Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health disorder or mental illness. According to the World Health Organization or WHO, about 20 million people live with schizophrenia. Researchers sometimes look at gender to note any differences when studying mental health disorders. This could mean a difference in the prevalence of a mental health disorder, disparities in the age of onset of the disorder, or something else. In this article, we will talk about women with schizophrenia and schizophrenia symptoms in females.
What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health disorder diagnosed under the category of Schizophrenia Spectrum And Other Psychotic Disorders in the most recent version of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM), which is the DSM-5. Schizophrenia itself is characterized by distorted thinking, hallucinations, and delusions. It's also often marked by distortions in one's feelings, perceptions, behaviors, language, and sense of self. Hallucinations may present in the form of seeing things that aren't there, hearing voices, delusions that are false yet fixed and firmly held. An example of a delusion might be believing firmly that people are out to get you when there is no evidence to support this, and in fact, there may even be evidence to support the contrary. Part of why it can be so difficult for many people with schizophrenia to reach out for treatment, especially initially, is that these delusions feel very real to the person living with them. Typically, a diagnosis of schizophrenia occurs after a person's first experience with an episode of psychosis. Leading up to that first episode, changes in one's mood, social functioning, or thoughts typically occur. This is accounted for in much of the popular literature regarding schizophrenia, including everything from autobiographies to more formal medical literature.
Schizophrenia Symptoms In Females
Many of the symptoms of schizophrenia in females are simply the symptoms that mark schizophrenia in people of all genders. Here are some general signs and symptoms of schizophrenia:
- Hallucinations, which often include seeing things that aren't there or hearing voices that are not there.
- Delusions, which, as stated above, are firmly held, yet false beliefs.
- Disorganized thoughts.
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping.
- Unusually disorganized speech, such as incoherent or frenzied speech. Sometimes, incoherent, choppy speech with random, seemingly unrelated words or phrases is seen in schizophrenia. This is sometimes referred to as "word salad."
- Negative symptoms, such as a flat affect or lack of emotion in one's facial expressions or speech, neglected personal hygiene, and a lessened ability or inability to engage in normal daily activities.
- The inability to understand or believe others when they say that the hallucinations or delusions one is experiencing aren't real.
- Withdrawal from activities one would generally enjoy, or lack of interest in those activities.
- Abnormal posture or movements.
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing.
- Withdrawal from others or social isolation.
- Irritability or anger.
- A low or depressed mood.
In some cases of schizophrenia, religious delusions are seen or heard. The above are symptoms that can occur in people of all genders who live with schizophrenia, though everyone with schizophrenia may display symptoms slightly differently. However, a large body of research has been conducted on schizophrenia in women, and this research shows some differences in symptoms related to gender. The main difference is that women are less likely to experience certain symptoms, including flat affect, withdrawal from others, or blunted emotions. This doesn't mean that they can't experience those symptoms; it just means that some women with schizophrenia don't show those symptoms as often as men with schizophrenia might. The complicated aspect of this is that, when these symptoms don't present, schizophrenia might be more challenging to pick up on or detect in some cases, especially if a person's symptoms are newly emerging.
When Does Schizophrenia Start In Females?
Women with schizophrenia will develop the first symptoms of schizophrenia at different points in their life. However, the age range in which schizophrenia typically presents in women is indeed one of the gender differences that is seen in women with schizophrenia vs. men with schizophrenia. On the topic of the common age of onset for women with schizophrenia, the National Institute Of Mental Health NIMH website says, "Schizophrenia is typically diagnosed in the late teen years to the early thirties and tends to emerge earlier in males (late adolescence – early twenties) than females (early twenties – early thirties)." This means that although women can experience the onset of schizophrenia at different times in their lives, it is more common for schizophrenia to emerge for women during the window of their 20s to early 30s. As with any mental disorder, everyone's path to diagnosis is different, but the earlier schizophrenia is detected, the sooner someone can receive treatment, which is extremely important.
Are There Any Famous Women With Schizophrenia?
If you're searching for "schizophrenic woman" or "schizophrenic women" online, you might be looking for famous cases of schizophrenia seen in women. There are indeed some famous women with schizophrenia and famous accounts of women with the disorder. These women include but aren't limited to:
Zelda Fitzgerald was a best-selling novelist who lived from July 24, 1900, to March 10, 1948.
Lori Schiller, born in 1959 and is the author of "The Quiet Room," which is a memoir about her experience with schizophrenia.
Gene Eliza Tierney, an American actress who lived from November 19, 1920, to November 6, 1991. Gene appeared in a number of films, including "Laura," "Leave Her To Heaven," and "Heaven Can Wait."
Veronica Lake, an American actress who lived fromNovember 14, 1922, to July 7, 1973. Veronica appeared in a number of works, including the famous movie, "I Married A Witch."
If you're a woman living with schizophrenia, you aren't alone, and help is out there. Schizophrenia is a debilitating condition, and without treatment, it can have devastating consequences. That said, life isn't over after a schizophrenia diagnosis, and you can live a full, happy life. Although there's no known cure for schizophrenia, treatment for schizophrenia is possible. After schizophrenia is diagnosed, maintenance treatment is vital. Therapy is a common treatment option that can also be combined with other treatment options, such as medications. Always consult a medical or mental health professional for advice and guidance on medication and specific treatment options.
Peer Support For Schizophrenia
Peer support will never replace treatment for schizophrenia. Still, it can help you find a sense of community if you or a loved one is living with schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders. Peer support is often cathartic, and it's meant to reduce feelings of isolation rather than standing in the place of medical or mental health treatments. Here are some peer support options:
NAMI Support Groups
The national alliance on mental illness, frequently abbreviated two or referred to as NAMI, has support groups for people living with mental health conditions and loved ones of those living with mental health conditions. Click here to learn more about NAMI support groups and check to see any in your area.
Schizophrenia And Related Disorders Alliance Of America (SARDAA)
The Schizophrenia And Related Disorders Alliance Of America or SARDAA have a support group finder tool. Click here to find a support group that is accessible to you using the SARDAA website.
The Mentalhealthforum.net Schizophrenia Forum
Mentalhealthforum.net is a website with various mental health forums that you can use for free. Click here to access the schizophrenia forum on mentalhealthforum.net.
The Psychforums.com Schizophrenia Forum
Psychforums.com is another website with a wide variety of mental health forums that are free to use. Click here to access the schizophrenia forum on psychforums.com.
Facts And Statistics On Schizophrenia
Here are some facts and statistics on schizophrenia:
- Roughly 3.5 million individuals aged 18 and above living in the United States of America alone live with schizophrenia.
- 40% of people living with schizophrenia go untreated on an annual basis. Treatment for schizophrenia is incredibly essential and can be life-saving, so awareness and access to treatment must be increased for those living with the condition.
- It said that somewhere between one-half and one-third of individuals experiencing homelessness have schizophrenia.
- Although there is no known singular cause of schizophrenia, certain risk factors can predict schizophrenia or the development of schizophrenia. One potential risk factor for schizophrenia is a family history of the disorder.
Take The Mind Diagnostics Schizophrenia Test
Do you think that you might have schizophrenia? If so, consider taking the Mind Diagnostics schizophrenia test. Recognizing symptoms of schizophrenia for the first time can be scary, but the good news is that it's often the first step to getting the help you need. The Mind Diagnostics schizophrenia test is fast, free, and confidential to take. Although schizophrenia can impact individuals under 18, the Mind Diagnostics schizophrenia test is for those aged 18 and older. After you complete the quiz, you will get your results via email immediately.
To take the Mind Diagnostics Schizophrenia test, click on this link or copy and paste it into your browser: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/schizophrenia-test.