Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that usually appears in late adolescence or early adulthood. Its impact on speech, thinking, emotions, and other areas of life can affect a person’s social interactions and everyday activities.
Schizophrenia is a fairly uncommon condition, affecting around 0.25% to 0.64% of people in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). It can have a profound impact on a person’s life, as well as the lives of those around them.
The symptoms usually emerge when a person is between their late teens and early 30s. They tend to develop earlier in males than in females.
In some cases, a person will start to show unusual behaviors from childhood, but these only become significant as they get older. In others, the symptoms may appear suddenly.
Schizophrenia is a lifelong condition, but treatment can help manage the symptoms.
This article will look at the causes and symptoms of schizophrenia, as well as some of the treatment options available.
Schizophrenia affects different people in different ways, but there are some common symptoms. These include:
- confused speech that is hard for others to understand
- lack of facial expression
- lack of emotional expression
- lack of motivation
- difficulty concentrating
- psychosis, such as delusions and hallucinations
Before experiencing these symptoms, a person may appear:
- out of sorts
- to lack focus
The sections below will discuss some of the main symptoms of schizophrenia in more detail.
A person experiencing delusions may believe that something is true when there is no strong evidence for it.
For example, they may believe that:
- they are very important
- someone is pursuing them
- others are attempting to control them remotely
- they have extraordinary powers or abilities
Some people experience hallucinations. The most common type is hearing voices, but hallucinations can affect all the senses. For example, a person may also see, feel, taste, or smell things that are not really there.
Confused thinking and speech
A person’s thinking, and speech, may jump from one subject to another for no logical reason. It may therefore be hard to follow what the person is trying to say.
There may also be memory problems and difficulty understanding and using information.
The symptoms listed above can also affect a person’s:
- Motivation: The person may neglect everyday activities, including self-care. They may experience also catatonia, during which they are barely able to talk or move.
- Emotional expression: The person may respond inappropriately or not at all to sad or happy occasions.
- Social life: The person may withdraw socially, possibly through fear that somebody is going to harm them.
- Communication: The person’s unusual thought and speech patterns can make it difficult for them to communicate with others.
Many people with schizophrenia do not realize that they are unwell. Hallucinations and delusions can seem very realistic to a person who is experiencing them. This can make it hard to convince the individual to take medication. They may fear the side effects or believe that the medication will harm them.
Schizophrenia usually appears when a person is in their late teens or older, but it can also affect children. Learn more about childhood schizophrenia here. /articles/192104.php
Schizophrenia likely develops when specific genetic and environmental factors combine, according to the NIMH.
For example, the following factors might all contribute to the development of schizophrenia:
If there is no history of schizophrenia in a family, the chances of developing it are less than 1%. However, a person’s risk rises if one of their parents has a diagnosis of it.
A chemical imbalance in the brain
Schizophrenia appears to develop when there is an imbalance of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, and possibly also serotonin, in the brain.
Environmental factors that may increase the risk of schizophrenia include:
- trauma during birth
- malnutrition before birth
- viral infections
- psychosocial factors, such as trauma
Certain drugs and medications
In 2017, scientists found evidence to suggest that some substances in cannabis can trigger schizophrenia in those who are susceptible to it.
Others, however, have suggested that having schizophrenia may make a person more likely to use cannabis in the first place.
Schizophrenia is a lifelong condition, but effective treatment can help a person manage the symptoms, prevent relapses, and avoid hospitalization.
Each person’s experience will be different, and a doctor will tailor the treatment to suit the individual.
Some potential treatment options include:
- Antipsychotic drugs. These can be for daily use or for less frequent use if the person opts for injectable medications, which can last up to 3 months between injections (depending on the medication).
- Counseling. This can help a person develop coping skills and pursue their life goals.
- Coordinated special care. This integrates medication, family involvement, and education services in a holistic approach.
Some common medications for schizophrenia include:
- risperidone (Risperdal)
- olanzapine (Zyprexa)
- quetiapine (Seroquel)
- ziprasidone (Geodon)
- clozapine (Clozaril)
- haloperidol (Haldol)
That said, many of these drugs have adverse effects, including neurological symptoms and weight gain. Newer medications may have less severe side effects, however.
It is essential for a person to continue with their treatment plan, even if the symptoms improve. If a person stops taking medication, the symptoms may return.
In the past, health professionals referred to various subtypes of schizophrenia, such as paranoid schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. These classifications are no longer in use. Learn why in this article.
There is no diagnostic test to assess for schizophrenia. A doctor will diagnose it by observing how the person behaves. They will also ask about their history of physical and mental health.
That said, they may recommend some tests to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms, such as a tumor, brain injury, or another mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder.
To diagnose schizophrenia, a doctor will use the criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. This manual provides criteria for diagnosing a wide range of mental health conditions.
According to the criteria, a person must have at least two of the following symptoms for a month:
- disorganized speech
- grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior
- negative symptoms, such as lack of speech, emotional flatness, or lack of motivation
At least one of these must be 1, 2, or 3.
They must also experience considerable impairment in their ability to function in school or at work, to interact with others, or to carry out self-care tasks, and they must have symptoms that persist for 6 months or more.
The symptoms must also not be due to another health condition, a prescribed medication, or the use of other substances.
Schizophrenia is a long-term condition that can have a profound impact on a person’s ability to function in life. These effects can also affect the people around them.
Treatment is available that can help a person manage their symptoms. People with schizophrenia will also benefit from the support of their family, friends, and community services.
Anyone caring for someone with schizophrenia can help by learning how to spot the onset of an episode, encouraging the person to adhere to their treatment plan, and supporting them through their experience.