Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder that affects a persons ability to be in a social situation, have proper emotions, think and focus and distinguish between what is and isnt real. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there are approximately 2.4 million people in the United States over 18 with schizophrenia. There are different types of schizophrenia including paranoid, disorganized, catatonic and residual. Many treatments are available for this brain disorder including cognitive therapy and medications to keep it under control. A misconception about schizophrenia is that it is the same as multiple personality disorder. People suffering from it experience hallucinations, but typically not more than one personality. Hallucinations and the inability to act appropriately are very common with schizophrenia.
The exact cause of schizophrenia is not known though some people are more susceptible to the brain condition because of genetics or certain life events that can trigger it. It seems to be equal among males and females and typically starts during the teen years or early 20s. When developed later in life, it is more common among females. Childhood schizophrenia is very rare, but would begin after the child turns five.
Aside from genetics, another possible factor of schizophrenia is environmental contributions that may cause the genes to develop further. Risk factors for schizophrenia include a family history of the disorder, exposure to toxins or viruses while in the womb, extremely stressful life and taking psychoactive drugs as a child or teen. Schizophrenia could lead to serious complications without treatment including self-harm, suicide, poverty, depression, not being able to work or go to school, health problems, heart disease and being involved in violent crimes.
A variety of symptoms develop with people who have schizophrenia, many of them starting slowly and eventually leading to more signs of the disease. The first symptoms of schizophrenia include difficulty concentrating, insomnia and being irritable. As it develops, other symptoms appear such as being isolated, having unusual behaviors, hallucinations, not feeling proper emotions, delusions, no motivation, lack of personal hygiene, the inability to take care of yourself, loose associations, anger, anxiety, childlike behavior, grimacing and lack of response to others. Diagnosis of schizophrenia relies on a psychological evaluation as no medical tests can diagnose this mental illness. However, some tests may be used to rule out other reasons for the signs and symptoms such as an MRI or CT scan of the brain and routine blood tests. Its important to call a doctor for an exam if suicidal thoughts occur.
Short-term treatment for schizophrenia such as from an episode of the illness often requires hospitalization and monitoring to keep you from harming yourself or others. For ongoing treatment, it requires a combination of medications and cognitive behavioral therapy. Antipsychotic medications are used to help keep your brain chemicals balanced, which relieves some of the side effects. However, medications also include their own side effects such as headaches, dizziness, tremors, weight gain and sedation. In most cases, schizophrenia cannot be prevented, but medication and therapy can help you reduce the risk of severe episodes.