Mental Health

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that can cause hallucinations and delusions, and make a person withdraw from society. Schizophrenia affects more than 2 million Americans ...

by Staff

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that can cause hallucinations and delusions, and make a person withdraw from society. Schizophrenia affects more than 2 million Americans every year but it is still a widely misunderstood disorder – only recently have the effects of schizophrenia been discussed in public. Schizophrenia is a chronic condition that affects men and women of all ages. Though the disorder is generally recurrent, with treatment the symptoms of the disorder can be controlled.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that affects the way the brain processes stimuli. If you are suffering from schizophrenia, you will not see or understand things in the same way that an unaffected person does. Instead, you may have difficulty experiencing appropriate emotions, acting in an appropriate manner, or perceiving reality as it actually is. Schizophrenia affects men and women equally. It usually develops in early adulthood in men and in the late 20s and 30s in women. Childhood schizophrenia is rare but can occur.

What Causes Schizophrenia?

The causes of schizophrenia are still unknown. The disorder it is thought to be the result of a problem with the brain’s neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in your brain that send messages to different nerve cells telling your body how to react. Schizophrenics may have low levels of these neurotransmitters, or have defects in the nerve cells in their brains, preventing correct messages from being sent. Schizophrenia may also be caused by a problem in the limbic system, the center of the brain that controls our emotions.

This defect in the brain is probably the result of a gene abnormality present at birth. This means that a person can be born with a “schizophrenia gene” that will be triggered at some point in their lives. Therefore, a person cannot avoid developing schizophrenia they are born with the disorder. Schizophrenia does tend to run in families, suggesting that schizophrenia is a genetic condition. This gene may be triggered by environmental factors, including drug abuse, stress, childhood, and illness. Once triggered, schizophrenia may develop gradually or it can have a rapid onset.

What are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?

The symptoms of schizophrenia are numerous and debilitating. Most schizophrenics will suffer from symptoms throughout their lives, though there can be periods where symptoms are absent. Schizophrenia symptoms are divided into three categories: positive symptoms, disorganized symptoms, and negative symptoms.

Positive Symptoms: Positive symptoms of schizophrenia are those symptoms that involve an excess of normal bodily functions. For instance, if you are schizophrenic your senses may operate at a heightened and excessive state. Positive signs of schizophrenia include delusions, or beliefs that have no basis in reality. You may feel persecuted (paranoid delusions), you may feel as if the television or radio is talking directly to you (delusions of references), you may hold false beliefs about your physical state (somatic delusions) or you may feel that you have special abilities or powers (delusions of grandeur).

Many schizophrenics also experience hallucinations due to overactive senses. You may see things that aren’t really there, you may hear people talking to you, and you may even be able to smell, touch, and taste things that other people can’t. These hallucinations may be quite scary for both the schizophrenic and for family and friends.

Disorganized Symptoms: Disorganized symptoms are those symptoms that exhibit the confusion caused within the brain. Often, a schizophrenic will have trouble maintaining a conversation, may engage in unpredictable behaviors, or may act bizarrely in certain situations. People with schizophrenia also have difficulty achieving goals or acting with any purpose. For example, schizophrenics may hold unusual poses for extended periods of time.

Negative Symptoms: Negative symptoms of schizophrenia are those symptoms that involve a decrease in normal bodily functions. These symptoms may involve withdrawal from society or refusal to speak. Schizophrenics often are disinterested in life and lack the ability to act in order to achieve simple goals. If you are suffering from the disorder, your voice may become monotone or you may be unable to change facial expressions or body language according to mood.

Types of Schizophrenia

There are a number of types of schizophrenia that are distinguishable according to the types of symptoms experienced. Diagnosing schizophrenia can be difficult but it is important to be diagnosed correctly in order to receive optimal treatment.

Paranoid Schizophrenia: Paranoid schizophrenia is the most commonly occurring schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenia symptoms include frequent hallucinations and delusions. You may hear people giving you commands, threatening you, or laughing at you or you may feel as if you are on a special mission or are being followed. These hallucinations and delusions can be episodic or continual.

Disorganized (Hebephrenic) Schizophrenia: Disorganized schizophrenics tend to be verbally incoherent and exhibit strange or bizarre behaviors. If you are suffering from this type of schizophrenia you may hold long conversations but say relatively little. You may express violent emotions, engage in pranks, or laugh at socially unacceptable times. You will probably have few, if any, hallucinations or delusions.

Catatonic Schizophrenia: Catatonic schizophrenics are withdrawn and isolated from friends, family, and society. They engage in purposeless behavior, and may exhibit unusual flexibility or postures.

Residual Schizophrenia: Residual schizophrenia occurs in chronic sufferers after the disappearance of positive symptoms. It usually lasts for one year and is characterized by negative symptoms. Residual schizophrenics have little interest in life and will not engage in eye contact or conversation.

Schizoaffective Disorder: Schizoaffective disorder is a combination of schizophrenia and mood disorder. You may experience schizophrenic symptoms along with symptoms of bipolar disorder or major depression.

Undifferentiated Disorder: Some people with schizophrenia exhibit all of the symptoms but don’t fit into one particular category. For treatment purposes, you may be labeled with undifferentiated schizophrenia.

If you think that you may have schizophrenia, or if you know someone who does, it is important to find a competent medical professional for schizophrenia treatment.

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