Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that is caused by the person with the disorder’s lack of ability to make the distinction between reality and fantasy.
Affects 1.1 % of people over the age of 18 in the United States.
There are several different types of schizophrenia, each more complex and intricate than the next.
Causes of Schizophrenia
Due to the complexity of Schizophrenia, there is no set cause of the disorder.
Researchers have looked for such causes in the past, but are still completely baffled.
The search for the causes of Schizophrenia continue to this day with fairly few results.
Signs and Symptoms
Though there are many types of Schizophrenia, most include certain symptoms and signs.
However, due to symptom complexity, symptoms are divided into three different categories:
“ Positive” Symptoms: the symptoms most easily noticed by others that come and go. They can be severe or barely noticeable. Treatment is required to correct these symptoms.
Negative Symptoms: refers to a decrease in normal emotional or behavioral states. These symptoms normally cause the affected to be seen as lazy individuals who do not seek to live better lives.
Cognitive Symptoms: subtle signs only noticeable through neuropsychological testing. Of all the symptoms, these are the ones that make it the hardest for those with Shizophrenia to lead a normal life.
Positive Symptoms and Signs
Positive Symptoms include:
Hallucinations - can be seen, heard, felt, or smelled. Most common hallucination is that of “voices,” or “sounds,” that none but the affected hear.
Delusions - false personal beliefs. Most common delusion is paranoia, or the false belief that something or someone means to cause the affected personal harm.
Thought Disorder- disorganized thinking, or the inability to think correctly. This could be in the form of the affected stopping the middle of a sentence, garbled speech or “neologisms,” also known as invented or unintelligible words.
Disorders of Movement - clumsy or uncoordinated movement, as well as involuntary movements such as grimacing or the affected may exhibit strange mannerisms. The affected may also repeat certain motions, or become Catatonic, in which the affected will enter a state of immobility or unresponsiveness.
Negative Symptoms and Signs
Negative Symptoms and Signs include:
The Flat Effect - immobile facial expression, or a monotonous voice.
Lack of pleasure in every day life
Diminished ability to initiate and sustain planned activity
Infrequent speaking, even when forced to interact with others.
The neglect of basic hygiene in severe cases
Cognitive Symptoms and Signs
Cognitive Symptoms include:
Problems with “Working Memory” - the affected have trouble storing learned information and using it right away when the situation demands.
Inability to stay attentive over extended periods of time
Poor “Executive Functioning” - the ability to absorb and interpret information and make decisions based on such information is diminished.
Everyday Signs of Schizophrenia
Though not a part of the three broad types of symptoms, there are other signs that a person has schizophrenia. These will be called “everyday signs,” for lack of a better term.
In Adolescents - change in friends, a drop in grades, sleep problems such as insomnia, and irritability.
In Adults - same as the teenagers with the exception of delusions and the tendency to hallucinate around the age of the late teens in adults, and mid-20’s to 30’s in women.
It is unusual for those younger then their late teens to have Schizophrenia, yet there have been reports or children as young as 5 having the disorder.
Because the early symptoms of Schizophrenia are common throughout puberty in teens and the transition from adolescent to adult (such as irritability, the change of friends, a drop in grades, or quality of work) the early stages of Schizophrenia are difficult to properly diagnose.
However, once Schizophrenia begins to properly manifest and the affected begin to hallucinate, become delusional, experience Thought disorder, etc. it becomes fairly easy to diagnose due to the noticeability of such symptoms.
Since no one can be sure what causes Schizophrenia, the only treatments available to those affected are ones that calm or relieve the symptoms of the mental illness.
Like Diabetes, this disorder must be constantly managed and monitored.
These treatments include:
Antipsychotic Medications - relieve the positive symptoms of Schizophrenia. These have been used since the mid 1950’s. Such drugs greatly improve the lives of the affected, but sadly do not cure the disorder itself. Normally, several different types of this drug must be tried to find the right one. In rare cases, no drug that positively reduces the effects can be found.
Psychosocial Treatment - only for those already on Antipsychotic Medications. Mostly, this treatment involves therapy that helps those affected work toward coping with their mental illness.
“ Schizophrenia.” National Institute for Mental Health. 2 April, 2008. 18 Jan. 2009. <http://www.medicinenet.com/schizophre nia/page5.htm>.
“ Schizophrenia Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment and Research.” Schizophrenia. Medicine Net. 18 Jan. 2009. < http://www.medicinenet.com/schizophrenia /page5.htm >.