Schizophrenia is a severe, chronic, and disabling mental disorder that affects a person’s ability to feel, think, and behave rationally and clearly. People affected by this disorder feel that they have lost touch with reality. The mental health disorder affects 1.5 people per 10,000 every year. It causes immense distress to patients and their family members, and friends.
Schizophrenia is typically diagnosed between late adolescence and early twenties to early thirties. It tends to appear earlier in men, that is, between late adolescence and early twenties, while in women, it is generally diagnosed in early twenties or early thirties. Schizophrenia can become persistent and disabling, if not treated in time. However, it has a good prognosis as affected individuals can resume normal life at home, work and school with timely, coordinated, and sustained treatment.
Effective Treatment for Schizophrenia
The present treatments for schizophrenia focus on managing symptoms and addressing the day-to-day challenges faced by the patient. The different lines of treatments include:
These medications are prescribed in the form of a pill or liquid to alleviate the severity and occurrence of psychotic symptoms. For individuals who are not comfortable with daily doses, antipsychotic medications may also be administered as injections once or twice a month.
Patients who fail to respond to standard antipsychotic medications are given clozapine. However, one to two percent of patients receiving clozapine may show side effects. Therefore, people treated with clozapine need to undergo routine blood tests for early detection of possible side effects. These side-effects may include:
While some medication-related side-effects subside over time, others persist thereby causing the patients to consider stopping them. Nonetheless, clozapine should be tapered under expert supervision as abrupt termination may flare schizophrenia symptoms.
This set of treatment focuses on helping individuals improve their coping skills to effectively deal with everyday challenges of schizophrenia. These treatments are useful in enabling people in distress to pursue their life-goals, such as performing at work, attending school and forming and sustaining relationships. Moreover, individuals participating in regular psychosocial treatment have a lower risk of relapse or need for hospitalization.
The most commonly prescribed psychosocial treatments to help people deal with the negative and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Behavioral skills training
In addition, the therapist may also consider a combination of these therapies and antipsychotic medication for better therapeutic outcome.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia symptoms can be broadly segregated into three categories:
Altered perceptions such as
Changes in hearing, vision, touch, smell, and taste
Loss of touch with reality, characterized by
Delusions – Firmly-held beliefs that are not supported by objective facts such as, paranoia (illogical fears that somebody is “out to get you”)
Hallucinations – Seeing things or hearing voices that are not there
Thought disorder – Disorganized speech or unusual thought pattern
Disinterest, loss of motivation, disinterest or lack of enjoyment in daily activities
Difficulty functioning normally
Social withdrawal or difficulty showing emotions
Diminished feelings of pleasure in everyday life
Reduced motivation and difficulty planning
Reduced expression of emotions via facial expression or tonality of voice
While cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are subtle in some individuals, others may experience more prominent symptoms that may compromise their ability to learn new things, or remember appointments. The most common cognitive symptoms include:
Difficultly in concentration, attention, and memory
Difficulty processing information to make decisions
Trouble focusing or paying attention
Finding it difficult to use information immediately after learning it
Risk Factors for Schizophrenia
Genetic factors: Schizophrenia may run in families. However, it is not necessary that if someone has a family history of schizophrenia, he or she will have it too. It is important to note that many different genes may contribute to the development of schizophrenia, but no single gene is responsible for causing the disorder by itself.
Environmental factors: As scientists suggest, genetic risks and different environment together may increase an individual’s risk of developing schizophrenia. These environmental factors may include stressful surroundings, living in poverty, and nutritional problems before birth or exposure to viruses among others.
Brain structure and function: Schizophrenia may also be caused due to differences in brain structure, function, and interactions among neurotransmitters (chemical messengers). These changes may begin as early as before birth.
What Can We Do To Help Someone With Schizophrenia?
It can be challenging at times to care for and to support people struggling with schizophrenia as they may not know exactly what one goes through when experiencing psychosis. Still, there are certain things you can do to make your loved ones with schizophrenia feel relieved.
Their beliefs or hallucinations may appear irrational to you but they seem very real to them, so acknowledge this fact.
Help them stay positive and motivated and encourage them to undergo and continue with treatment.
Be supportive, respectful, and kind but stay alert for inappropriate or dangerous behavior.
Do not promote isolation. Try to help them participate in social activities and support groups in your area.
And, most importantly keep an eye on worsening of symptoms as some of these may require immediate medical attention.
If you think a loved one is suffering from schizophrenia, get in touch with Athena Behavioral Health. We can help identify the symptoms, diagnose the problem and implement treatment plans especially designed, keeping in mind the patient and their family’s needs and requirements. For more information about our schizophrenia treatment plans, call our 24/7 helpline number or chat with our representative, available 24/7 today.