Schizophrenia is almost a taboo thing in conversations. There is almost a stigma in the word itself. This means that many people are afraid to talk about this disorder or ask questions they may need answers for. Schizophrenia has long been enveloped in stereotyping, mystique and stigma. People often associate it with causing a sufferer to be violent or inappropriate. It is simply just another form of mental disorder that affects over 51 million people in the world. This article will help to answer important questions, discuss treatment, and give tips for living with schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that can be severe and chronic. People who suffer from this may not be able to care for themselves or work. The condition causes them to have thoughts that people will hurt them (paranoid delusions) or they may hear people talking to them inside their head. Sufferers often become frightened or angry with these thoughts.
Schizophrenia causes disordered thoughts and speech. They may get frustrated with this and spend long periods of time not speaking to anyone. You may think they are okay until they begin to express their thoughts. They tend to be “story tellers” and have grand stories of things going on that they completely believe are real, but are not. The stories usually follow the line that someone is out to get them.
There is a few different types of schizophrenia:
Paranoid Schizophrenia. This type is the most prevalent for paranoid delusions that someone is trying to cause harm to them. They think very clearly most of the time, but hear people talking about them and think there is some type of conspiracy against them.
Disorganized Schizophrenia. This causes disordered thoughts and actions. You may notice very wild mood swings or even inappropriate emotions like laughing at sadness or getting angry when something good happens. They may talk disorganized or speak nonsense.
Catatonic Schizophrenia. The individual becomes unable to move or moves in a hyper fashion. You may notice “posturing” in positions that aren’t natural or they repeat you when you speak to them. They may also imitate your movements.
Undifferentiated Schizophrenia. This is mixed schizophrenia with symptoms from all the types.
Schizophrenia is caused by a combination of factors that include; brain chemistry, genetic and family history of the disorder, and environmental factors.
Brain Chemistry. The brains of people that suffer from schizophrenia have changes in their brain makeup. There is a disruption in the way neurotransmitters function.
Genetics. It isn’t uncommon to find schizophrenia in more than one person in a family. In over 50 percent of schizophrenia cases, both twins have the disorder. It is also common between parents and children.
Environment. Environmental factors like; abuse, trauma, stress, and inner city living can contribute to schizophrenia. It has also been seen in children born to mothers who were ill during pregnancy, malnourished, and under severe stress while pregnant.
The symptoms for schizophrenia start at different ages for men and women. Women experience the onset of symptoms later in the 20’s. Men tend to experience the onset early in the 20’s. Children and teenagers may have schizophrenia, but the symptoms are different. There are very few findings of the disorder after the age of 45. The symptoms of schizophrenia are:
Delusional Thinking. People with schizophrenia have thoughts that are not realistic. They may believe that people are going to harm them or that everyone in a room is mad at them. They may also think they are very grand, famous or popular. They may also think there is something terribly wrong in the world or with themselves. Four out of five people with schizophrenia suffer from delusional thinking.
Disorganized Thinking. Thoughts tend to be disordered and words may be inappropriate for the conversation. Another twist is sentences may be mixed up with the end words coming before the beginning words. This is called “a word salad.” All the thoughts and words are there they just don’t come out the right way. This can severely block communication.
Disorganized Motor Skills and Behaviors. You may notice spells of agitation mixed with acting childish. The behaviors do not assist with completing tasks and are not goal oriented. Motor skills can become disorganized including; posturing, too much movement, movements that are not needed, inability to follow instructions, or being unresponsive to commands.
Hallucinations. You may notice a person with schizophrenia sees things that are not there or they may talk to themselves because they hear someone talking in their head. To them, this is all very real. They may see, hear, or even smell or feel things touching them. However, the most common complaint is hearing voices.
Flat Affect. This is a lack of expression, emotion, or connection with others. They have trouble making eye contact with others, they do not smile or frown, and speak in a monotone voice. They also have trouble using their hands when they speak to accent a conversation.
Inability to Carry out Daily Life. A person with schizophrenia may be unable to keep up with hygiene needs, plan their day, do daily activities, socialize, or do pleasurable activities.
The following place a person at higher risk for schizophrenia:
Family history of schizophrenia
Drug use in teen years
Illness in mother during pregnancy or exposure to toxins
Advanced age of your father at time of your conception
Since schizophrenia is a brain disorder, there isn’t any type of blood test that can diagnose it. A psychiatrist will do an evaluation for schizophrenia. They look at these things:
Symptoms of schizophrenia for six months or longer
Trouble keeping a job or going to school
Trouble with social interactions
No medical history to explain the symptoms
The psychiatrist will evaluate symptoms. They look for more than a few of the following:
Withdrawal from social activities
Seeing things that aren’t there
Lack of personal hygiene
Lack of emotion
The following symptoms increase the likelihood of schizophrenia:
Thinking someone else is putting thoughts inside their head
Thinking others can read their thoughts
Blaming something else for behaviors
More than one voice discussing them
Voices are talking about what they do (Narration of daily life)
The treatment for schizophrenia require a combination approach. First, medications are needed to stabilize the brain chemicals that cause the disordered thinking and delusions. These are very different from average psychiatric meds because they work on different chemicals. These include:
People are often non-compliant with these because of side-effects, which include; muscle spasms, tremors, uncontrolled movements, dry mouth, blurred vision, and constipation.
After the condition is stabilized on medication, therapy is added. They work on coping and social interactions, activities, and goal setting. Better success rates have been found when schizophrenic patients are placed in group therapy with others who understand the condition.
Keep Taking Medication. Stopping medication can have dangerous effects. Talk to your doctor if you don’t feel right on the medication.
Watch for Signs. Keep an eye on triggers that cause you to have an episode. Look for approaching issues like sleep problems or daily care issues.
Stay in Touch with your Treatment Team. Keep in touch with your doctors and therapists. Do this even when you are feeling good and functional.
Assign a Family Advocate. Keep someone close to you as an advocate. Have them watch for visible outer signs of a relapse. Have them speak for you if you see your doctor during a relapse. Keep in regular contact with this person.
Natural Remedies for Schizophrenia
First, a word from The U.S. National Library of Medicine:
The pharmaceutical industry has made many advances in the medications given for psychiatric illness. This has led to a better quality of life for people with mental illness. Even for schizophrenics, treatments have improved greatly during a time period of 50 years. While this is great news for mental health patients, the industry has also realized that many natural treatments used for thousands of years for these disorders are most likely good choices to compliment medical treatments. Researchers are looking into the effectiveness of complementary medicine because of the number of patients seeking out this method of treatment. Natural remedies may help reduce symptoms and the following remedies do have some scientific backing, but are still being researched. Always talk to your doctor before using any form of herbal medicine. There could be severe and dangerous drug interactions. Your doctor can help you decide what is best, as part of your treatment plan.
Panax Ginseng. According to a study done in 2008, this herb can help sharpen concentration, memory, and thinking. It may reduce some of the symptoms of schizophrenia including; lack of emotion.
Ginkgo Biloba. This herb may help work with antipsychotic medications to make them work better and protect the neurons from antipsychotic damage.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Studies have shown that people with mental illness may not have enough Omega-3 fatty acids. EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) may be helpful in schizophrenia.
Brahmi. In India, this herb is used to help increase cognitive function. It has shown to help schizophrenia in animal testing. It may protect the neurons and stabilize brain chemical.
Antioxidants. Vitamins that have antioxidant properties including; vitamin A, C, and E, have been shown to lower the severe symptoms of schizophrenia. Researchers have found that vitamins see may reduce oxidative stress that leads to the development of schizophrenia.
If schizophrenia is not treated there can be severe complications, financial loss, and legal issues. Quality of life is severely impaired without treatment. Some complications include:
Increased risk of suicide or completion of suicide
Poverty and homelessness
Inability to hold a job or go to school
Aggressive behavior or victim of aggression
Being diagnosed with schizophrenia can send someone spiraling down. People may feel like the diagnosis means the end of a life, but it can be managed. The prognosis is good with treatment and many people live near normal lives.
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