Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental illness where your thoughts, senses and feelings are affected, causing you to mix reality with hallucinations. The illness often occurs at a young age – 10-15-year-olds – and it is more common in men than women. Around 220,000 people are being treated for schizophrenia in the UK.

 

What are the symptoms?

The psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia may include:

  • Being unable to distinguish reality from imagination – getting them mixed up

  • Hallucinations – hearing a voice, seeing a fictional person or imagining feeling a touch For example, this could be hearing voices comment on your actions

  • Delusions – thinking and insisting that your hallucinations are real despite them being made up. For example, you may feel pursued by evil powers

  • Behavioural changes – loss of desire to socialise with other people or meet new people You no longer manage to follow the unspoken social rules.

  • Reduced energy – you suffer from excessive fatigue and have difficulty completing simple tasks

  • Lack of interest – you do not wish to participate in hobbies as you once did. You begin to isolate yourself

  • Speech disorders – you are no longer able to speak in coherent and/or understandable sentences. Gradually, you become increasingly silent in the company of others. You also fail to express yourself correctly and develop a poorer vocabulary

 

What are the causes?

The exact cause of schizophrenia is not yet fully understood, but there are certain conditions that can contribute to the development of the illness, such as inheritance and environment. The illness has a hereditary component, which means that if you have a close relative who have/have had the illness, there is an increased risk of you developing it yourself.

A theory suggest that the illness is due to a disrupted development of the brain which begins earlier in life – maybe as early as the embryonic stage. This disruption causes increased vulnerability. If a vulnerable person is exposed to mental strain, or other negative environmental influences during the brain’s process of maturity in puberty, the disruption can increase the risk of developing mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia.

 

What are the treatments?

Schizophrenia can be treated if you persistently try to help yourself and seek help. The treatment consists of three parts:

  1. Antipsychotics: These medicaments block the signalling drug ‘dopamine’ in the brain. An overactive production of dopamine within the brain is associated with schizophrenia. However, the antipsychotics have many side-effects, which include:

 

  • Inner turmoil

  • Muscle stiffness

  • Muscle cramps

  • Involuntary movements

  • Weight increase

  • Elevated blood pressure (hypertension)

  • Diabetes   

 

  1. Conversational therapy: In consultation with a psychiatrist, the purpose of this therapy is to increase the patient’s self-esteem and self-understanding. Here, the patient’s family is often involved in order to help optimise the effect of the treatment.

 

  1. Social-psychiatric measures: The patient’s social skills are trained and developed, and his/her understanding of the illness is increased. This is for example done through education of mental illnesses along with other people suffering from mental illnesses.

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that often requires prolonged treatment, but fortunately recovery is possible!

 

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