What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a long lasting and severe mental illness which affects the normal functioning of the brain. People with schizophrenia cannot differentiate between reality and imaginary. The way a person thinks, acts and expresses emotions is distorted leading to problems at workplace and relationships.
The link between altered brain function and schizophrenia has been tried to be explained through two particular neurotransmitter pathways in the brain, namely dopamine and glutamate.
There is a wide diversity in the clinical manifestations of schizophrenia. It ranges from the psychotic [positive symptoms] which include delusions [false beliefs], hallucinations [imagining things] especially hearing voices.
The absence of certain normal behaviors in schizophrenics is termed negative symptoms. These include lack of emotion, no desire to form relationships, experience pleasure or interest in life.
Schizophrenic individuals are often associated with other mental health issues like anxiety disorders, major depressive illness or substance use disorders.
Facts about Schizophrenia
- Schizophrenia is a serious and chronic brain disorder. It has its origins in the word schiz (split or division) and phrenic (relating to the mind). It is characterized by psychotic behavior and disorganized patterns of thought and speech.
- There are abnormal levels of brainchemicals or neurotransmitters like dopamine glutamate and serotonin in schizophrenics.
- The exact cause of schizophrenia is still unclear. However studies indicate that genetics, alterations in brain chemicals, viral infections, and use of mind-altering drugs such as marijuana, Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) are likely causes.
- Mind altering drugs such as marijuana and LSD increase the risk of schizophrenia by 6 times.
- Schizophrenia affects about 1 in every 100 people. The ratio of men to women diagnosed with schizophrenia is 1.4 to 1.
- Schizophrenia ranks among the top 10 causes of disability in developed countries worldwide. It accounts for a fourth of all mental health costs and takes up one in three psychiatric hospital beds.
- It is considered the most chronic and costly mental illness. According to National Health Service (NHS) about 80 million working days are lost each year at a cost of £3.7 billion; around £1 billion is spent on treatment and another £400 million on social services.
- Schizophrenia is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 16 to 25. It is uncommon for schizophrenia to be diagnosed in a person younger than 12 or older than 40.
- People with schizophrenia are 2 to 2.5 times more likely to die early than the general population.
- Suicide is the number 1 cause of premature death among people with schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia have a 50 times higher risk of attempting suicide than the general population.
- There are five subtypes of schizophrenia. 1) Paranoid 2) Disorganized 3) Catatonic 4) Undifferentiated 5) Residual.
- Catatonic schizophrenia is a severe type of schizophrenia and varies from catatonic stupor (remaining immobile) to catatonic excitement (drastically increased movement).
- Psychosis is one of the defining criteria for schizophrenia. The symptoms include psychotic symptoms of delusions and hallucinations. The most common hallucination in schizophrenia is hearing voices. Paranoid delusions cause persons to have delusions of grandeur, having special power or authority. They are unduly suspicious of other people.
- Subtle symptoms which are often overlooked (also called negative symptoms) include social withdrawal, lack of interest, disorganized speech, moving from one topic to another, inability to remember things or process information and make decisions.
- Severe depression is commonly found in patients and family members.
- The diagnosis of schizophrenia is made from clinical examination, history and presence of symptoms for at least 6 months. Brain imaging studies (CT, MRI, and PET) may show reduced gray matter and help to rule out other diseases.
- Antipsychotic medications as Cariprazine, Amisulpride, Asenapine, Haloperidol, and Chlorpromazine are effective in reducing symptoms but they do not treat or cure underlying psychotic illnesses. There is no cure at present for schizophrenia.
- Aerobic exercise has been proven to improve cognitive functions in patients.
- Deep brain stimulation [DBS] and Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) methods are used for severe psychiatric illnesses which have proven resistant to other forms of treatment.
- Stigma, discrimination and violation of human rights of people with schizophrenia are very high. This can limit their access to general health care, education, housing and employment.
- Regular behavioral therapy of patient as well as family members is critical to limit severity and assess improvement in order to amalgamate people suffering from schizophrenia into mainstream.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - (http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/)
- About Schizophrenia - (https://www.rethink.org/diagnosis- treatment/conditions/schizophrenia)
- Schizophrenia - Schizophrenia - (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml)
- 11 Facts About Schizophrenia - (https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-schizophrenia)
- Know About Schizophrenia - (https://report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/ViewFactSheet.aspx?csid=67)
- Treatment Resistant Schizophrenia: New Guidelines on Diagnosis and Terminology - (http://www.schizophreniaforum.org/)
- Learn About Schizophrenia - (http://www.sardaa.org/resources/about-schizophrenia/)
- Schizophrenia - (https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Schizophrenia#sthash.nw5OU1LR.dpuf)