Understanding Schizophrenia: What It Is and How It’s Treated
Schizophrenia is a poorly understood mental illness, and it’s worth shedding some light on as it’s a severely mismanaged and misunderstood illness. The condition affects approximately 1% of the world’s population and it is diagnosed usually by ruling out other diseases.
Most sufferers rely on others for support as they are unable to look after themselves or even be able to work. It is a condition that can develop unnoticed for years, or perhaps occur explosively suddenly and progress rapidly. In fact, schizophrenia is believed by some experts to actually be several illnesses combined into one.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
The symptoms of schizophrenia are such that a sufferer can easily be in denial that they have any mental illness at all. These symptoms are classed into four categories:
Positive symptoms: psychotic symptoms, delusions, hallucinations
Negative symptoms: the absence of motivation, lack of facial expression
Cognitive symptoms: symptoms that affect the thought process, lack of focus, poor concentration
Emotional symptoms: numbness, blunted feelings, lack of sincere expression
Of the above, the major symptoms of the disorder are hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thoughts. Erratic speech, or seeing, hearing, smelling things that are not there, or even delusions of all sorts are also common. These delusions and hallucinations appear so vividly to patients that it is difficult for them to even be aware that they have a problem at all.
A person suffering from schizophrenia also begins to neglect everyday actions, general hygiene, and personal relationships. Cognitive challenges present themselves in small ways, like recalling things or communicating well, or even the inability to plan or organize.
The Roots of Schizophrenia
As per the experts, it is believed that a combination of environmental factors and genetic inheritance are responsible for the onset of schizophrenia. Without a family history of the disease, you have a 1% chance of developing schizophrenia. Genetically, if you have a parent who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, your risks of developing the condition rise to 10%. Some experts point to an imbalance in neurotransmitters as a cause for the development of the mental illness, namely dopamine and serotonin.
It can also be mistaken that the causes for the disease developing in a person are a rough divorce, a lost job, a crisis, or some other events before the acute symptoms of the disease are apparent. In actuality, crises, divorce, or unemployment may be caused by the disease itself. It is important to analyze the situation carefully to determine whether what is thought of as a trigger was not simply a product of cause and effect.
Lastly, there is the belief that schizophrenia can be caused by drugs. Specifically, relapses are believed to be brought on by the use of marijuana or LSD. Should a person with a predisposition to schizophrenia engage in the use of cannabis, the risks of triggering the onset of the disease are greater. It is also believed by professionals that stimulants and steroids can result in psychosis.
Treatment of Schizophrenia
While schizophrenia is often a lifelong battle, the symptoms are treatable and can be relieved through proper treatment. Leading a productive life is a possibility as long as the correct steps are taken. According to psychiatrists, the best treatment for the disease is a trifecta of psychological counseling, medication, and self-help resources.
It is thanks to newly developed anti-psychosis drugs that many schizophrenia sufferers are able to live life in a community rather than in an institution. However, it must be understood that the anti-psychotic medication is to be taken at all times, even during periods where the symptoms of the disease are not apparent. If a sufferer is taken off the meds for any reason, this can trigger an episode and relapse.
Numerous research and development are still ongoing with regards to schizophrenia. New medications are under trial, and there are new facts being presented through various studies. Foods are being analyzed for their benefits and whether there could be natural alternatives to assist with symptoms. The very cause of schizophrenia is not understood, and this alone is an entire grey area of study. DNA and cell studies are being conducted to better understand the workings of the disease and what may cause it in the first place. In time to come, there will surely be a better means of managing this difficult condition, but right now, the prospects are still very good!
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