Your behavior pattern at home, society, school, work and relationships is unique to you. Sometimes, you find it hard to think clearly and lose touch with the reality. You feel scared, have hallucinations and hear sounds that are not there. This is called Schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a long-lasting, severe mental disorder which affects the way a person thinks, feels and behaves. According to World Health Organization, Schizophrenia affects approximately 24 million people or 1 in 300 people (0.32%) worldwide. It is not as common as many other mental disorders.
Schizophrenia affects your performance at school, work or in relationships. It is a lifelong chronic disease without a complete cure but it can be controlled with proper treatment.
Let’s discover the symptoms, causes, and treatment of schizophrenia.
What are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia? When do they Begin?
Schizophrenia symptoms and signs appear usually in late teens or early twenties in men while it affects women in their early twenties and thirties. Prodromal period is the period in which the symptoms first appear before a full psychosis. This period can last for days, weeks or years and can be difficult to diagnose as it is not in the presence of any particular trigger.
Some behavioral symptoms include:
- Finding difficulty falling asleep
- Withdrawal from social gatherings and activities
- Finding difficulty concentrating
- Rise in temper
Some added symptoms of schizophrenia
These are some of the psychotic symptoms in addition to the symptoms mentioned earlier.
- Hallucinations: You have fake sensations that have nothing to do with reality. These sensations include visions, hearing voices, smelling unusual odors, having strange taste in mouth and skin sensations. Among these, hearing voices is the most common schizophrenia symptom. These voices insult you, pass comments on your behavior or give you orders.
- Delusions: These are strange beliefs that have nothing to do with reality. You refuse to give up on them even if you are shown the proof of their non-existence. You start believing that you are either blessed or cursed, because you believe that you can hear people or that people are putting thoughts in your head or making a plot against you (paranoid schizophrenia).
- Thought disorder: You have trouble organizing your thoughts and speech. You stop talking in middle of sentence or jump from one topic to another. You make up meaningless words
Negative schizophrenia symptoms
You can have absence or lack of normal behaviors like:
- Lack of energy and motivation
- Loss of interest or seeking pleasure from life
- Lack of grooming habits and poor hygiene
- Lack or limited set of emotions
- Withdrawing from family, friends and social gatherings
- Catatonia: It is a group of symptoms comprising of a lack of movement and communication. It includes irritation, restlessness and confusion. You may speak less or stop speaking and your body may be fixed in a same position for longer than normal time.
Cognitive schizophrenia symptoms
If you have cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia, you can have:
- Problem paying attention or focusing
- Poor decision making after the information is passed to you
- Problem with your working memory—not able to use the information after it is passed to you
- Being aware that these problems are present with you
What are 5 Causes of Schizophrenia?
The exact cause of schizophrenia is not identified, but it is assumed that they are triggered by genetic and environmental factors. You can inherit it in your genes and environmental factors may trigger them. The 5 schizophrenia causes include:
- Heredity: You can inherit schizophrenia from your parents.
- Complications during pregnancy: When the mother did not receive proper medical care, mental peace or if she was prone to any infections during her pregnancy, a child has chances of developing schizophrenia.
- Environmental factors: Schizophrenia can be triggered by certain environmental factors like being exposed to toxins, viral infections. It can also be triggered for you by tensed conditions if you have it in your genes. Mostly it gets triggered during teenage years when your body starts having physical and hormonal changes.
- Alteration of brain chemicals and circuits: The alteration in the levels of the two brain transmitters dopamine and serotonin, and their circuits of nerve cells.
- Abnormality in brain structure: Although it is not applicable for all people with schizophrenia, some people with schizophrenia have been scanned with abnormal brain structure.
How is Schizophrenia Diagnosed?
The doctor performs physical exam and takes your medical history. Your family may also be invited into giving their report of your symptoms they have noted. There is no particular schizophrenia test in lab which can diagnose it but the doctor may order different tests and image study of brain so that any other illness or substance intoxication can be ruled out.
What is the Appropriate Schizophrenia Treatment?
Schizophrenia treatment aims at easing the symptoms as well as blocking the odds of those symptoms from returning. It aims at ensuring that you lead a functional life. Some of the treatment options are:
The importance of early intervention is to find the right cause and the right treatment at the earlier stages of life to get hold of the problem before it progresses.
Focus on meditation and mindfulness techniques
Meditation and mindfulness techniques can help ease the symptoms of schizophrenia to a great extent. Meditation seems to alter the brain structure, thereby helping relief schizophrenia symptoms. In meditation, you go through a journey of finding your inner center, balance and focus – a journey of mindfulness. Mindfulness teaches you to be in a state of achieving your awareness to the present moment, while acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. It teaches you to be content, focused and happy in the present. It helps you to
- Stabilize your issues of anger and violence if you have symptoms like hallucinations.
- Improve your wakefulness of your illness
- Reduce the duration between your psychotic episodes.
- Reduce your depression and anxiety
Try loving-kindness meditation (LKM)
Loving-kindness meditation is a type of meditation practice in which you focus on developing love, kindness and warmth toward yourself as well as others. Loving-kindness meditation decreases negative schizophrenia symptoms, and increases positive emotions.
Emphasize on the positive
Instead of focusing at your problem, develop hobbies and interests that you find interesting and entertaining. Go for long walks in the morning to clear your head. Follow a lifestyle prescribed by your doctor to gain maximum benefits.
Use art therapy
When you have schizophrenia, sometimes you find it very difficult to convey your thoughts and feelings to others. Let your art convey your thoughts and feelings. Various art forms include sketching, drawing, painting, collaging or sculpting. Artist Vincent Van Gogh is one of the many schizophrenia examples from history.
Start practicing yoga
Yoga is helpful in easing the problems with sleep, improve brain chemicals, improve mood and help your body respond better to medications.
Follow prescribed schizophrenia medication
You can try the antipsychotic medicines prescribed by your doctor. These will help you get rid of delusions, hallucinations and thinking problems.
Seek psychosocial therapy
Psychosocial treatments can ease your behavioral, social and psychological problems. Psychosocial therapies include rehabilitation, individual psychotherapy, family therapy and group therapy.
Schizophrenia is a chronic illness which makes you believe you are either blessed or cursed. It disrupts the normal functioning of your life as well as those around you. But with early intervention and proper treatment, you can go on to live a normal life.
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