Table of Contents
What is Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a severe, chronic mental illness. The disease affects about 1% of the population. More than two million Americans suffer from this disorder and each year becomes ill one hundred thousand people.
The word schizophrenia has a Greek origin and means “disorder of the diaphragm.”
Even though the disease is not related to the diaphragm, the ancient Greeks thought that the human soul is enclosed in the diaphragm. Since ancient times people with mental disorders were called schizophrenics.
Schizo Disorder is typically diagnosed in people between 17 and 35 years. It affects men and women with equal frequency, in men occurs at an earlier age than women. Many of the affected people are disabled by the disease and fail to keep their job.
Schizophrenia – Causes
The reasons that lead to the appearance of the disease are not known. However, influence genetic, biological, psychological factors and environmental factors.
There are researchers on different biological factors that might predispose to the development of this disorder. These include genetic (family) predisposition, infective agents, allergies and metabolic disorders.
Has been proven, that schizophrenia runs in families. For example, the risk of occurrence of the disease in monozygotic twins is 40-50%. In the case of a sick parent, the risk to the child is about 10%. For comparison, the risk for the development of disorder in the general population is about 1%. It is considered the occurrence of schizophrenia are responsible disturbances in more than one gene.
Some utero disorders and complications during childbirth are related to creating a predisposition to the disease. Disturbances in the metabolism of neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry communications between these nerve cells) are also considered as a possible cause for the occurrence of schizophrenia. Particular attention is given to the neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate.
From the environmental factors that could lead to the development of the disorder, most attention is paid to the abuse of marijuana.
Schizophrenia – Types
Paranoid type of schizophrenia – characterized by delusions and auditory hallucinations by people with relatively normal intellectual function. The patient most often thinks he is being persecuted unfairly or believe that he is another person (usually famous). People with the paranoid disorder often have little trust and are suspicious, alienated, anxious and brawlers.
Disorganized-type schizophrenia – characterized by speech or behavior that are disorganized or difficult to understand, and inadequate or repressed emotions. People with this type of disorder may laugh for example when changing the color of the traffic lights. Their disorganized behavior often leads to a distortion of normal activities such as bathing, dressing, and cooking.
Catatonic-type schizophrenia – characterized by movement disorder. People with type Catatonic schizophrenia may remain completely still or become ultra-mobile. They can be silent for hours or repeat words or movements of others. In any case, their actions can put them in a dangerous situation because it does not allow them in to look after themselves.
Undifferentiated-type schizophrenia – characterized by symptoms of different types of schizophrenia without predominant one.
Residual type of schizophrenia – characterized by previous episodes of schizophrenia and currently the patient has positive symptoms (delusions, hallucinations, disturbances in speech or behavior). This type of schizophrenia may represent a transition between the deployed schizophrenia and complete remission, or goes on for years without subsequent psychotic episodes.
Schizophrenia – Symptoms
People suffering from schizophrenia undergo significant changes in the internal world and in behavior. Changes in behavior can be the following:
- Depersonalization (increased anxiety and a sense of unreality);
- Loss of appetite;
- Loss of hygiene habits;
- Hallucinations (most commonly hearing – hearing things that are not there);
- Withdrawal from social life;
- Nervousness or anxiety;
- The sense of control over nature by external forces.
Schizophrenics may have no outward signs be suffering from the disease. In other cases, however, the disease may be evident and lead to strange behavior. For example, a person with schizophrenia can wear on your head aluminum foil, believing that it will prevent others to read his thoughts and will protect it from penetration of malicious waves in his head.
People suffering from schizophrenia can have the most diverse behavior, struggling with a disease that is beyond their control. Inactive phases they can speak illogically or react with uncontrolled anger or violence to perceived imaginary threat. They may have passive phases of the disease, in which they seemed to lose their individuality, movements, and emotions. These extreme conditions can be alternated as the behavior of the patient can sometimes be predicted, and in other cases cannot be predicted.
Sometimes in the acute stage occurs burst of unmotivated fear or hysterical laughter. Especially characteristic of schizophrenia is a simultaneous feeling of two conflicting emotions: love and hate, courage and fear, etc.
The symptoms of schizophrenia can be grouped into the following categories:
Cognitive symptoms (related to knowledge) – difficulties in collecting and processing information, understanding of the surrounding and to remember simple tasks.
Affective symptoms (related to mood) – expressed depression, higher risk of making a suicide attempt.
Positive symptoms – hearing voices, suspiciousness, feelings of being under constant surveillance, delusions or inventing words without meaning (neologisms).
Negative symptoms – difficulty in expressing emotions, social withdrawal, difficulty in caring for themselves, inability to experience pleasure.
The claim that people with schizophrenia are aggressive is completely wrong. Usually, this is the main reason they are isolated from others.
Even though the disease is sometimes accompanied by incidents of aggression, patients with schizophrenia are mostly people with gentle temperament, which are usually introverts.
Schizophrenia – Diagnosis
Before a diagnosis of schizophrenia must be excluded diseases which may cause changes in the behavior (e.g. liver diseases, brain cancer, etc.). For this purpose, often is prescribed laboratory tests and imaging studies such as computed tomography.
The role of the family members and others close to the patient people is significant. They can provide information about the changes in his behavior , the level of social adaptation, about past physical and mental illness, medications and allergies, or about diseases that are transmitted in the family. Historical data of hospitalizations may also be helpful in gathering information about the patient.
Is it curable at all?
Schizophrenia is curable. It is recommended that the patient is not isolated from the outside world. Very often, because of the negative attitude of the society, people with this disease do everything possible to hide the problem.
This often leads to a worsening of their condition because of their refusal to accept that they need help.
Treatment usually lasts one year. If symptoms recur, the second course of medical treatment lasts five years. If after this period symptoms reappeared, the course of treatment lasts for life.
Schizophrenia – Treatment
The family of a patient with schizophrenia should give him the most emotionally safe and a warm atmosphere. It should be avoided hostile behavior and criticism. The family has an important role in the treatment of the patient as well as its presence and the regular intake of medicines. Prescribed treatment should be followed strictly.
Hospitalization and drug therapy are essential in acute episodes of schizophrenia where the patient can be dangerous both for himself and for others. Today are constantly created and introduced new medicaments for the treatment of schizophrenia, which allow to reduce the negative symptoms and improve the quality of life of the patients and their families.
Medicines that are used to treat schizophrenia are called antipsychotics. They treat the acute episodes of the disease and reduce the risk of the occurrence of new episodes. The treatment of schizophrenia has two main stages – the treatment of the acute phase, where it is a necessary application of high doses of the drug, followed by maintenance therapy in which the dosage is gradually reduced as low as possible for prevention of new episodes.
The choice of medication is individual, depending on the particular patient. Even though some of them are effective these drugs have significant side effects, mainly on the part of the nervous system. In the treatment of schizophrenia are introduced new, atypical antipsychotics, which are as effective as the old, but with significantly fewer side effects.
Usually, the effect of the treatment occurs in two to four weeks of taking the medicine and in order to determine whether the medicine is effective takes at least eight weeks. Sometimes it is necessary to adjust the dose or adding another medication, which is determined by the condition of the patient. It is important to strictly observe the therapeutic plan in order avoid deterioration of the patient
Often, in addition to antipsychotic medication, to the treatment of schizophrenia are added and medicines that affect the depressive episodes – fluoxetine, sertraline, and others.
Schizophrenia – other methods of treatment
Despite the successful antipsychotic treatment, many patients with schizophrenia have difficulty with motivation, activities of daily life, social relationships and communication skills. Because the disease often starts at a critical period for learning and acquiring professional successes, these people often suffer from a lack of social and employment skills and experience.
Individual psychotherapy – it involves regular sessions, including patient and physician, and focusing on current and past problems, thoughts, feelings or relationships. With the help of a specialist, patients with schizophrenia learn more about themselves and about their disease and how to develop skills to cope with their everyday problems and tasks.
Rehabilitation – it may include a job or professional consultations, methods of problem-solving and social skills training. In this way, the patients develop skills required for successful reintegration into society after being discharged from psychiatric hospital.
Training of the family – it is based on a number of studies showing that people with schizophrenia whose families are actively involved in their treatment have a better prognosis than those who are struggling alone. That is why the aim is all family members to participate in treatment.
Healing plants – they can be in support to antipsychotic treatment of patients with this disorder. The adoption of an extract of Ginkgo biloba, in the form of capsules or tea, can have a positive effect on the nervous system and can be used in combination with antipsychotic therapy, also under the supervision of a doctor. Other herbs are hawthorn, oregano, hops, rosemary, yellow primrose.