A schizophrenia diagnosis may seem like the end of the world, often this diagnosis is seen through a stigmitized lens and this can cause great distress for both individual and their family. However, although schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition, when treated correctly an individual can live a productive life.
Schizophrenia is one of the mental health conditions that require systemic support, which means the family and support system of the individual will require assistance as well. A support network is usually important for an individual with schizophrenia.
What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is mental health condition where the cognitions (thoughts), emotions, and behaviors of a person are affected. This also means that their perception of reality may be affected as well. These symptoms can make it difficult for the individual to participate in everyday functioning, such as keeping a job or completing their studies.
Schizophrenia is characterized by three types of symptoms. These symptoms can be categorized into positive symptoms (elements that are present that are not usually present), negative symptoms (elements that are not present and are usually present), and cognitive symptoms. A combination of these symptoms are usually experienced when an individual has schizophrenia.
These symptoms can vary in intensity and duration of experience. However, they are present in an individual who experiences schizophrenia and usually distances them from accurately perceiving reality. These symptoms may come and go, or they could remain consistent.
This can happen in the following ways:
These could be:
- Hallucinations - an individual may experience sensory hallucinations, such as hearing things, seeing things, smelling things, etc. These hallucinations are perceived as real to the individual.
- Delusions - an individual may have different beliefs that are not congruent with reality or may seem irrational. These delusions are often paranoid in nature and cause anxiety and fear.
- Thought disorder - an individual may experience broken or disjointed thought patterns. These thought patterns can affect their speech as they may stop speaking mid sentence if their thoughts have shifted.
- Movement disorder - an individual may experience repetative movements or tics that are involuntary in nature.
These symptoms will also vary in intensity and duration, some may be experience it in cycles, others as a consistent feeling. Negative symptoms remove something from the individual’s life or behavior. These symptoms may be similar to depression symptoms, however, when combined with positive and cognitive symptoms then a diagnosis of schizophrenia would be applicable.
The following things might be diminished:
- Interest in daily activities
- Difficulty showing emotions
- Including exercise
- Avoiding interactions and activities that involve other people
- Having low energy or extreme fatigue
When cognitive functions are negatively affected a person’s ability to successfully engage in expected daily living activities is also negatively impacted. The cognitive functions that are often impacted in schizophrenia are concentration, memory, and attention. This impact makes it difficult to process information, make decisions, follow conversations, and sometimes remember and complete tasks. There may also be illogical thinking and reasoning patterns.
What Are The Different Causes Of Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia has a few possible causes, and ongoing research assists in increasing understanding of the condition all the time. Currently there are three possible causes for schizophrenia.
How Is Schizophrenia Diagnosed?
Schizophrenia is usually diagnosed between the ages of 16 and 30 after a combination of the above symptoms are present. If the individual is experiencing intense positive symptoms that lead them to a state of psychosis them immediate treatment and support will be needed.
Early diagnosis and treatment is often the best approach after the initial symptoms have been identified. Your medical practitioner will take a family history to determine if there is a genetic predisposition. They will also take your symptoms and experience into account, both historically and in the present. With this information they will be able to make a diagnosis and suggest a treatment plan. Initially this may involve an admission for immediate assistance.
How Is Schizophrenia Treated?
Schizophrenia is treated in a variety of ways, the combination of interventions will be explored by you, your support system, and your medical practitioner. One of the possible approaches your practitioner takes is to create a team of professionals to assist you and your support network in a holistic manner.
Some of the elements of an intervention plan may be:
Using medication to stabilize an individual and help manage especially positive and negative symptoms can be useful. There may be a combination of medications that are suggested to help assist you regain as much control of your life as possible.
Psychotherapy and psychotherapeutic support
These services can include therapy with approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, etc. It can be helpful for both individual and their support system to receive therapy. Other psychotherapeutic services could include executive functioning support (planning and organizing), sheltered employment, behavior modification groups, support groups for both individual and their support network.
Living with schizophrenia is a difficult experience and can impact a family or community. Working with a team of specialists to offer holistic care to you and your family can be the beginning of a fulfilling life.
At Insightful Psychiatry we can begin this journey with you and help you gather the support you need. Reach out to us and book an appointment, we are here for you.