia don’t always develop the disease.

  • Environment

Environmental factors triggering the disorder could include prenatal exposure to a viral infection, low oxygen levels during birth, early parental loss or separation, physical or sexual abuse in childhood, inflammation and autoimmune diseases.

  • Biology

Scientists believe that people with schizophrenia have an imbalance of the brain chemicals or neurotransmitters: dopamine, glutamate, and serotonin. Additionally, some researches show that problems with the development of connections and pathways in the brain while in the womb may later lead to schizophrenia.

  • Substance use

As it is suggested in some studies, taking mind-altering drugs and smoking marijuana can increase the risk of schizophrenia and ongoing psychotic experiences.

Symptoms

People who are
diagnosed with schizophrenia can suffer from multiple different symptoms in
different forms and levels of severity. They can include:

  • Delusions

They are firmly-held beliefs that a person has despite obvious evidence presented to him, which shows that the opposite is the reality.

  • Hallucinations

They are sounds or other sensations experienced as real when
they exist only in one’s mind.

  • Disorganized
    thinking or speech

It is also called the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. People with this symptom often have difficulty remembering things, organizing complete thoughts and speech, or completing tasks.

Diagnosis

Determining a diagnosis of schizophrenia may include:

  • Physical exam

This may be done to help rule out other mental health disorders that
could be causing symptoms and to check for any related complications.

  • Tests and screenings

These may include tests that help rule out conditions with similar symptoms and screening for alcohol and drugs. The doctor may also request imaging studies, such as an MRI or CT scan.

  • Psychiatric
    evaluation

A doctor or
mental health professional checks mental status by observing appearance and
demeanor. This also includes a discussion of family and personal history.

  • DSM-5

A doctor or mental health professional may use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Treatment

Schizophrenia can be treated with a variety of natural
supplements, prescriptions, and therapies. 

  • Medications

Antipsychotic medications are the most commonly prescribed drugs.

People with the disease can take first generation antipsychotics such as Fluphenazine and Haloperidol and second generation antipsychotics including Aripiprazole, Asenapine and Brexpiprazole.

  • Psychosocial
    interventions

These may include individual therapy, social skills training, family therapy, vocational rehabilitation, and supported employment.

  • Psychotherapy

There
are three types of psychotherapy: cognitive behavioral therapy, supportive psychotherapy,
and cognitive enhancement therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people develop coping strategies for persistent symptoms that do not respond to medicine.

Supportive
psychotherapy is
used to help a person process his experience and to support him in coping while
living with schizophrenia. It is focused on the here and now.

Cognitive enhancement therapy (CET) works to promote cognitive functioning and confidence in one’s cognitive ability.

  • Hospitalization

During crisis periods or times of severe symptoms, hospitalization may be necessary to ensure safety, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and basic hygiene.

  • Electroconvulsive
    therapy

For
adults with schizophrenia who do not respond to drug therapy, electroconvulsive
therapy (ECT) may be considered. ECT may be helpful for someone who also has
depression.

  • Complementary health approaches

Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish oil, have shown some promise in treating and managing schizophrenia.

Keywords: schizophrenia.

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Living with Someone Having Schizophrenia, What Can I Do?

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