Schizophrenia is a serious yet commonly misunderstood psychological disorder. Popular culture often confuses it with Dissociative Identity Disorder, in which people possess multiple personalities. In reality, schizophrenia is characterized by a severe disruption in thinking, social interactions, emotions, and perceptions. Although it affects less than one percent of the population it severely hampers daily functioning and is one of the top 15 sources of disability in the world.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a chronic disorder. Onset of the disease usually occurs in late adolescence or early adulthood. Symptoms must be recognized for at least 6 months for a diagnosis. The following are symptoms of schizophrenia:
When most people talk about behaviors associated with schizophrenia, hallucinations are often at the top of the list. Hallucinations are essentially experiencing sensory stimuli that don’t exist. For example, seeing or hearing something that is not there.
Delusions are characterized by a belief in something that is not true. For instance, a delusion of grandeur is believing you are the King of England. A paranoid delusion may entail the belief that someone is following you when there is no evidence to support it.
In short, disorganized speech is when someone talks in such a way that it is hard to understand. The person may go off on tangents for no reason or speak in an incoherent way.
Disorganized or Catatonic Behavior
This refers to behavior that is not appropriate for the situation. It may include severe agitation and bizarre movements. Catatonic behavior is the complete absence of movement.
As the name suggests, these are symptoms characterized by a deficit in functioning. They refer to the inability to express emotion, a poverty of speech, and the inability to begin and persist in goal-directed activities.
There is no cure for schizophrenia but its symptoms can be managed. People suffering from schizophrenia can live happy and productive lives when receiving proper treatment and support.
Medication can help reduce many symptoms of schizophrenia and is largely considered a front-line treatment . Atypical antipsychotics, also known as 2nd generation antipsychotics, are recommended instead of first-generation antipsychotics due to their less severe side-effects. Examples of atypical antipsychotic medications are Zyprexa and Seroquel.
Psychotherapy is recommended in conjunction with medication. Individual cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help with education, basic life-skills, meeting responsibilities, and addressing maladaptive beliefs. Family therapy can help the family deal with the stressors and management of schizophrenia symptoms. One of the most important aspects of psychotherapy is helping the client with adherence to prescribed medication.
Support is a vital component in dealing effectively with schizophrenia. It is a debilitating disease and people often need help to cope effectively. It can take a toll on families as well. Support groups are available for individuals and their families.
Where Can I Find Help?
People with schizophrenia need assistance. It is important to seek help as soon as you recognize that you or a loved one may be in need. The following organizations offer various resources to aid people in dealing with the disorder:
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers information, discussion boards, and other resources to help cope with schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia Alliance (SA) is a self-help group for persons who have schizophrenia or a schizophrenia-related illness. It also offers links to numerous resources.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has a variety of educational resources for those suffering from schizophrenia. They also operate clinical trials instituting cutting edge treatment.