What is schizophrenia?
The causes of schizophrenia and related serious mental illnesses are not currently understood, but research brings us closer every day to knowing the origins of these disorders. It is widely believed that genetics play a key role, and that the disorder is present before birth although symptoms may not appear for years. At this time, there is no cure for the disorder, but the majority of people will experience real improvement after receiving treatment.
Schizophrenia is a physical disorder that affects the brain, and consequently can have major impacts on an individual’s thought processes, cognitive abilities, and behaviours. Schizophrenia affects 1 in 100 people. A person’s intellectual capability does not make them more or less susceptible to schizophrenia. It is possible to have schizophrenia with any other physical or mental illness, disability or developmental delay.
The most common age of onset for symptoms is 15-25 in males, 18-30 in females, although onset can occur much earlier or much later. Symptoms are triggered by stress, head injury, the use of street drugs or alcohol, or birth complications.
Schizophrenia is a disorder that is diagnosed when the individual shows a number of symptoms that may include:
NEGATIVE / PASSIVE SYMPTOMS
These symptoms are often seen in the months before psychosis develops, and can be subtle. Many of these symptoms are linked to other disorders like depression, and to natural teenage development. Schizophrenia is often not diagnosed until psychosis is seen.
- Lack of Motivation
- Withdrawal: Social, Emotional
- Poor Rapport
- Lack of Spontaneity
- Sleep Disorder
- Lack of Hygiene
- Slowing Down Physically
- Poverty of Thought, Speech
- Blunted Emotions/Affect
- Rigid Thoughts, Beliefs
POSITIVE / ACTIVE SYMPTOMS(PSYCHOSIS)
- Hallucinations: can affect all 5 senses
- Delusions: Fixed False Beliefs
- Disordered Thought
- Excitability, Restlessness
- Anosognosia: individual’s inability to recognize that they are ill
Treatment involves a range of medication options. It can sometimes take a while to find the best medication for each person, and any concerns with medication efficacy or side effects need to be discussed with the prescribing psychiatrist or medical professional. Recovery can be enhanced by a holistic approach involving medical professionals, family and friends, community support programs and opportunities for the individual to participate in enjoyable and meaningful activities. Alternative therapies can be a helpful part of this holistic approach, but cannot cure schizophrenia.
People with schizophrenia have a lot to offer and deserve an opportunity to fulfill their potential. Recovery is a journey for each individual; a journey the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta is proud to be part of.