Schizophrenia

 

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“It’s real, you are not alone, and there is help”

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“You once said that God must be a painter because he gave us so many colors”

- John Nash

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Schizophrenia is a serious illness that affects 1% of the worldwide population.  In the U.S. it affects approximately 2.4 million adults.  The illness does not discriminate and it occurs in people of all countries, races, cultures and socioeconomic status.  

 

Schizophrenia is a complex illness with no specific cause.  It’s an illness that is often times misunderstood by the general population.  Many do not fully understand what it means to have the illness, how it’s caused, and how it’s treated.  

 

With scientific studies much more is known today than was known in the past.  Unfortunately, many beliefs from the past are still perceived to be true today, by a large part of the population.  Many of the past beliefs of schizophrenia have been proven to be wrong, and replaced by more valid beliefs from evidence obtained in lengthy and in depth studies from around the world.  

 

So, what is schizophrenia? First, below is a list that dismisses past beliefs that still remain today. 

 

It’s now known that persons who have schizophrenia: 

 

  • Are not crazy

  • Have highly effective treatment options:

  • So much so, that the number of patients with schizophrenia who resided in     psychiatric hospital beds decreased from over 550,000 in 1955 to now less than 30,000 today

  • Are not contagious

  • Do not have their rights taken away because of diagnosis

  • Don’t develop the illness from evil spirits 

  • Don’t have a higher incidence of murder, violence or aggressive behavior 

  • Don't have to be locked away for life

  • Are not forced by psychiatrists to take medication

  • Are not forced by psychiatrists to receive ECT treatment

 

And the illness of schizophrenia:

 

  • Is not diagnosed from a blood test, urine sample, eye exam, x-ray or MRI

  • Is not caused by poor parenting or a bad childhood

  • Is not caused by yourself, your personality or your own thoughts

  • Is not the same as Multiple Personality Disorder

  • Is not a form of intellectual disability (previously known as mental retardation)

  • Is not a form of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease

  • Is not caused by head injuries or trauma

 

What is Schizophrenia?

 

Schizophrenia is a disease of the body, specifically the brain, and it occurs because of a brain disease.  As a comparison, a stroke also occurs because of a brain disease and a heart attack occurs because of a heart disease.  

 

It is now known that schizophrenia may be caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, and like many other diseases and conditions it may also result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

 

How does a person know if they or another has schizophrenia? 

 

Only a professional who has been trained (a psychiatrist or psychologist) can discuss the symptoms and history to help determine if schizophrenia exists.  There are several symptoms that occur with schizophrenia, but a person does not have to have all the symptoms to have the disease.  Some common symptoms that may alert a person to the presence of schizophrenia include:

 

  • Delusions (Having false beliefs)

  • Hallucinations (Hear, see, taste, feel, or smell things that others don’t experience)

  • Disorganized speech (not talking coherently)

  • Disorganized behavior (strange and inappropriate behaviors) or catatonia

  • Losing interest in everyday activities, like bathing, grooming, or getting dressed

  • Not wanting to socialize with other people, family, or friends

  • Apathy (lack of emotion or interest in things that others find exciting)

  • Avolition (lack of motivation)

  • Anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure)

 

While there is no cure for schizophrenia, medication has been proven to help with managing symptoms. Due to the complex nature of the disease, treatment is provided by a psychiatrist who is skilled at treating diseases associated with the brain. 

 

 

There are many different types of medication, and there are many options for how it’s taken and how often you take it. In addition to medication, a doctor will recommend non-medication related treatments that will also help manage the symptoms.  By following your treatment plan and taking medicine as prescribed, a person will have a greater chance to manage the symptoms.  

Schizophrenia is a chronic illness, and there is no cure for schizophrenia, but there are effective treatments.  It’s quite possible for a person with schizophrenia to live a healthy and productive life with proper medical care and a good support system.  If left untreated, the symptoms of schizophrenia can lead to permanent and negative consequences associated with a persons’ education, social network, legal matters and employment.

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References

 

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association. 2013

 

http://www.nami.org/

1-800-950-NAMI (6264) —The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) supports people with mental illness and their families and friends.

 

www.mentalhealthamerica.net 

Mental Health America, formerly the National Mental Health Association, is the country's oldest and largest nonprofit organization for mental health and mental illness.

 

www.psychiatry.org 

The American Psychiatric Association’s online resource for anyone seeking support or facts about mental illnesses.

 

www.nimh.nih.gov 

1-866-615-6464 (toll free) —The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) offers information on mental illnesses and treatment options.