Schizophrenia

Facts
  • Schizophrenia is a mental illness (disease of the brain) affecting more than 2 million Americans every year.
  • Schizophrenia is wide-spread and can be found all over the world. It knows no boundaries of race, background, economic status, or nationality.
  • About 1 percent of the population will develop schizophrenia during their lifetime.
  • Schizophrenia is typically chronic (life-long) and the symptoms can be terrifying for the victim.
  • Schizophrenia is NOT “Split-Personality Disorder.” This is a common misconception.
  • There is no known cause of schizophrenia, however it is known that the illness commonly runs in families and genetics and DNA are contributing factors.
  • The onset of symptoms of schizophrenia typically occurs earlier in males, usually in their late teens to early twenties. In women, the affects of schizophrenia usually occur later, in their twenties to early thirties. Children over the age of five can develop schizophrenia, but it is a rare occurrence before adolescence.

 

Symptoms & Diagnosis

The first signs of schizophrenia are often characterized by shocking changes in behavior and mood. Lesser degrees of the symptoms may include social isolation, hostility, and unusual speech. The most obvious signs of the occurrence of schizophrenic episodes are that the individual experiences delusions and/or hallucinations- such as believing that others can read his or her thoughts.

Hallucinations can be auditory, sensory, visual, olfactory and tactile. Paranoia is another symptom of schizophrenia. Schizophrenics often confess that they feel everyone is “out to get them” or they might claim that grand conspiracies are being plotted against them. Basically, a victim of schizophrenia loses the ability to separate reality from the fantasy world their illness has fabricated.
Before diagnosing an individual with schizophrenia it is important to rule out other medical conditions that might be contributing to their erratic behavior. Drug and alcohol abuse can also cause symptoms similar to those one would experience during a schizophrenic episode. It is necessary for a trained psychiatrist to make the final diagnosis of schizophrenia as there are many factors that might contribute to other medical or psychiatric disorders.

 

Treatment

While there is no “cure” for schizophrenia, there are numerous treatments that have been proven to be beneficial. Medications, such as antipsychotic drugs, are often prescribed to stabilize an individual with schizophrenia. Many people cringe at the idea of antipsychotics and mistakenly assume that they are “mind-control” drugs. In reality, these medications enable schizophrenic patients to get a grip on their minds and, in essence, to regain control of their sanity. In individuals with lesser symptoms of the illness, psychosocial treatments have been proven to be extremely beneficial in enabling patients with the social skills crucial to living healthy and independent lives. It is ultimately up to a trained physician knowledgeable in the field of mental disorders to suggest the best possible treatment. Schizophrenics are people, with individual symptoms and dispositions. Each patient’s personality is specific and should be treated accordingly.

NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) Fourth Edition, The American Psychiatric Association, Washington D.C. Copyright 2000
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