Although it is one of the rarest mental health conditions in the country, schizophrenia still affects millions of Americans every year. This debilitating disorder can lead to paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, and other symptoms.
To ensure that an individual with schizophrenia gets the proper treatment, it’s crucial to learn more about this condition, what it is, what it looks like, and how to manage it.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition that causes people to have a hard time staying grounded in reality or thinking clearly. Individuals with this condition tend to experience auditory hallucinations, delusions, psychosis, and other effects.
While it affects less than 1% of the population in the United States, schizophrenia is a severe neurological brain disorder.
The word schizophrenia originates from the Greek term “schizo”, which means split, and “phrene”, which means mind. There is a common misconception that people who are schizophrenic have a split personality, but it is more specifically a condition that causes fragmented thinking.
Men, women, and teenagers can be impacted by schizophrenia, though most people will be diagnosed during their 20s and early 30s. This is due to the fact that many of the most common symptoms are also related to standard teenage behavior and emotions.
Although every form of schizophrenia has significant side effects, some types are more serious than others. Knowing and understanding the differences will help family members and friends support their loved ones who are coping with these conditions.
The five main types of schizophrenia are:
- Paranoid Schizophrenia: As the most common schizophrenia subtype, this form shows up when a person is either a teenager or young adult. It has similar characteristics to psychosis, which leads them to feel like someone is trying to hurt them or other delusional thoughts.
- Schizoaffective Disorder: When someone who is schizophrenic is also dealing with bipolar disorder or depression, they are considered schizoaffective. This often enhances their symptoms, leading to more intense depressive emotions and mania.
- Catatonic Schizophrenia: Individuals diagnosed with this type of schizophrenia are often thought to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They will typically have a hard time making sense of things, get angry for no reason, or be unresponsive to their surroundings.
- Disorganized Schizophrenia: Also known as “hebephrenia”, this is generally seen when people are disoriented and have trouble thinking or speaking clearly. They’ll also have disorganized behavior, problems with their memory, and an inability to focus.
- Residual Schizophrenia: Although it is the mildest subtype, residual schizophrenia will still have strange or slurred speech. They will have has trouble expressing emotions. This type of schizophrenia is often associated with a transition into either remission or a more acute phase of the disorder.
The symptoms and signs of schizophrenia vary based on the type of disorder they have. In many cases, the results will be the same but will differ in intensity and severity.
The most common symptoms of schizophrenia include:
- Paranoia that someone is out to hurt them
- Speaking in jumbled or slurred speech
- Feeling disconnected from their surroundings
- Hearing voices in their head
- Visual hallucinations
- Standing or sitting in unnatural and uncomfortable positions
- Delusions that print and other media contain hidden messages
While the exact causes of schizophrenia are unclear, professionals have found some key factors that could lead to these serious mental health conditions.
The potential causes of schizophrenia include:
- Genetics: One of the most common reasons someone may become schizophrenic is if a member of their family suffers from the condition as well.
- Childhood trauma: Schizophrenia is sometimes the body’s natural coping mechanism to trauma that occurred as a child.
- Drug use: Certain drugs like cocaine, LSD, amphetamines, and cannabis have been connected to individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia.
- Structural or chemical brain changes: Both physical brain damage and chemical brain damage could potentially lead someone to show signs of schizophrenia disorders.
- Pregnancy or childbirth: A pregnancy or birth that has complications could lead to schizophrenia in either the mother or the child.
As a severe mental health condition that requires lifelong treatment, schizophrenia treatment takes diligence, time, and patience.
In most instances, the use of medications and psychotherapy is required to manage the symptoms of schizophrenia and limit its effects. On occasion, individuals will require either inpatient or outpatient hospitalization for additional care and support.
The most common types of medications associated with schizophrenia include second-generation antipsychotics, first-generation antipsychotics, and long-acting injectable antipsychotics.
As another term for therapy, psychosocial interventions include a variety of treatment processes. The first step is individual therapy to manage thought patterns and prevent relapses. Then, the individual can also go through social skills therapy and family therapy to help their loved ones learn the most effective ways to provide support.
Most individuals with schizophrenia require some form of assistance on a day-to-day basis.
The main purpose of hospitalization for schizophrenia is to ensure the person is getting enough sleep and is getting proper nutrition. Whether it’s an inpatient or outpatient program, staff will assist with helping them eat and even help with their basic hygiene needs.
Some hospitals offer therapy as part of their programs as well to create a more comprehensive treatment plan.
When an adult who is managing schizophrenia doesn’t respond to medications or psychosocial therapy, many turn to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as an option. It can assist with depression and some of the other effects that come with being schizophrenic.
The best ways a friend or family member can help their loved one with schizophrenia are to educate themselves, set detailed goals, seek social services, manage stress, and join local support groups.
People who have schizophrenia are able to manage their symptoms and live normal lives through proper care and treatment.