Schizophrenia is a common mental illness that is very frightening for the person suffering. Although it might seem like schizophrenia is incredibly rare, it is actually more common than you may think. Up to 0.64% of American adults suffer from schizophrenia. That accounts for more than a million people.
Unfortunately, the popular understanding of schizophrenia is wildly off-target, and a misunderstanding of the illness only further stigmatizes those suffering. If you or a loved one are suffering from schizophrenia, here is what you need to know.
What is Schizophrenia?
There is perhaps no mental illness as misunderstood as schizophrenia. A basic mistake made by Hollywood decades ago has led to millions of people confusing schizophrenia with having multiple personalities. However, that is far from what schizophrenia actually is.
Rather, it is a more containable and highly treatable, although chronic and severe, mental disorder that causes:
- delusions and hallucinations
- alterations of the senses
- an inability to sort and interpret incoming sensations, and respond appropriately
- an altered sense of self
- changes in emotions and behavior
It usually only emerges in late adolescence or early adulthood, but experts suggest that the disorder may impact a person from a young age in a more limited sense. Furthermore, many believe that a person’s first psychotic break is the result of a buildup of symptoms, rather than a sudden onset.
The symptoms of schizophrenia are split into 3 categories:
Positive symptoms: this refers to symptoms not usually seen in healthy people, including:
- hallucinations – seeing or hearing things which are not present
- delusions – unrealistic beliefs
- thought disorders – unusual or dysfunctional thinking
- movement disorders – agitated body movements
Negative symptoms: this refers to disruptions or deficiencies in normal emotions or behaviors, including:
- flat affect – a flat way of speaking and lack of facial expressions
- difficulty feeling pleasure
- low motivation, difficulty beginning and completing tasks
- reduced speaking
Cognitive symptoms: this refers to disruptions in the ability to think as usual, including:
- difficulty understanding and using information
- difficulty concentrating
- problems with working memory
Schizophrenia was previously categorized as a number of separate but related illnesses, such as paranoid schizophrenia among others. However, since the DSM-V was released, they are now all included under a single category of schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia and teenagers
Schizophrenia presents slightly differently in teenagers than it does in adults and can be more difficult to recognize. Teenagers with schizophrenia tend to be withdrawn, experience a drop in performance at school, be irritable, and have little motivation. Since this can also apply to many healthy teenagers, teenagers who are potentially suffering from schizophrenia should be monitored for hallucinations and delusions, along with the other common symptoms of the illness.
How we treat Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia can feel extremely overwhelming, and it might seem as if you will never be able to function as normal. Schizophrenia has no known cure, and is a chronic condition one will experience throughout life. However, schizophrenia can be treated, and millions of people around the world have learned to successfully manage their illness through medication, therapy, and lifestyle modifications.
Hospitalization is usually the primary step, giving individuals the chance to adapt to medications and stabilize without having to deal with everyday responsibilities.
The most common and effective form of medication for schizophrenia is categorized as antipsychotics. Antipsychotic medications affect the neurotransmitter dopamine, and reduce symptoms of hallucinations and delusions. They need to be taken on a chronic basis. People suffering from schizophrenia may wish to discontinue medication at some point due to its side effects. It is crucial that they continue to take these medications as cessation is likely to lead to a relapse of symptoms as well as serious withdrawals.
Therapeutic interventions are important and necessary once the medication is working to reduce symptoms. Not only does therapy further help with symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and more, but it helps individuals learn to manage remaining symptoms and continue living a meaningful, satisfying life.
Individual psychotherapy is the first port of call. This therapy can help an individual normalize thought patterns, as well as helping them come to terms with the realities of their illness. They can further find meaning in their illness and their lives in general.
Social skills training helps individuals improve their social interactions and communication abilities – which may have been stunted in development by the illness.
Family therapy includes the whole family in the treatment process, giving them a context for supporting the individual.
Finally, vocational rehabilitation helps individuals discover what kind of work they are suited for and will bring them a level of satisfaction, as well as skills for finding and keeping jobs.
The more healthy a person is in a holistic sense, the better they will be able to manage their illness. Lifestyle modifications, such as an improved diet and daily physical exercise, can contribute to a balanced, healthy life.
At Gooden Treatment Center, we know to expect positive outcomes for our schizophrenia patients. With hospitalization, including an effective medicine regimen and therapeutic treatment, the success rate for schizophrenia is similar to that of heart disease. As long as the individual continues their treatment once it has started working, they can go on to live meaningful, successful lives.
Schizophrenia is a distressing illness, but at Gooden Treatment Center, we provide our patients with the best possible outcomes. Contact Gooden Treatment Center today to begin your journey towards mental health.
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