February 18

A Brief Overview of Schizophrenia

You are at home drawing in your sketchbook. Headphones in and find your creative flow when your lo-fi instrumental hip hop starts talking to you. A new voice trickles in the voice sounds static like a listening to a radio dj with a poor connection. It feels as though someone hacked your headphones. The feeling of paranoia begins to sync in as the delusion becomes more intense.

Most people believe that having schizophrenia is a very violent mental illness. They think of horror movie characters, people who are possessed and so on. However, more times than not, those with schizophrenia are usually the victims despite the media's portrayal of the condition.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a condition in which you experience hallucinations, which are mostly auditory and can be accompanied by odor, visuals and other sense related responses. Additionally you can experience delusions, disorganized speech, trouble with thinking and lack of motivation.

Brief History of Schizophrenia

Originally named "dementia praecox" by Emile Kraepelin due to his belief that it was another form of dementia that was specific to young adults. Although, that was until 1911 when Swiss psychiatrist, Eugen Bleuler coined the term "schizophrenia" since Kraeplin's term came off as misleading.

Schizophrenia is a term that is only 100 years old. The word itself is of Greek origin "schizo" meaning split and "phrene" meaning mind. The idea behind the term was to explain the fragmented thinking; however, the term was never intended to establish that having schizophrenia meant having a split personality.

Nevertheless, Kraepelin was the one to first identify this condition as a discrete mental illness in 1887 and it is generally believed to have accompanied the human species throughout its existence despite its late identification.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

When the condition is active, schizophrenia can be characterized by realistic and unrealistic experiences. Additionally, symptoms of schizophrenia can increase if you have unhealthy habits such as the use of illicit drugs, not taking medications as prescribed and stressful situations. However, instances of more severe symptoms fade as you become older. 

Schizophrenia symptoms are stratified into three different categories:

Positive Symptoms
  • Hallucinations i.e. hearing voices
  • Paranoia 
  • Exaggerated or distorted perceptions, beliefs and behaviors 
Negative Symptoms 
  • Inability to make plans
  • Decrease in speaking
  • No emotional expression nor finding pleasure
Disorganized Symptoms
  • Disorganized thinking and speech
  • Trouble with logical thinking
  • Abnormal behavior 

- Additionally, schizophrenia also affects cognition, thus decreasing attention, concentration and memory.

Prior to an official diagnosis, a psychiatrist should perform a medical exam to rule out misuse of medication/ drug misuse or any other neurological illness that mimics symptoms of schizophrenia such as the misuse of adderall. The increase in dopamine can cause you to go into psychosis and mimic that of someone with schizophrenia.

What is the Treatment for Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia affects 1.2% of the American population. Both men and women are affected equally with males showing onset at a younger age than females. Symptoms start to appear for most men in their late teens into their early twenties. Whereas women typically show symptoms in their twenties and early thirties.

Symptoms that are more subtle such as troubled relationships and lack of motivation can make themselves present prior to more prominent symptoms coming into play. Many professionals believe that an array of external factors play a part in the onset of symptoms. 

However, schizophrenia, while a life-long condition, is a treatable one and you can continue to live a happy healthy life with the use of medication and therapy.

Medication

Medications are useful for treating schizophrenia with the most common medication being antipsychotic meds. Your psychiatrist may try different medications to find the right one that works best for you. Furthermore, your psychiatrist might also prescribe medications such as antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications.

The goal is to prescribe the medication at the lowest possible dose and work from there. You can always ask your doctor about the benefits and side-effects of the medications they recommend.

Therapy

There are several psychotherapies and psychosocial therapies that help with schizophrenia. The most popular one being cognitive behavioral therapy. A technique that teaches you how to identify and change thinking patterns. With schizophrenia specifically, CBT is used to help control psychotic episodes. As the sessions go on you will find what triggers psychotic episodes to prevent them happening.

Peripheral questioning is a technique used to help with schizophrenia. This technique has questioned the delusions when they present themselves. Ultimately figuring out how things got from point A to point B.

If progress is going well with psychotherapy, then it might be a good idea to seek psychosocial therapy as you might need to relearn how to join a community. You will be working on improving your social skills, maintaining and holding conversations with people while learning problem solving skills as well as networking for job opportunities.

Woman finding relief thinking about schizophrenia

Photo Credit: Dimitry Zub | Unsplash

Self-care

People with schizophrenia do get better with treatment and support. As you age symptoms of schizophrenia become mild. Creating healthy habits that include managing stress, exercising, and eating healthy will also help living with schizophrenia.

Summary

Schizophrenia affects 1.2% of the American population. Medication and therapy used in combination can be effective to help manage symptoms of the condition. There are certain techniques that are taught such as peripheral questioning that helps with negating delusions. Those who do well with psychotherapy can also benefit from psychosocial therapy to build upon social skills. Finally, as you age symptoms of schizophrenia become less intense and creating healthy habits will help living with schizophrenia.

If you think you or a loved one is showing signs of schizophrenia, please contact a mental health professional to get a proper diagnosis. Whether it be with one of our therapists at Seattle Wellness Center or found through other directories.

Written by: Dave Bugg

Tags

cbt, healing journey, healthy habits, Mental health, psychology, schizophrenia, talk therapy, therapist, therapy


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