What Causes Schizophrenia And What’s It Like Living with It?

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

Published 12/28/2020

Our brains are responsible for a majority of the functions and processes inside the body. It’s responsible for the way we act and behave, as well as what we feel and believe. There’s no doubt it’s one of the hardest-working and most-complex organs in the body.

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This means that disorders of the brain are often difficult to understand and have far reaching impacts on health. Schizophrenia is one such disorder.

It only affects less than 1% of the population but can seriously disrupt someone’s quality of life and result in a daily struggle to find happiness. Here, the potential causes, treatments, and more will be addressed.

One of the many misconceptions about schizophrenia is that it’s similar to bipolar, split-personality, or multiple-personality disorder. In addition to that, many people think living with schizophrenia makes you a dangerous or violent person.

In retrospect, neither of those assumptions are true and the idea that people with schizophrenia are inherently dangerous has caused more harm than anyone with the disorder.

So, what is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that makes it difficult for the individual to distinguish what’s real and not. This daily struggle with reality can cause a wide amount of distress and anxiety in the individual’s life and the individual’s loved one’s life.

Those suffering from schizophrenia can either experience a wide range of symptoms or just one. The most common symptoms of schizophrenia include changes in the five senses (touch, taste, hearing, smell, and vision), abnormal thinking processes or behaviors, or a distorted view of reality. It’ll usually present itself in the form of hallucinations or delusions.

In addition to that, people living with schizophrenia often experience a loss of motivation, increased confusion, difficulty speaking, loss of happiness or fulfillment, difficulty expressing themselves physically, and not wanting to speak as much. Memory, concentration, attention, and energy could all be impacted, as well.

The good news is there are multiple ways to seek help, treat the symptoms, and reduce the distress caused by schizophrenia. Since it’s different for everyone, treating schizophrenia is an ongoing process.

What Can Trigger Schizophrenia?

As we mentioned above, schizophrenia is a complicated brain disorder. Researchers continue to study it today and are learning new things about the disorder every single year. Unfortunately, they have yet to find a cure for schizophrenia.

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While there isn’t a one-size-fits all-cause or trigger for schizophrenia, researchers have uncovered various risk factors that increase schizophrenia's probability of suffering from schizophrenia.

Most of the research today points towards one of three main risk factors in individuals -- genetics, environment, and brain function. Let’s take a closer look at how each of the three schizophrenia causes affects the individual:

  1. Brain Function - damage to the brain, whether due to injury or improper development, can lead to psychotic episodes in some individuals. This is usually represented by a deficient or surplus supply of neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, epinephrine, etc.), impairment in certain areas of the brain, or misconnections between nerves and neurons.
  2. Genetics - some people might be asking, “Is schizophrenia genetic?” Although researchers don’t know which genes are involved with schizophrenia episodes, they believe genetics plays a role in some individuals. Of course, this doesn’t mean someone’s bound to have it just because a family member has it.
  3. Environment - the way someone is raised could also play a role in the onset of schizophrenia. Growing up in less-than-ideal living conditions, being strung into a wide range of stressful situations, and not receiving the proper diet all affect how the brain works.

In addition to those three causes of schizophrenia, substance abuse (especially at an early age) can also lead to schizophrenia -- as well as a wide range of other mental or behavioral issues.

What’s It Like Living with Schizophrenia?

Those living with schizophrenia aren’t angry, and they aren’t violent. They definitely don’t like experiencing the symptoms they encounter. People experiencing schizophrenia’s symptoms are often frightened.

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Hallucinations that are either visual or auditory are common with schizophrenia. The hallucinations affect how you see, hear, smell, and feel, meaning you’re often observing things that aren’t real. To make matters worse, delusions that can come with the disorder can cause you to struggle to separate what’s real from what’s not real, leading to a never-ending cycle of confusion.

When living with schizophrenia, it may feel like the entire world is out to get you, and no one is in your corner. It starts to affect every area of your life, causing you to lose the sense of who you really are and your purpose in life.

Schizophrenia can lead to either suicidal thoughts, attempts, and suicide itself. Many people also suffer from other mental disorders such as depression, OCD, anxiety disorders, and ADHD. Before seeking professional help, it’s common to turn to alcohol or drugs to ease the mental and emotional pain.

The worse it gets; the more difficult it can be to attend to work and other matters of daily life. This can lead to financial problems, distancing in relationships with friends and family, and even homelessness.

Can You Find Help for Schizophrenia?

Since several risk factors have been identified, but no significant or direct causes have been revealed, there’s still a growing need for more research surrounding schizophrenia. Until these causes are fully understood, it’ll be hard to find a cure for the disorder.

That doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road for anyone living with schizophrenia. In fact, there are many helpfultreatments available.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common treatments for schizophrenia, which may be suggested by your mental health professional after you undergo an evaluation and diagnosis:

  1. Psychotherapy Sessions are the most common form of treatment for schizophrenia and are an excellent way of talking through the symptoms. The professional is tasked with understanding the individual and determining why they act, think, or behave in certain ways. This helps them dig to the root of the problem; that way, it can be addressed.
  2. Medications - in addition to psychotherapy sessions, schizophrenia patients are often prescribed medication to balance out the activity in their brains. They only work in some individuals and shouldn’t be viewed as a tell-all solution.
  3. Hospitalization - in more severe cases, the individual may require hospitalization to ensure that medicine and other basic needs are met and regulated. Hospitalization is usually temporary and used to stabilize someone during difficult episodes of schizophrenia.

In addition to the treatments administered by the health care professional, the individual is also instructed to partake in various self-care treatments to ensure the same progress is met outside of the doctor visits.

Some of the most common self-care techniques include eating a proper diet, exercising regularly, keeping a daily routine, maintaining healthy relationships and emotions, understanding more about your illness, learning what your triggers are, and learning what helps you calm down.

The important thing to remember is that you can receive help, get better, and continue working towards a normal, happy, and healthy life. There might not be a cure, but there are helpful treatments available to alleviate symptoms.

Schizophrenia isn’t the most talked-about mental illness, and it’s certainly not the most common. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of it, though. In fact, it’s essential we all at least understand the basics. That way, we can properly detect it and help others overcome it.

If you believe someone you love is suffering from schizophrenia, don’t hesitate to ask them about it or approach a mental health professional to understand the next steps. It’s a situation that requires care and consideration.

At Mind Diagnostics, we want to make sure everyone has the tools and resources needed to help support you in helping yourself or others. That’s why we created this free online schizophrenia test -- that way, you can screen yourself or others for potential symptoms.

Contact us today to learn more about preventing mental illness and promoting mental health in yourself and your loved ones. We also have a wide variety of mental health tests to ensure you’re living your best life at all times. Together, we can change the world for the better!