What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe mental disorder that affects the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, perceives reality, and relates to others. Though schizophrenia isn’t as common as other major mental illnesses, it can be the most chronic and disabling.
People with schizophrenia often have problems doing well in society, at work, at school, and in relationships. They might feel frightened and withdrawn and could appear to have lost touch with reality. This lifelong disease can’t be cured but can be controlled with proper treatment.
Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia is not a split or multiple personalities. Schizophrenia involves psychosis, a type of mental illness in which a person can’t tell what’s real from what’s imagined. At times, people with psychotic disorders lose touch with reality. The world may seem like a jumble of confusing thoughts, images, and sounds. Their behavior may be very strange and even shocking. A sudden change in personality and behavior, which happens when people who have it lose touch with reality, is called a psychotic episode.
What Are the Early Symptoms of Schizophrenia?
- A change in grades
- Social withdrawal
- Trouble concentrating
- Temper flares
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of emotion or a limited range of emotions
- Withdrawal from family, friends, and social activities
- Less energy
- Speaking less
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of pleasure or interest in life
- Poor hygiene and grooming habits
- Talking in sentences that don’t make sense or using nonsense words, making it difficult for the person to communicate or hold a conversation
- Shifting quickly from one thought to the next without obvious or logical connections between them
- Moving slowly
- Being unable to make decisions
- Writing excessively but without meaning
- Forgetting or losing things
- Repeating movements or gestures, like pacing or walking in circles
- Having problems making sense of everyday sights, sounds, and feelings
How Is Schizophrenia Treated?
The goal of schizophrenia treatment is to ease the symptoms and to cut the chances of a relapse or return of symptoms. Treatment for schizophrenia may include:
- Medications: The primary medications used to treat schizophrenia are called antipsychotics. These drugs don’t cure schizophrenia but help relieve the most troubling symptoms, including delusions, hallucinations, and thinking problems.
- Coordinated specialty care (CSC): This is a team approach toward treating schizophrenia when the first symptoms appear. It combines medicine and therapy with social services, employment, and educational interventions. The family is involved as much as possible. Early treatment is key to helping patients lead normal life.
- Psychosocial therapy: While medication may help relieve symptoms of schizophrenia, various psychosocial treatments can help with the behavioral, psychological, social, and occupational problems that go with the illness. Through therapy, patients also can learn to manage their symptoms, identify early warning signs of relapse, and come up with a relapse prevention plan.