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SCHIZOPHRENIA: Definition, Symptoms, Cause, Diagnosis & Treatment

SCHIZOPHRENIA: Definition, Symptoms, Cause, Diagnosis & Treatment

This is one of the most serious and frightening of all mental illnesses, no other disorder arouses as much as anxiety. Effective treatments are available, yet patients and their families often find it hard to access good care in the world at large, this is often due to poor service provision and sometimes it is due to poor misinformation about the illness.

In this article, the causes and presentation of schizophrenia will be clarified; also the types of the illness will be discussed.

Schizophrenia is derived from the early observation that the illness is typified by the disconnection or splitting of psychic functions. However, this has led to the misconception that the illness is characterized by a split personality which is not.

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Schizophrenia is derived from the Greek “Schizo” (Splitting) and (Phren) “Mind” with a term first established by Eugen Bleuer in 1908, schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and disturbances and in thought, perception and behavior.

Schizophrenia has been divided into two categorical symptoms such as positive symptoms and negative symptoms.

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Positive symptoms of schizophrenia include lack of insight, it is a failure to appreciate that symptoms are not real or caused by the illness.

Hallucination is a perception without a stimulus and it occurs in any sense, for example, touch, smell, taste, or vision but auditory hallucinations are the most common (usually hearing of voices).

Delusions, a fixedly held false belief that is not shared by others from the patient’s community, delusions often develop along with personal themes. For example persecution, the patient thinks they are victims of some form of threat or are central to a conspiracy.

In passivity, the patients think that their thoughts or actions are being controlled by an external force or person (Spiritual schizophrenia) other delusions can develop along any theme, for instance grandiose, sexual, or religious.

Thought Disorder: This involved illogical speech by the patients and also a failure to use language coherently.

Negative symptoms of schizophrenia in patients include; social withdrawal, self-neglect, loss of motivation and initiative, emotional blunting, and irregular or abnormal speech.

Schizophrenia patients typically hear voices (auditory hallucinations) that often criticize or abuse them. The voices may speak directly to the patient, comment on the patient’s action, or discuss the patients among themselves.

Many Schizophrenia patients also have thought disorders and negative symptoms. While negative symptoms may be less troubling, they can be very distressing to relatives.

Psychiatrists often classify Schizophrenia into subjects according to the balance of symptoms that a patient manifests. Though Schizophrenia isn’t as common as other major illnesses, it can be the most chronic and disabling which makes the patients feel frightened, withdrawn and could appear to have lost sense of touch with reality. This lifelong disease can’t be cured but can be controlled with proper treatment.

Who Is Affected By Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia typically appears or manifests in early adulthood or late adolescence, men have an earlier age of onset than women and also tend to experience a more serious form of the illness with more negative symptoms.

It affects people all over the world, from races and cultures and it can happen to anyone at any age, the earlier the symptoms start, the more severe the illness tends to be. Children over the age of 5 can have Schizophrenia, but it’s rare before adolescence (Age of puberty).

Causes of Schizophrenia

The exact cause of Schizophrenia is unknown but research suggests a combination of physical, genetic, psychological, and environmental factors can make a person more likely to develop the condition. Some people may be prone to Schizophrenia and stressful or emotional life events might trigger a psychotic episode.

  • Genetic Factors

Schizophrenia tends to run in families, but no single gene is thought or known to be responsible. It is more likely that different combinations of genes make people more vulnerable to the condition.

  • Brain Development

Schizophrenia patients show that there are subtle differences in the structure of their brains. These changes are not seen in everyone with Schizophrenia and can occur in people who do not have a mental illness but Schizophrenia patients are known to have a partly disorder in the brain.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry messages between brain cells; there is a connection between neurotransmitters and Schizophrenia because drugs that alter the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain are known to relieve some of the symptoms of Schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia may be caused by a change in the level of two neurotransmitters, Dopamine and Serotonin, an imbalance between the two (Dopamine and Serotonin) may be the basis of the problem.

  • Pregnancy and Birth Complications

Those who develop Schizophrenia are more likely to experience complications before and during childbirth, it can lead to issues such as low birth weight, premature labor, and lack of Oxygen (Asphyxia) during childbirth. Such things have a subtle effect on brain development.

Triggers of Schizophrenia

These are things that can cause Schizophrenia to develop in people who are at risk and they include; Stress, which is the main psychological triggers of Schizophrenia and also Loss of loved ones (Bereaved individuals) loss of job or asset, divorce, End of relationship, physical abuse, sexual or emotional abuse and these can trigger Schizophrenia development in someone already vulnerable to it.

Triggers of Schizophrenia
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The misuse of the drugs can trigger Schizophrenia or a similar illness, certain drugs particularly Cannabis (Marijuana, weed, dope or grass, cocaine, LSD, or amphetamines, causes symptoms of Schizophrenia in susceptible people.

The use of amphetamines or cocaine can lead to psychosis and can cause a relapse in people recovering from the early stage. Teenagers and young adults who use cannabis regularly are more likely to develop Schizophrenia in later adulthood.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

The symptoms might develop slowly, the first sign can be hard to identify as they often develop during teenage years. Symptoms such as becoming socially withdrawn and unresponsive or changes in sleeping patterns can be mistaken for an adolescent phase.

  • Positive And Negative Symptoms

Patients who suffer from Schizophrenia can develop changes in behavior or thoughts such as hallucinations or delusions. However, when people appear to withdraw from the world around them, Schizophrenia patients get away from everyday social interactions and often appear emotionless and flat.

In some people, Schizophrenia appears suddenly and without warning but for most people, it comes on slowly with subtle warnings, signs, and a gradual decline in functioning and long before the first severe episode.

In the early stage of Schizophrenia, you may seem eccentric, unmotivated, emotionless, and reclusive to others, the patient might begin to neglect the physical appearance and abandon hobbies and activities, and performance at work or school can deteriorate.

A delusion is a firmly held idea that a person has despite obvious evidence that it isn’t true. Delusions are extremely common in Schizophrenia occurring in more than 90% of those who have the disorder. Often these delusions involve illogical or bizarre ideas or fantasies such as;

  • Delusions of Persecution; Schizophrenia patient thinks they are been harassed or an evil plot is being planned for them.

 

  • Delusions of Preference; A neutral environmental event is believed to have a special and personal meaning, for example, a Schizophrenia patient might believe a billboard or a person on TV sending a message meant specifically for them.

 

  • Disorganized Speech; Schizophrenia can cause you to have trouble concentrating and maintaining your train of thought, which may manifest itself in the way that they speak, responding to the queries with an unrelated answer, starting sentences with one topic, and ending somewhere completely different. Speak incoherently or say illogical things, meaningless use of rhyming words “I said’ the bread and read the shed and fed Ned at the head.’’ The so-called negative symptoms of Schizophrenia refer to the absence of normal behaviors found in healthy individuals such as lack of emotional expression, lack of eye contact when communicating with another inability to carry a conversation.

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Diagnosis of Schizophrenia

If symptoms are present, doctors will perform a complete medical history and physical examination. Although there is no laboratory test to specifically diagnose Schizophrenia, the doctors might use various diagnostic tests such as;

  1. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). This machine is a tube-like machine that uses a magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer to convert signals from the body into images of the body’s organs and structures and it is a painless test.
  2. CT scanner ( Computer Tomography Scanner) which is a useful diagnostic tool for detecting diseases and injuries, uses a series of x-ray and a computer to detect or produce 30 images of soft tissues or bones, It is also a painless test.
  3. Blood Test: If the doctors find no physical reason for the symptoms, he or they might refer the patient to a psychiatrist or psychologist, healthcare professionals who are specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses.
Diagnosis of Schizophrenia
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Psychiatrists and psychologists use specially designed interviews and assessment tools to evaluate a person for Schizophrenia. The doctor or therapist bases his or her observation of the person’s attitude or behavior, then the symptoms of the person still point to a specific disorder as outlined in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM – 5) which is published by the American psychiatric association and is the standard reference book for recognized mental illness.

According to the DSM -5, a diagnosis of Schizophrenia is made if a person has two or more core symptoms, which must be hallucination, delusions, or disorganized speech for at least one month. The other core symptoms are gross disorganization and diminished emotional expression.

Other DSM -5 criteria for a diagnosis of Schizophrenia include the level of work, interpersonal relations, or self-care is important, signs of disturbance that have lasted at least 6 months.

Treatment and Management of Schizophrenia

Although, there is no known cure for Schizophrenia, there are several treatments that can help the person live his or her life independently. Schizophrenia is a chronic disorder and needs management just like other illnesses. The goal of treatment is not only to control symptoms but also to ensure that the person can lead a functional life. Predicting when exactly when a patient will return to a level of function that is just below normal and able to cope is not known.

However, The major key is early diagnosis, and the earlier it is identified and gets a diagnosis the more scrupulously you follow the treatment; the greater are the chances of a good outcome. Sticking to the treatment plan is the key to recovery.

Several antipsychotic drugs are currently on the market, none have been a sure-fire solution to fighting and distortion in thoughts, hallucination, and feelings of fright and paranoia associated with Schizophrenia.

About 30 percent of those who take medication may experience a relapse according to the treatment advocacy center, however, the US food and drug administration (FDA) approved a new drug Calypta (Lumateperone) which will give people living with Schizophrenia a new approach to treatment.

Calyptra works through a unique targeting of serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate neurotransmitters in the brain. There are also complications associated with other anti-psychotics medications, they might experience drowsiness, low energy, involuntary movements, weight gain but intake of calyptra drugs has minimal or fewer side effects.

Home care a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise, rest, and nutrition may help you to control the symptoms of Schizophrenia, alternative treatment involves talk therapy with a mental health professional, intake of some vitamins (Vit B12, B6, and folic acid supplements) is good for the brain and fish oil supplements. These nutrients are taken to reduce inflammations that may play a role in Schizophrenia patients.

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