y Schizophrenia is a subject that many people are unsure of how to approach. They don’t know what it truly is, or how it affects people. Schizophrenia can be a difficult subject for many people to talk about because we simply don’t know much. Many people have childhood stories of interacting with children who had schizophrenia. The personality disorder was scary to them, and they did not know what to think or how to relate to the children. What is unfamiliar can be scary.
But in all truth, schizophrenia does not have to be a devastating diagnosis. There are countless stories of struggle, perseverance, and victory over the disorder. Strides are continually being made to understand the disorder and find ways of helping people cope and live full, healthy, happy lives.
What Is Schizophrenia?
First, let’s clarify something quickly: Some people get schizophrenia and bipolar disorder mixed up. Those who have differential schizophrenia are not bipolar. Bipolar disorder is a type of brain disorder. It can involve psychosis, which is why people often get them confused. Schizophrenia is also different from schizoaffective disorder, which has very similar symptoms. However, all three disorders do share mani and environmental symptoms which make them similar.
At the most basic of levels, schizophrenia is a brain and behavior disorder. It can be entirely debilitating and cause extreme emotional and psychological pain and trauma to its sufferers. It is a chronic disorder that causes negative effects on a person’s thoughts, behavior, and speech. Many people experience disorganized thoughts, causing them to become absent or disengaged with their lives and those around them.
As stated earlier, schizophrenia is a neurological (brain) and behavior disorder where the pathways get interrupted in its pathophysiology. It interrupts and clouds thought processes, causing people to be unable to sort through feelings of reality or things that are just in their imagination.
Schizophrenia is caused by an imbalance in glutamate and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are what is used for brain cells to communicate with one another. When brain cells can’t speak to each other, it causes a wide variety of symptoms. It is very common for many diagnosed cases to believe that there are voices in their head, or that someone is controlling what they do, say and think. Many sufferers of schizophrenia become paranoid that someone is following them or plotting against them in some way.
A lot of people think that people who suffer from schizophrenia have different personalities or multiple personality disorders. However, that’s not true and most people who suffer from it are not a danger to children or adults. People who are diagnosed with schizophrenia can suffer from multiple different symptoms in different forms and levels of severity. They can include delusions, difficulty concentrating or thinking and experiencing hallucinations. They can also experience trouble with motivation in life, as they feel their thoughts are causing them to be unable to process life.
Schizophrenia is caused by either an excess level or a too low level of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This affects the nerve centers and receptors in your brain.
Currently, we do not know of a way for someone to be cured of the disorder. However, it can be treated with a variety of natural supplements, prescriptions, and therapies.
Schizophrenia Signs & Symptoms
It can be difficult to identify schizophrenic symptoms early on. Signs of depression or if someone just has a case of the blues can be an early sign, though certainly not to be confused with just a normal case of feeling down on a gray day.
Schizophrenia can manifest itself in a variety of different ways. There are three broad categories, each with specific criteria, that are used to define schizophrenic symptoms: positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms.
NANDA International which was previously North American Nursing Diagnosis Association is a foundation that standardizes terminology. This is used to have a list of symptoms that are referenced when trying to diagnose a patient. Their goal was to make things like this more simple, to lower the percentage of mistakes, and to also keep up to date on the latest guidelines and screening procedures.
Doctors use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to help categorize and identify different types and combinations of schizophrenia. An example of these codes would be DSM-iv, DSM-IV-TR, or DSM-v.
People who have positive symptoms tend to be the ones who lose touch with reality.
They manifest themselves in different ways and there are several different types of symptoms. These symptoms can come and go or they can plague someone constantly, making them feel as if they are experiencing the symptoms as true reality.
Many people seek treatment for their positive symptoms and this makes a huge difference in the severity of what they experience.
Hallucinations are a common symptom that can be very severe. People experience hallucinations in a variety of different forms and they can affect any or all of the five senses, though the most common type of hallucination is “voices.” This is when a person thinks they hear someone else speaking and interpret it as reality. This can be particularly dangerous for women and men both have a difficult time differentiating between reality and what is in their mind. Sometimes people hear voices speaking together or by themselves at varying volumes.
Other than hearing voices, other types of hallucinations include feeling like someone touched their skin, or sensing a smell that does not exist. It’s also common for someone with positive symptoms to see people or physical objects in the room that are not there.
Another form of positive symptoms are delusions. Delusions manifest themselves in a variety of ways and levels of intensity. People can believe they are a person or characters from history, or that their friend has some sort of career or life that is not the case. Often these symptoms are not detected during the period of early onset, and it takes a while for friends and family to realize that something might not be right and their loved one might have a mental illness. These delusions are not based on reality or facts. They often believe things that don’t make sense in their cultural tradition or beliefs, which is why it can be detected quickly.
Movement disorders are another form of positive symptoms. An individual can move in seemingly erratic visual movements, often doing the same thing over and over. To the uninformed observer, it may look as if the individual has a form of severe autism at times, but this is not the case. That is one of the myths that surround the mystery of schizophrenia for so many Americans and people worldwide.
Negative symptoms are essentially things that interrupt major behaviors and emotions that you and I would consider to be normal. These can manifest themselves in many different ways and methods and are typically characterized as being more difficult to identify or when diagnosing. Their facial expressions may seem to have lessened, they may appear depressed or speak in a monotone voice. You might notice a person suffering from these symptoms doesn’t seem to have as many goals in life or a recent decline in their desire to make plans and interact with people.
The earliest signs of cognitive symptoms can be simply struggling to make decisions or suffering from memory loss from time to time. More serious, advanced symptoms appear when a person cannot overcome these symptoms to hold a job or interact socially with other people. They can struggle in social situations with deciphering what is appropriate or handling stress properly. It’s very typical for people to think that someone with this type of schizophrenic symptom is simply being lazy, especially for people during their teenage years.
Schizophrenia Definition and Diagnosis
There are a lot of similarities between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but they are different. Schizophrenia is wrapped in a black cloud of mystery in many ways. People don’t understand the disorder. It’s easy to spell out the symptoms of schizophrenia but it’s not easy to live with it. The confusion and mania that patients experience is something that no one would wish to endure, but many people live with it and truly live full, happy lives despite the difficulties they face.
Thanks to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), we know what schizophrenia is b, but what can cause this mental illness? Is there something people should watch for to tip them off to be aware? Is there a personality characteristic to watch for?
Unfortunately, there is not an exact cause of schizophrenia that has been identified. However, there are many different theories and scientists are growing closer every day to determining the cause of this disorder.
Genetic makeup plays into developing schizophrenia, and it is not uncommon for family members to both suffer from the illness. It is definitely hereditary, with people who have a parent or sibling with schizophrenia have a 10% chance of having the disorder. However, these genetics only make it a possibility, not a diagnosis. Typically, borderline symptoms are not identified in babies or toddlers but in young kids, into teenage years or as an adult around the age of 20 or more is when a larger percentage of cases begin to be detected. Adolescence seems to trigger symptoms in many cases. Many cases have also been linked to a large number of stressful experiences happening in a person’s life that cause symptoms to manifest.
An individual’s biology also plays into characteristics that can make schizophrenia a possibility. We are all born with a balance of dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate. When this biochemical balance gets interrupted or unbalanced, our neurotransmitters are affected. Neurotransmitters are what allows the brain to send messages back and forth between nerve cells. If this gets interrupted, the messages can’t be delivered, and a person can have an uncharacteristic reaction to stimuli. Normal, everyday situations like hearing a train or running water can be triggers of negative symptoms because a person cannot deal with the combination of lower levels which are slowing brain function. They can become strongly overwhelmed by sounds, smells and other sensory experiences which trigger symptoms.
Research suggests that babies who are in the womb when their mothers are sick with the flu or viral infections can at risk for schizophrenia. However, statistics show that symptoms of the disorder would not result until the babies had become teenagers or older.
Researchers have discovered that there is a chromosome that is believed to predispose people to be at risk for schizophrenia, though the research has not been made fact.
There has also been substantial research done on the link between cat ownership and people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia. It sounds crazy, but cats contain a parasite called Toxoplasma Gondii (T. gondii). This can be spread to humans, and scientists believe it may play some sort of a role in causing schizophrenia though there is no substantial evidence to prove this at this point.
In the 1950s, LSD was a popular recreational drug that has now been linked to causing people to develop schizophrenia. Obviously, it has not been proven but it is possible. Cocaine has been linked to similar things as well.
There are three general phases that adults go through with schizophrenia.
The acute phase: This is when the patient seems to have lost touch with reality. It requires medical intervention and help from nursing staff, and often requires hospitalization and medication. Moving into the second phase, known as the stabilization phase, these symptoms have been controlled with a variety of treatments. The symptoms appear to be mild as the medication affects the patient. However, if the medications and treatments are interrupted or stopped, the symptoms can come right back and be just as intense. Moving on to the third phase, known as the maintenance phase, patients are more controlled and their symptoms can be kept at bay with prescribed anti psychotic medications.
The Prodromal Phase: The prodrome phase is typically 2-4 years before psychotic symptoms appear.
The Active Phase: People with negative symptoms are typically classified as having Type 1 schizophrenia. Their symptoms come on extremely fast and are relatively severe, but they respond well to treatment. Patients with Type II have negative symptoms, which means they show signs of personal depression, lack of energy, etc. Often times they have trouble with remembering things or important dates, etc.
Types of Schizophrenia
There are five subtypes that are all included in the DSM-IV:
Disorganized Schizophrenia: Patients who have disorganized (undifferentiated) or hebephrenic schizophrenia tend to speak and think in a way that is essential, very disorganized. They might seem to joke around, though not meaning to do so. They often will struggle in social situations after receiving this diagnosis, because of the way they come across to people. Observers of people who have disorganized schizophrenia often feel like they seem delusional. Undifferentiated schizophrenia is essentially a diagnosis given to someone when they are showing symptoms of schizophrenia but they can’t be classified under any of the other categories. It’s sort-of the “catch-all” of the disorder.
Paranoid Schizophrenia: People with this type of schizophrenia suffer from delusions and often say they hear voices. One interesting fact is that their cognitive functions tend to still be very much in tact. Upon observing a patient with these symptoms, you’d find that their memory and speech is not affected typically.
Catatonic Schizophrenia: There are several things that can serve as an indicator to catatonic schizophrenia. These indicators can manifest themselves over the course of a few weeks, a month, a year or more. People who suffer from catatonic schizophrenia have been described as manifesting “strange” behaviors such as copying things others say, making odd noises, and other things that in turn may seem sub-normal.
Residual Schizophrenia: Patients who don’t have any major symptoms of schizophrenia but still seem to have occasional, mild symptoms are given a diagnosis of residual schizophrenia.
Diagnosing schizophrenia can be very difficult to do, but the International Center for Disease (ICD) gives us a few rules to follow in order to identify a sign or warning of the disease.
There is an online quiz that you can take here to help you identify symptoms that are commonly identified with the disorder. You can take a test or see this checker help you review symptoms.
There is a more in-depth test called the Rorschach Test.
If you want to understand more about symptoms you might be having, or what schizophrenia feels like, take an assessment. While free ones online can give you a very small amount of information online, you’d do well to meet with a specialist. This can be done through a hospital or institute where someone specifically researches the disease and its ramifications.
Schizophrenia In The Media
Schizophrenia is a popular subject in both tv and the movies, as well as a popular documentary subject because of the mystery behind it. Many people who suffer from schizophrenia struggle with identity and artists seek to capture their pain, struggle and inspirational stories in various art mediums. Knowing and understanding what schizophrenia feels like is very difficult for many of us. We can try to understand the horror that some go through with the disorder.
Anderson Cooper filmed videos using a simulator to see what it’s like to live inside the isolating world of schizophrenia. The simulator produced various optical illusions that effected his eyes, sounds, smells, etc. that many people suffer with. These things made him feel like he was experiencing delusional things. In the video, this simulation gave Cooper a huge appreciation for what people with schizophrenia endure vs people who don’t have it.
Janie Schofield was 6-years-old when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Jani exhibited schizophrenic symptoms from a very young age, and her family went public with the news in order to bring light to something families deal with that is extremely difficult and not often discussed. Families across America poured out support to the Schofield family. Some of Jani’s symptoms included experiencing a delusion, seeing things that turned out to be a myth, etc. She also experienced auditory hallucinations, regularly gave a description of seeing an illusion. She would make strange drawings on a sheet of paper and give her characters odd names like “24 hours.” Her parents said Jani became removed and non-social.
In 2014, her family announced that Jani’s younger brother was on the spectrum. There is mental illness on both sides of the Schofield family, so the genetics were certainly in the possibilities of inheritance for both siblings, though they were manifesting themselves with different disorders.
Jani’s brother started exhibiting symptoms when he would inflict damage on things at home. Violence was a very big concern, and the Schofields are working on determining if their son might also have schizophrenia.
There are a lot of celebrities and famous people who are rumored to have schizophrenia. The celebrity Amanda Bynes was one of those people, as she had several public mental breakdowns and people saw a lot of odd behaviors that seemed to mean she was suffering from schizophrenia. However, that has been denied. A lot of people called her “crazy,” and described the basis of why they thought that. They painted a pretty graphic picture of her freaking out, which had become more and more rare. However, she tested negative for schizophrenia from the beginning.
TV, entertainment and the media use schizophrenia in a lot of ways that you might not have noticed or picked up on. Bringing a platform to schizophrenia, making it something people can understand and talk about is important.
MTV did an episode called “I Have Schizophrenia” on True Life News. It profiled what it’s like to live with schizophrenia, trying to dispel some of the assumptions that are associated with the disorder. If you’re familiar with the Disney Channel tv show Phineas and Ferb, you may remember the dark themes. Examples of this include: One of the characters names is Candace. Candace builds a make believe life for herself. Many people think the show paints pictures of schizophrenia without actually acknowledging it. It’s hard to tell, but it definitely seems possible that this theory is true, especially in parts of the show.
For many people, schizophrenia might be something we know from the movies. “A Beautiful Mind” starring Russell Crowe is a famous, impactful story of triumph above all odds. The movie tells the story of a famous Nobel prize-winning mathematician named John Forbes Nash Jr. who suffered from schizophrenia. That movie shows its viewers a side of the disease that we often don’t see. Schizophrenia doesn’t discriminate about age whether you’re 5, 9, or have been living for a long time.
There are other documentaries that explore studies, the psychology of schizophrenia, current issues involving the mental illness, the pain it caused to families, etc.
How To Treat Signs of Schizophrenia
While a cure for schizophrenia has not been developed, there are many ways to treat the symptoms with a variety of natural and prescription drugs. There is a large prevalence of options and resources for treatment of schizophrenia. There’s a few factors to consider when trying to measure the potential success and impact of pharmacological treatments for schizophrenia. Upon receiving a prognosis, it’s important to meet with an experienced physician who can guide you through the process and help you sample, test and research different types of medicine or treatments.
Insulin shock therapy is a treatment that was used in the early 1900s but is no longer used today. It was typically used on patients in a psychiatric ward.
Antipsychotic medications can make a big difference for people with dissociative disorders, whether their diagnosis is new or old. Ayurvedic medicine is a type of medicine used with antipsychotics for treating schizophrenia. Treatments are known as interventions. Many patients feel as if they’ve been set free when they begin treatments. They can have fun again and don’t protest getting treatments because they know it helps them.
Antipsychotic treatment modalities include ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy) is used to treat severe depression and sometimes used to treat schizophrenia. It’s used because it’s an extremely quick way of bringing relief from symptoms to people who are suffering. In cases with schizophrenia called catatonia, this treatment is very successful for many people. Catatonia causes a person’s body to become rigid and they cannot move. This is basically done by administering anesthesia which causes the patient to relax. Electric currents are sent through electrodes on your scalp. These currents are sent in very short amount of time. It essentially causes a mini seizure in your brain and the patient doesn’t remember anything when they wake up.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness that is mysterious and confusing to many on a national and international scale. People live with symptoms of the disease for a long time, and if they’re seeking treatment, those symptoms can be exacerbated by alcohol. The alcohol can interact negatively with the drugs and cause symptoms to worsen.
Psychotherapy is also a possible affective way, known as an intervention, of treating the symptoms of schizophrenia. This is typically done on patients who are resistant to other treatments, have become violent, attempted drastic measures such as suicide, or have had other strong behavioral issues. Or other methods that have not worked.
Psychosocial treatments are also a type of treatment that has varied greatly in popularity at times. The concept has been around since the 1950s but has waned in use in recent years.
Some people however, choose to take a more homeopathic, holistic approach to treatment, of which there are a large number. A large part of the population who suffer from schizophrenia believe this has a more positive affect on their symptoms without any negative side effects from meds.
Some people have tried to smoke cannabis (more commonly referred to as pot or weed). Many people think this drug will help them because it is natural and often has a calming effect on people. However, this is not the case. Instead of helping with symptom management, marijuana can actual worsen symptoms, especially in cases of paranoid schizophrenia. Instead of calming someone, it can cause paranoia to worsen and therefore is not recommended.
Another type of treatment is orthomolecular, which is essentially a blend of vitamins and minerals used to treat schizophrenia naturally. Omega 3 is heavily used in this treatment and is recommended to use as a schizophrenia prevention.
There are various kinds of therapies that help people with schizophrenia. Some people believe this can help better versus an actual medical treatment.
While treatments work on most patients, there is something called refractory schizophrenia which essentially means that despite treatment, their anxiety, visions, and other paranoia symptoms are not able to be treated. These cases are particularly dire and extremely challenging to patients and those taking care of them.
Researchers today are constantly looking for cures but so far have not found any. Most of these treatments essentially mask symptoms, rather than cure but they produce amazing results in so many patients.
There are a lot of resources available for people who have schizophrenia, their families, and others who are looking to learn more. There are a wide variety of articles, many people have a blog, etc. It’s also easy to find a research paper or something similar to the disorder. This Forbes article is an interesting and informative read which includes new insights into definitions and a kind of schizophrenia,English journal findings, recovery symptoms, etc. When someone has a diagnosis, there are so many questions that fly through your mind and it’s helpful to know where to go for help and encouragement.
There are several different organizations that have made great strides in providing papers, clinical research, and resources to people searching for information and help. One of these is SARDAA, Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America. They are a self-help group for people who have schizophrenia to have a safe, open forum to talk about their struggles and victories with the disorder.
The NHS (National Health Service), a UK based organization, is an authoritative source if you’re seeking more information on schizophrenia for your self or others.
Schizophrenia Research Institute in Australia is also an extremely forward-thinking, influential organization in the schizophrenic field. They support and provide biological samples in order to allow for studies to be done to make strides against the disorder.
There’s also the International Congress on Schizophrenia Research which is an annual meeting in which residential researchers, scientists, and big names in the field gather together to present their findings, data, etc.
You might be wondering whats so terrible about schizophrenia? Why do people seem to get so upset about it? Schizophrenia could be a devastating diagnosis, but many learn to live with it and thrive. It is a factor in their life but the word “schizophrenia” is not whats going to define their life. Many people take the opportunity to look it in the eye and work to overcome, no matter what.