Schizophrenia is a serious mental health disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between what is real and not real. It afflicts almost 1% of population, that means one out of every 100 people will develop schizophrenia in their lifetime.
Schizophrenia affects the way a person thinks feels and behaves and the affected person’s perception of reality changes and they are often unaware of that.
Symptoms begin typically in young adulthood, and about 0.3 – 0.7% of people are affected during their lifetime.
Schizophrenia symptoms generally develop slowly over months or years. Other symptoms include:
Delusions are fixed, false, firm beliefs which exist despite evidence to the contrary . For eg a person believing people are out there to harm him/her or people are following/talking about him/her, a conspiracy is going on against the person while in reality there is no evidence of anything like this happening. There can also be bizarre delusions (something that never happens in real life) like aliens are controlling someone or that someone’s thoughts are being broadcasted on TV etc
Hallucinations are perceptions without stimuli. That means a person is hearing or seeing things when nothing is there. In schizophrenia auditory hallucinations are most commonly seen while visual and other hallucinations can also be there
Changes in behaviour or disorganized behaviour like impaired self care, not taking bath for weeks, wearing odd clothes which are inappropriate to the weather, doing odd behaviours like gesturing or staring, purposeless behaviour, or extreme unpredictable and inappropriate emotional reactions (like laughing after a trauma).
Changes in speech or disorganized speech- like repetition of words and phrases, talking to people who are not there, inventing new words (neologism), irrelevant or incoherent speech, jumbled speech (word salad)
A person suffering from schizophrenia may also stop doing certain things which normally people do when they are healthy. For example withdrawing from social life, lack of pleasure in things, impairment in social interaction and communication, lack of emotional expression and amotivation.
Schizophrenia is a complex illness and multiple factors can contribute to its development. A combination of genetic and environmental factors plays a major role in the development of schizophrenia.
Certain events may trigger schizophrenia in people who are at risk for it because of their gene
You are more likely to develop schizophrenia if you have a family member with the disease
Genetic and biological factors play a significant role but there is no single gene responsible for causing schizophrenia.
Apart from that other factors like trauma and abuse in childhood, stressful life events, early and prolonged drug use like cannabis (weed, hesh, marijuana) or other drugs can also contribute or predispose.
Schizophrenia treatment includes.
Mainstay of treatment of schizophrenia are medicines and psychosocial therapy.
Antipsychotic medicines are known to be the best available treatment for schizophrenia as they change the balance of chemicals in the brain and help control symptoms. As schizophrenia is a life-long illness, most people with this condition need to stay on antipsychotic medication for life.
Supportive therapy may be helpful for many people with schizophrenia.
Treatment usually lasts longer and may be life long as schizophrenia is often a chronic long lasting condition.
Unfortunately there is no proven way to prevent schizophrenia but awareness and seeking help early can help in timely diagnosis and management which can improve its prognosis.
If you are aware that schizophrenia runs in your family then Avoid substance like alcohol or drugs as they increase the risk
Seek help if you are going through any traumatic or stressful life situation
Keep a healthy lifestyle like proper sleep and nutrition, exercise, nurture your hobbies, invest time in your relationships and spend time with loved ones
Learn to manage stress and talk to a psychiatrist if you experience the above mentioned symptoms as early as possible