Schizophrenia: The Misunderstood Disorder

Schizophrenia: The Misunderstood Disorder

Schizophrenia is arguably one of the most misunderstood mental health disorders and is often confused with other mental health conditions. Individuals often struggle with schizophrenia or other mental illnesses that require care but do not receive it due to surrounding stigmas. Such biased beliefs prevent society from accepting schizophrenia for what it is – a disease that is manageable with appropriate treatments or medications.

Schizophrenia is a severe mental health disorder that impacts how individuals think, feel, and behave. Those who struggle with the disease seem to have lost touch with what is true in the world, resulting in frustration and concern for themselves and their loved ones. The symptoms that accompany schizophrenia create difficulty in participating in normal daily activities. However, with help through treatment and medication, they can attend school and work, accomplish independence, and build interpersonal relationships.

The Onset of Schizophrenia

Individuals with schizophrenia are typically diagnosed between the ages of 16 and 30 following the initial occurrence of psychosis. Schizophrenia is characterized and analyzed based on an array of symptoms. Schizophrenia only affects approximately 1% of the population — around 50 million individuals – making it difficult to understand entirely. Furthermore, it can be challenging to diagnose schizophrenia before the first episode of psychosis because the changes in thinking and mood are gradual.

The particular cause of schizophrenia is unknown, but research implies various factors may contribute to the risk of developing the illness, including:

  • Genetics: Though not always the case, schizophrenia sometimes runs in families, implying that different genes increase the risk of schizophrenia. There is no specific gene that causes the disorder, and it is not yet viable to use genetic material to determine who will develop the illness.
  • Environment: The connection between an individual’s genes and the characteristics of their habitat also appear necessary for schizophrenia to advance. Environmental aspects could include contact with viruses, malnourishment before birth, and medical complications during delivery.
  • Brain chemistry and structure: An imbalance in the brain's complex and interconnected chemical reactions concerning substances like dopamine and glutamate can impact the risk of developing schizophrenia.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia symptoms include three main categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.

Positive Symptoms

Positive symptoms involve changes in how a person thinks, acts, and behaves and include:

  • Hallucinations: This includes seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or feeling things not there. Hearing voices is common for individuals with schizophrenia.
  • Delusions: Having strong beliefs that are irrational and untrue.
  • Thought disorder: Thinking in an unusual or illogical way, trouble organizing thoughts and speech, jumping from various topics when communicating, or creating words that have no meaning.
  • Movement disorder: Exhibiting abnormal body movements.

Negative Symptoms

Negative symptoms consist of loss of interest or pleasure in daily life, decreased motivation, isolation from society, and difficulty expressing emotions, which could look like:

  • Problems anticipating and feeling joy in everyday life
  • Trouble planning and committing to activities, such as grocery shopping
  • Avoiding social interaction or withdrawing from loved ones
  • Talking in a monotone voice and displaying limited facial expression

Cognitive Symptoms

Cognitive symptoms involve problems paying attention, concentrating, and retaining information. These symptoms can make it challenging to follow a conversation and learn new things. An individual’s level of cognitive functioning is a good predictor of how they function each day. Cognitive symptoms include:

  • Having difficulty using information directly after learning
  • Having trouble processing information to make choices
  • Having difficulty staying focused

How Schizophrenia Is Treated

Treatment for schizophrenia is customarily life-long and includes a combination of medications and therapy to help manage the symptoms and enhance the quality of life. Treatments include:

Medications

Upon the initial treatment for acute psychosis, second-generation antipsychotics (SGA) such as aripiprazole, olanzapine, or risperidone are proven effective in treating acute psychosis and reducing the risks of psychotic episodes in the future. Once the acute phase is manageable, switching to a first-generation antipsychotic is recommended to increase medication compliance and improve outcomes.

Therapy

Even with successful medicinal treatment, many people with schizophrenia still struggle with thought processes, relationships, communication, motivation, and daily living. In such circumstances, psychotherapies can be essential. Many beneficial therapies have been proven successful in treating schizophrenia, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), art therapy, and drama therapy. These therapies counteract negative symptoms, improve insight, and help with relapse prevention. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has also been used but is limited.

Seeking Help for Schizophrenia

It can feel overwhelming when searching for help with mental health disorders. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator to help find mental health services in your area. In addition, you can find helpful information about treatment facilities that provide specialty care by using SAMHSA’s Early Serious Mental Illness Treatment Locator.

There should be no shame in seeking help for those suffering from mental health disorders. Schizophrenia is one of the most misunderstood mental health illnesses. If you or a loved one are ready to begin your journey to an improved mental mindset, we want to help. Crownview Co-Occurring Institute in Oceanside, CA, offers psychiatric treatment for various levels of mental health disorders. Our individualized approach guarantees that each client receives quality care with successful results. At CCI, we provide treatment plans to meet the physical and emotional needs for recovery. We will support you from crisis to independence by providing a healing environment with a caring team of professionals ready to help you gain control of your life again. Let CCI help you with evidence-based treatment services for a successful long-term recovery. Call (760) 477-4754 today to learn about our effective treatment programs.