What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a severe and chronic mental disorder that can affect a person’s thoughts, beliefs, emotions, decisions, and behavior.
People with this condition behave as if they’ve lost touch with reality. The combination of delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized behavior that characterize schizophrenia can lead to a distorted image of reality.
In other words, schizophrenia is a psychological condition in which reality is often misinterpreted; the person hears, sees, and feels things that are not real.
Another defining characteristic of schizophrenia is social isolation. People with this condition spend most of their waking hours alone, separated from the people and activities that could help them enjoy a normal life. Instead, they prefer to immerse themselves in an inner world marked by delusions and psychosis.
In general, the first signs of schizophrenia occur during adolescence or early adulthood. However, there are rare cases when children can manifest symptoms specific to this condition.
Although this mental disorder is currently incurable, early treatment can help the person keep symptoms under control and prevent serious complications.
Signs of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia evolves differently from person to person. In some cases, symptoms may develop gradually, while in other cases this condition may occur suddenly. Furthermore, this mental disorder can manifest episodically, which means the person can have a perfectly normal life during the remission period.
Some of the first signs of schizophrenia are:
- Feeling of being watched, pursued, or ‘under surveillance’
- Withdrawal from all social activities
- Bizarre verbal expressions
- Abnormal body postures
- Changes in personality
- Paranoid thoughts
- Visual or auditory hallucinations
- Lack of focus
- Lack of sleep
- Anger outbursts for no apparent reason
- Disorganized thinking and behavior
It’s also important to note that experts often divide the symptoms of schizophrenia between positive and negative.
Positive symptoms are problems that add up to the overall condition; some examples include hallucinations, disorganized behavior, and paranoid thoughts.
Negative symptoms refer to abilities that the person loses as the disease progresses.
How is Schizophrenia Treated?
When it comes to treating schizophrenia, clinicians will often start by prescribing medication that alleviates the unpleasant symptoms associated with this condition.
When it comes to treating schizophrenia, medication is typically the first option. But because drugs can have unpleasant side effects, patients can be reluctant to take them.
And that’s why patients and psychiatrists need to discuss this issue and find a treatment that is both effective and with as few side effects as possible.
As for the medication used to treat schizophrenia, psychiatrists usually prescribe antipsychotics (conventional or atypical) which can influence hormones that are involved in mood management, thus helping the patient manage the positive symptoms of this condition.
Aside from medication, people with schizophrenia can also benefit significantly from individual or group therapy.
With the help of a counselor or therapist, patients can learn how to handle everyday problems, communicate better, cultivate meaningful relationships, improve teamwork skills, and develop the motivation they need to keep this condition under control.
Furthermore, therapy can also help the patient cope with the stigma associated with this mental disorder.
Residential treatment centers
Residential treatment centers can be an excellent alternative to psychiatric hospitals. By acquiring social and vocational skills, people with schizophrenia can live independently - which is an essential part of recovery.
Most residential centers promote an integrative approach to mental health and wellbeing. That means people who opt for this solution benefit from individual and group therapy, recreational activities, and a supportive environment in which they can develop the skills they need to live a normal life.
WHEN TO SEE A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL
Mental health issues are real, common, and treatable. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 20% of those are considered serious. 17% of 6-17 year olds experience a mental health disorder. So the first thing to remember is this: You are not alone.
If you feel that you are suffering from a mental illness, and particularly if those issues are preventing you from living life to the full or feeling yourself, you may want to consider professional help which can make an enormous difference.
And to be clear, you don't need to be going through a crisis in order to justify getting help. In fact, it can be advantageous from a treatment perspective to identify and deal with issues early and before they have a major impact on your life. Either way you should feel encouraged and able to seek help however you are feeling.
Mental health professionals such as licensed therapist can help in a range of ways including:
- Help you identify where, when, and how issues arise
- Develop coping strategies for specific symptoms and issues
- Encourage resilience and self-management
- Identify and change negative behaviors
- Identify and encourage positive behaviors
- Heal pain from past trauma
- Figure out goals and waypoints
- Build self-confidence
Treatment for mental health issues, and psychotherapy (sometimes known as 'talk therapy') in particular, frequently helps people to feel better, manage, and even get rid of their symptoms. For example, did you know that over 80% of people treated for depression materially improve? Or that treatment for panic disorder has a 90% success rate?
Other treatment options include medication which, in some cases, can be highly effective when administered in combination with psychotherapy.
So what is psychotherapy? It involves talking about your problems and concerns with a mental health professional. It can take lots of forms, including individual, group, couples and family sessions. Often, people see their therapists once a week for 50 minutes to start with and then reducing frequency as time goes on and issues subside. Treatment can be as short as a few weeks or as long as a few years depending on your particular situation and response.
Never think that getting help is a sign of weakness. It isn't. In fact, it can be a sign of strength and maturity to take the steps necessary to becoming you again and getting your life back on track.
WHEN TO GET EMERGENCY HELP
Are you in distress? If so, or if you think that you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Also consider these options if you're having suicidal thoughts:
- Call your mental health specialist.
- Call a suicide hotline number — in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
- Seek help from your primary doctor or other health care provider.
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.
If a loved one or friend is in danger of attempting suicide or has made an attempt:
- Make sure someone stays with that person.
- Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
- Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.