Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe mental disorder that affects the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, perceives reality, and relates to others. Though schizophrenia isn’t as common as other major mental illnesses, it can be the most chronic and disabling.
Around 3.2 million Americans suffer from schizophrenia. This disorder typically appears during adolescence, but people can develop it in childhood or adulthood, as well.
The complexity of schizophrenia may help explain why there are misconceptions about the disease. Schizophrenia does not mean split personality or multiple-personality. Most people with schizophrenia are not any more dangerous or violent than people in the general population. While limited mental health resources in the community may lead to homelessness and frequent hospitalizations, it is a misconception that people with schizophrenia end up homeless or living in hospitals. Most people with schizophrenia live with their family, in group homes or on their own.
It’s not known what causes schizophrenia, but researchers believe that a combination of genetics, brain chemistry and environment contributes to development of the disorder.
Problems with certain naturally occurring brain chemicals, including neurotransmitters called dopamine and glutamate, may contribute to schizophrenia. Neuroimaging studies show differences in the brain structure and central nervous system of people with schizophrenia. While researchers aren’t certain about the significance of these changes, they indicate that schizophrenia is a brain disease.
The symptoms of Schizophrenia vary from person to person. Some symptoms of the disorder include:
- Disorganized speech
- Detachment from friends and family
- Disorganized thinking
- Depressed mood
- Irritability or paranoid behavior
- Bad hygiene
- Fidgeting or jerky movements
- Monotonous speech patterns
- Resistance to completing tasks
- Apathy towards previously enjoyed activities
- Poor performance in school or work
- Faulty memory
How is Schizophrenia Diagnosed?
The most accurate way to get a diagnosis with any mental health condition is by seeing a psychiatrist. They are experts in mental health and can give you the best diagnosis. A psychiatrist can diagnose Schizophrenia by checking you against a list of symptoms.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who is trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses and conditions. To screen for Schizophrenia, they will see a patient, observe their behavior, and ask them about their thoughts and current mood
There’s no sure way to prevent schizophrenia but sticking with a treatment plan can help prevent relapses or worsening of symptoms. In addition, researchers hope that learning more about risk factors for schizophrenia may lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment.
Schizophrenia requires treatment for the rest of a patient’s life. Even when symptoms lessen, a patient should still maintain their treatment protocols.