Schizophrenia causes abnormalities in perceived reality. This condition usually manifests in the form of hallucinations, delusional thoughts, incomprehensible speech patterns and possible secondary conditions, such as depression or severe anxiety. It involves problems with cognition, behavior and emotions, and having this condition increases suicidal tendencies and social problems. Schizophrenia is often confused with multiple personality disorder, or dissociative identity, but the symptoms and diagnoses of each are separate.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia includes symptoms that are described as positive or negative. Positive symptoms are those that are present in schizophrenic individuals, but not usually in those not affected by the condition. Negative symptoms are defined as qualities that mentally healthy people generally experience, but are lacking in the schizophrenic individual. Following is a brief list of possible symptoms to look for when identifying schizophrenia, including those that are positive, negative and cognitive:
- Hallucinations – these can involve any one of the senses, but typically are either visual or auditory
- Thought disorder – the inability to finish a complete thought, resulting in meaningless words or phrases and disorganization of the thought process
- Delusional behavior – based upon beliefs that are not based in reality, causing misinterpretation of perception or experience and possibly paranoia
- Irrational behavior – rapid mood swings and wild behavior that can range from childlike actions to uncontrollable anger
- Negative symptoms – loss of interest in activities, lack of emotion, social withdrawal and self-neglect
- Cognitive symptoms – problems with memory, concentration and making rational sense of perceived information
Causes of Schizophrenia
There are many situations that may play a part in causing schizophrenia in an individual. Genetics have been said to contribute. People who have a history of schizophrenia in their family tree have an increased susceptibility to the disorder. Health problems or disease during pregnancy or infancy may be a contributing factor as well, especially those illnesses that affect neurodevelopment. Substance abuse has been proven to cause symptoms of schizophrenia, and negative social factors, such as growing up in a dysfunctional family, experiencing racial discrimination, poor housing conditions or neglect may lead to symptoms later in life.
Diagnosis of Schizophrenia
A trained psychologist or psychiatrist will have the tools and knowledge necessary to differentiate between schizophrenia and many of the mental illnesses that closely relate. An evaluation will likely include questions regarding family medical and social history, as well as observance of past and current behaviors. A personal interview with the patient can also reveal symptoms and tendencies of thought. If a patient meets or exceeds certain criteria, a diagnosis of schizophrenia may be made.
Treatment Options for Schizophrenia
Treatment options for schizophrenia are similar to those of other closely-related mental disorders. Success will often be found on a trial and error basis and will depend upon the individual and circumstances. Medication is often prescribed to alleviate one or more underlying symptoms, and therapy or intervention is usually beneficial as well. Following is a list of several treatment options available to those with schizophrenia:
- Conventional medication – anti-psychotic medication is prescribed to alleviate the positive symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusional thinking. Some patients do not respond well to this type of medication. If this is the case, other types of prescription drugs may be recommended.
- Therapy – many types of therapy are available, including psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, family and group therapy. The aim of any type of support is to assist the patient in regaining some control over distracting and harmful thoughts, and to learn and develop new behaviors that are more positively beneficial.
- Alternative medicine – patients experiencing schizophrenia may benefit from any one or more of the alternative options available today. Groups offering meditation practice or relaxation techniques may help to provide whole-body wellness, including stability of the mind.