1. What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic, incurable (but treatable) mental disorder affecting 1% of Americans, causing them to hallucinate, or have paranoid or disturbed thoughts. These symptoms can be pretty terrifying, and often cause sufferers to act irrationally and strangely. A combination of therapy and medication can alleviate the symptoms, and help those with schizophrenia to live normal lives.
2. How does schizophrenia affect the mind?
Symptoms of schizophrenia can include hallucinations, paranoid thoughts and behavior, and depression. People suffering from the disorder often make statements that are nonsensical, reflecting their disturbed thought process. Sufferers may experience difficulty organizing or filtering their thoughts and statements. Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia is a different disorder than dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities).
3. How does schizophrenia affect behavior?
Schizophrenia and the scary chaos it causes in a person’s brain can translate into a wide range of abnormal behaviors. Sufferers have been known to speak illogically or even in gibberish. They may suddenly fly into fits of rage. They often stop maintaining basic personal hygiene or order in the home. Schizophrenia can also cause compulsive repetitive behaviors, such as pacing or twitching. It’s important to understand that sufferers generally present more of a danger to themselves than to others. Despite the terrible stigma surrounding this disorder, sufferers do not generally exhibit violent behaviors.
4. Who is affected by schizophrenia?
The disorder can affect anyone, anywhere. Statistics show that it currently affects men and women equally, occurring across all ethnic groups around the world. Symptoms often set in between 16 and 30 years of age. A predisposition to schizophrenia might be passed genetically.
5. What causes schizophrenia?
It’s not known why schizophrenia occurs. Psychologists have theorized that schizophrenia may be caused by certain chemical imbalances in the brain that occur as the result of psychological trauma. Psychology is a somewhat new field in the sciences, and there is in fact relatively little known about the causes of mental illnesses, as well as how and why certain treatments work in the brain.
6. How is schizophrenia diagnosed?
There are no blood or laboratory tests to concretely test for the disorder. A doctor’s diagnosis is usually based on symptoms alone.
7. What is the treatment for schizophrenia?
Prescription drugs can reduce symptoms of the disorder. It’s believed that they work by regulating chemicals in the brain. Each medication works differently for each person, and unfortunately they may cause various side effects, such as weight gain. So it’s important to know that a patient may need to try a few different medications before finding the right one. Medication should be taken as part of a long-term treatment program that includes regular therapy that aims to make sufferers aware of their condition and help them manage their symptoms. These parallel treatments also try to reduce relapse, as many patients often quit their medications because of side effects. It’s also common for a person to stop taking their medication because they suddenly feel better. It’s important to understand that once a person ceases their medication, the symptoms will arise once again.
8. How does schizophrenia affect personal relationships?
Everyday work and personal relationships can be challenging for sufferers of schizophrenia. Their unpredictable behavior can often scare or distance others, however unintentional and harmless it might be. Treatments involving therapy try to overcome these difficulties and help loved ones understand a patient’s predicament.
9. How is schizophrenia related to addiction?
Research shows that many people suffering from schizophrenia resort to drugs and alcohol as a retreat from their often painful mental state. Drug use is likely compound the disorder and intensify symptoms. These types of patients often must undergo drug rehab before attempting long-term psychological intervention.
10. How can a family member help?
Most importantly, a family should help a sufferer obtain a concrete diagnosis of schizophrenia before attempting any kind of treatment or support. It can be very challenging to convince a sufferer that they have a problem and could benefit from treatment. For this reason, treatment often begins after a sufferer has been hospitalized during a psychotic episode.
11.Where can I get more information?
To learn more about schizophrenia, check out the websites of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) or the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). These organizations can direct you to local support resources.