Schizophrenia is an illness with severe disturbance in the brain’s functioning, resulting in disturbed thoughts and bizarre behaviours. It usually appears during late adolescence and early adulthood. The cause is still unknown but is believed to be contributed by predispositions, abnormalities in brain chemistry and stresses faced by the affected person. Schizophrenia is treatable. It is important to detect and treat early to minimize functional impairment caused by the illness.
Recognizing Schizophrenia Symptoms
- Delusions (Believing in things that are not true like people reading their minds, controlling their thoughts or plotting to harm them)
- Hallucinations (Typically hearing voices that are not there, like people talking bad about them and condemning them)
- Disorganized Thoughts and Speech (Incoherent speech, swearing and strange mannerisms)
- Negative symptoms (Lack of emotions and expression, lack of motivation, social withdrawal and personal neglect on appearance and hygiene)
Phases of Illness
- Prodromal Phase (Early Stage) – Affected person becomes quieter, and gradually withdraws from usual activities and other people. Person has difficulty in concentration with drop in academic or work performance. The individual may become preoccupied with certain topics or become overly religious.
- Active Phase – Affected person becomes very disturbed with hallucinations, delusions, bizarre behaviours, incoherent speech and not in contact with reality. Person needs to be admitted immediately for treatment.
- Residual Stage – With proper medications, symptoms of acute phase are controlled. Some may be well enough to resume their activities. Others may remain subdued and have difficulties in engaging with their usual social activities. The symptoms in this phase are similar to the prodromal phase.
Causes of Schizophrenia
The exact cause for Schizophrenia is still unknown. It is a combination of many factors such as genetic predisposition, psychological malke-up of a person and other environmental factors working together to raise the risk of developing the illness. Research on the cause is still on-going.
Treatment for Schizophrenia
- Medications – The main mode of treatment is medication with anti-psychotic drugs. This is aimed at correcting chemical dysfunction of the brain. Some patients may not be able to tolerate certain medications very well and experience side-effects which may make them more stiff and slow. This must be discussed with the doctor to get the most suitable medication.
- Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) – It is used only in persons where the acute phase cannot be controlled with medications. This is a relatively safe procedure administered under anaesthesia.
- Psychosocial Rehabilitation – This is aimed at empowering persons in recovery from Schizophrenia to understand their illness, manage their illness to prevent relapse, strengthen their coping mechanisms, build up their self-esteem and set goals for their recovery.
Reference : National Institute of Mental Health, US