A Comprehensive Look At Schizophrenia

Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC

Published 12/09/2020

Many people all over the world live with a mental illness, but despite these obstacles in their paths, they are still living their best lives. Those with depression, anxiety disorders, and others are not only making their lives better but are encouraging others to push past their obstacles as well. One such example of these everyday warriors pushing through their diagnoses are people living with schizophrenia, a serious disorder that can negatively affect one’s mental and physical processes.

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Before anything else, it is important to establish that schizophrenia is not a form of multiple personality disorder. The two are not related, and each has its own parameters regarding which person fits into which disorder. Another important point is that schizophrenic people are not dangerous. They are humans trying to express their emotions, no matter how difficult it is for them. With these notes out of the way, please read on the comprehensive look at schizophrenia.

The Schizophrenia Definition

As stated before, schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how people think, interact with others, and how they control their emotions. Those with schizophrenia may have difficulty discerning reality from illusion, be withdrawn from other people and their surroundings, and have a hard time expressing themselves.

When Is Schizophrenia Diagnosed in Patients?

Schizophrenia affects a significant amount of the population, with the National Alliance on Mental Health Illness reporting that about one percent of American adults are affected by the disorder. Out of these adults, people are diagnosed with schizophrenia anywhere from late teens to early 20s for men. Regarding women, their diagnosis comes later than men, which is from their early 20s to early 30s.

Can Children Have Schizophrenia?

Typically, schizophrenia is not seen in children ages 12 and under and those who are 40 years and older. However, cognitive impairment and unusual behavior sometimes appear in childhood. For example, a child may experience the very beginnings of hallucinations, like a noise, that later develop into more complex hallucinations. If these symptoms persist during and after childhood, this is an indicator that the individual may have schizophrenia.

This pattern of cognitive issues early in childhood reflects schizophrenia as being a developmental disorder. Many experts hope to use this information in spotting signs of schizophrenia as early as possible. But in the meantime, there are a few early warning signs to keep in mind.

Early Warning Signs

If an individual has schizophrenia, then there are a few early warning signs that can indicate if the unofficial diagnosis bears fruit. Of course, these signs may not indicate that a person has schizophrenia; but if these signs are constantly repeating over a long period of time, then there may be probable cause for schizophrenia. These symptoms may develop slowly over the years, appear without warning, or come in cycles.

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    • Believing that something is real when others cannot see it
    • Unusual body positioning
    • Decrease in academic performance
    • Shift in personality
    • Isolation from friends, social gatherings, etc.
    • Inconsistent sleeping pattern
    • Increasing levels of irritation

    Beyond these early warning signs, there are more subtle changes that will precede the actual diagnosis. Furthermore, teens who are diagnosed with schizophrenia are considered in the prodromal period. Actual diagnosis occurs when there is a repetition with either these early signs or the various symptoms of schizophrenia. For all guidance regarding receiving a diagnosis, please consult a licensed psychiatrist.

    Schizophrenia Symptoms

    There are three different types of symptoms for schizophrenia. They are cognitive, negative, and positive symptoms of schizophrenia. When medical experts diagnose schizophrenia, one or more of these symptoms must be present for at least six months.

    1. Positive – Disturbances that are ‘added’ to a person’s outlook on the world.
      1. Hallucinations
        1. When people with schizophrenia see hallucinations, they are seeing, feeling, touching, hearing, or smelling something that does not exist in reality. This hallucination feels very real to the person experiencing them, and the voices they hear can produce a harmful effect. While this is the symptom most commonly associated with schizophrenia, it is important to note that one does not need to experience hallucinations to have schizophrenia.
      2. Delusions
        1. These are false ideas that people with schizophrenia believe to be true despite not having concrete evidence of its existence. For example, a person may think that a religious fanatic is targeting them, but there is no correlation between them and the person.
      3. Thought Disorder
        1. This includes bizarre thinking and unorganized speech. There is no sense of logic to the person’s way of speaking or how they construct their thoughts into verbal communication.

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  1. Negative – Capabilities ‘removed’ from a person
    1. Lack of motivation in being with friends or loved ones
    2. Difficulty in focusing on specific tasks
    3. Emotional flatness
    4. Reduced feelings of joy in everyday life
  2. Cognitive – Symptoms that are ‘not seen’ by third parties
    1. Problems in attention, concentration, and memory
      1. People may lose focus or interest in something they are doing or have poor decision-making skills
    2. Difficulties using the information after learning about it
    3. Lack of insight about their symptoms
      1. People with schizophrenia may have anosognosia, which means that they themselves do not acknowledge their symptoms for schizophrenia.

An easy way to tell if you are experiencing any of these symptoms is taking a quick test. If you are interested, click on the following link and, with our services, get results as soon as today: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/schizophrenia-test.

The Former Five Types of Schizophrenia

There used to be five distinct types of schizophrenia doctors would use to diagnose patients, but as of 2013, each type is no longer in use. However, medical experts today use those types as a means of seeing if a patient has symptoms of schizophrenia. Here is a brief run-down of each type of schizophrenia type.

  1. Paranoid Schizophrenia
    1. Once known as the most common form of schizophrenia, paranoid schizophrenia is used for patients who see hallucinations or believe in delusions. They also sometimes may have difficulty in speaking, thinking, and organizing their thoughts in a coherent way.
  2. Hebephrenic/Disorganized Schizophrenia
    1. Although it has been removed from the DSM-5, this variation of schizophrenia categorizes individuals who don’t have hallucinations but have difficulty speaking. They may speak in a flat tone, lack empathy, and struggle with daily activities.
  3. Undifferentiated Schizophrenia
    1. Medical experts declared individuals as this type of schizophrenia if they were exhibiting symptoms from multiple types of the disorder. It is now used to alert clinicians that a patient has multiple symptoms of schizophrenia.
  4. Residual Schizophrenia
    1. This describes patients who had schizophrenia in the past but are experiencing certain symptoms of the disorder to a lesser degree. The symptoms are typically from the negative symptom category.
  5. Catatonic Schizophrenia
    1. Catatonic schizophrenia stands apart from the other categories as it specifically describes patients with a variety of cognitive conditions. These include mimicking behavior and not speaking.

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While these types are no longer used in any official capacity, medical experts still use them in defining a patient’s symptoms for schizophrenia. In combination with understanding each of the five types, knowing the risk factors of schizophrenia can help in learning how to best treat the disorder.

Schizophrenia Causes 

Much research has been done regarding what causes schizophrenia. The following are a few risk factors that lead to schizophrenia.

  • Hereditary
  • Environment
    • There stands a chance that a complex interaction between genetics and the environment increases one’s chance of getting schizophrenia. These factors include getting a virus before birth during the first or second trimester, stressful environments, and living in an impoverished household.
  • Structure of The Brain
    • Scientists have discovered that people with schizophrenia have differences in the way different parts of their brain work together and how interactions among neurotransmitters can contribute to the development of schizophrenia as well.
    • These differences may see people develop schizophrenia before birth. This development can also occur during puberty as well, leading to the birth of psychotic episodes in individuals whose brain structure is weakened due to genetic or environmental factors.

Unfortunately, these risk factors are out of the patient’s control. However, people with schizophrenia can try various treatment options to better live with their diagnosis.

Treatment Options

There is no cure for schizophrenia, but there are ways to combat the illness. According to the American Psychological Association, about a quarter of people who get treatment for schizophrenia get better within two years. It is a long road to recovery, but the end result is most certainly worth it. For all guidance regarding treatment options, please consult a licensed medical professional.

  • Medication
    • These drugs cannot cure schizophrenia, but they can diminish the effects of their symptoms. There are side effects, such as physical agitation, and long-term effects, including permanent neurological damage. For all guidance regarding medication, please consult a licensed medical professional.
  • Psychosocial Support
    • Psychotherapy is an incredibly beneficial area of science that can help people function normally in social situations despite the limitations brought on them by schizophrenia. Those with schizophrenia may also get help in looking for specific job vocations as well.
  • Support from Family and Educational Programs
    • Lastly, there are educational programs for family members and those affected with schizophrenia that can assist persons with the illness. In learning more about the illness, people can become less distressed about their situation.
    • Nonprofits like Students with Psychosis and public figures like Cecilia McGough offer support groups, blogs, and forums where people suffering from psychosis and schizophrenia can reach out to others similar to themselves.

Conclusion

There is much to learn about schizophrenia, but the important takeaway is that it is a manageable disorder. By learning more about schizophrenia and understanding the various treatment options, one can live with the ailment and even learn how to be a role model and leader for others.