Schizophrenia is a potentially debilitating mental illness. Our guide will help you in understanding schizophrenia and how to manage it.
Over two million people in the United states are affected by schizophrenia. While the manner in which this infliction manifests itself varies from patient to patient, the symptoms associated with this mental disorder are often so severe that they inhibit productive participation in society. Additionally, some individuals with schizophrenia act out violently, at times without provocation. Like many mental illnesses, schizophrenia can be exceptionally difficult to control.
As a result, individuals who suffer from this condition and their loved ones often face a long and difficult battle when trying to lessen the impact of the disorder. Because schizophrenia so severely inhibits a sufferer’s ability to participate in society, the complications associated with the presence of this disorder can be quite severe. Suicide rates for individuals who suffer from schizophrenia are substantially higher than those for the general population. Self-injury is also common in schizophrenia sufferers as their delusions and hallucinations can result in them losing touch with reality. Because of their inabilities to contribute to society in a meaningful way, schizophrenia sufferers are more likely to fall into poverty or experience homelessness.
Schizophrenia patients are also more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than those who don’t suffer from schizophrenia. Due to the disruptive nature of the symptoms associated with this disorder, patients are at an increased risk of experiencing conflicts within their families and ultimately suffering from social isolation. Many patients are unable to hold down jobs or attend work because of the symptoms associated with their schizophrenia.
Medical professionals aren’t entirely certain of the cause of schizophrenia. There is research to suggest that this mental illness has a hereditary component. In many cases, schizophrenia sufferers have a family history of the disorder. Scientists also suspect that the disorder may be caused by environmental factors, such as viral infection or acute and prolonged stress. To help you in understanding schizophrenia and how to manage it, we have produced this guide which details the symptoms, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of this illness.
Though symptoms of schizophrenia can be present in patients of any age, the most common age of onset for men is the mid-20s and for women the late-20s. In order to try understanding schizophrenia and how to manage it, you first need to know the likely symptoms. Four out of every five individuals who suffer from schizophrenia first present with delusions. Often these delusions involve paranoia and a false belief that someone is out to get the patient. Patients may feel that someone is acting out against them or harassing them. They may also feel that people are talking about them even when there is no evidence to suggest this, or even evidence to refute it. Schizophrenia sufferers also commonly feel that they are in mortal danger.
Some sufferers of schizophrenia experience hallucinations. This may involve seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. Hearing voices is quite common in sufferers of schizophrenia. Often the voices they hear say negative or even terrifying things, exacerbating the schizophrenic delusions the sufferer is already experiencing.
Patients with schizophrenia may have difficulty producing organized speech. They may struggle to answer questions in a germane fashion or provide answers that are grossly incomplete. In extreme cases, the sufferers may be unable to form meaningful sentences, tossing words together in gibberish phrases. This severe speech deficiency is often referred to as “word salad.”
Extreme and debilitating disorganization is another common symptom of schizophrenia. Sufferers of this mental illness may display childlike behaviors, engaging in horseplay or off-task behavior in an uncommonly severe manner. They may also struggle to attend to tasks or work toward the attainment of even the simplest goals. This particular symptom severely affects that patient’s ability to act as a productive member of society, even when in highly controlled and supportive settings.
The diagnosis commonly starts with the answering of a battery of questions. Doctors often ask about the symptoms a patient is exhibiting. They may also ask about changes in personal relationships or other stressors that may be affecting the patient. They will likely want to know what, if any, medications the patient is currently taking. When asking about medications, doctors also want to know about herbal supplements or vitamins, as these could both play a part in the development of symptoms and affect the appropriate course of treatment for schizophrenia.
During the diagnostic process, the doctor will likely perform a psychological evaluation to help in understanding schizophrenia and how to manage it for each individual. In this evaluation, the doctor will observe the patient and assess the patient’s demeanor. The doctor may pose questions about the patient’s moods and thoughts. Medical professionals also commonly query the patient as to any hallucinations or delusions he or she is experiencing.
While most of the diagnostic process isn’t physically invasive, doctors do often perform a battery of blood tests. This blood test battery, called a complete blood count (CBC), is used to exclude the possibility of other conditions that may exhibit similar symptoms. During this battery, the doctor will likely also check for the presence of drugs or alcohol in the patient’s system, as these outside contributors may cause or worsen symptoms associated with schizophrenia.
Some doctors also elect to perform imaging testing. Depending upon a doctor’s preference, this testing may include an MRI or CT scan. In performing these imaging tests, doctors seek to assess the functioning of the patient’s brain to understand better the potential causes of the symptoms the patient is exhibiting.
There is no known cure for schizophrenia, so that’s why it is important to try understanding schizophrenia and how to manage it. The prognosis varies from patient to patient and depends substantially on the severity of the symptoms and the degree to which these symptoms lessen with schizophrenia treatment. Most schizophrenia sufferers will continue to struggle with the disorder for the rest of their lives. Often, they require daily living support in the form of a loved one or paid caregiver. In the most severe cases, schizophrenia sufferers may require enrollment in a residential treatment program.
Treatment for schizophrenia is exceptionally difficult. As the specific causes of this mental illness remain a mystery, all medical professionals can do is work to reduce the prevalence and severity of the symptoms. In addition, because symptom manifestation varies from patient to patient, the specific course of schizophrenia treatment that is required to control the disease is substantially different for each sufferer, so understanding schizophrenia and how to manage it are vital pieces of knowledge that you need to know if a friend or a loved one has been diagnosed with this illness.
Many patients with schizophrenia are prescribed antipsychotic medications. These medicines are intended to reduce the severity of delusions and lessen hallucinations, thus allowing the patients to engage in a more typical fashion both with others and with the world around them. Antipsychotic medications fall into two categories: typical and atypical. Typical antipsychotics are older medications including Thorazine, Haldol, Thrilafon and Prolixin. The newer prescriptions in this class of medication are referred to as “atypical.” These medications include Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Geodon, Abilify, Invega and Clozaril.
While antipsychotic medications can help reduce symptom severity and prevalence, they come with potentially serious side effects. Drowsiness and dizziness are common side effects that accompany the use of antipsychotics. Additionally, rapid heartbeat, sensitivity to the sun and skin rashes can accompany use. The use of typical antipsychotics can be accompanied by issues with movement including rigidity, tremors or restlessness. Atypical antipsychotics often affect metabolic function and can cause weight gain. Though the side effects associated with these medications can be severe, the potential benefits often outweigh the risks, particularly for those who suffer from acute schizophrenia.
Once symptoms are stabilized by medication, patients can benefit from psychosocial treatments which help them in understanding schizophrenia and how to manage it in the long term. These treatments assist patients in dealing with their illness in the long term. In these treatments, patients are counseled on the completion of everyday care tasks. They are also commonly taught coping mechanisms to utilize should their symptoms become more severe. Studies have shown that patients who receive psychosocial treatments are more likely to take their medications regularly and continue taking their medications in the long-term.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is also commonly used as a treatment for schizophrenia. This treatment is used most often for individuals who are unable to eliminate their symptoms completely through using medication. In CBT, a therapist teaches the patient how to cope with these symptoms. Often, this includes teaching the patient methods of testing their reality of their perceptions. Through the teaching of these techniques, cognitive behavioral therapists aim to enable schizophrenia sufferers to self-manage their symptoms.
Self-help groups are a treatment tool that is growing in popularity. In these groups, schizophrenia sufferers join with other sufferers along with sufferers’ loved ones. In these group meetings, those affected by schizophrenia share information about their struggles and draw strength from the development of a community. Groups of this type help lessen feelings of isolation. As an additional bonus, these groupings of individuals with vested interests in fighting schizophrenia also allows for networking and can enable these individuals to work collectively to advocate for research into the disorder.
Because much pressure is placed on the loved ones of individuals with schizophrenia, family education is often recommended. In family education sessions, loved ones who will play a part in taking care of the patient are taught about the disease to help them in understanding schizophrenia and how to manage it by utilizing strategies which help their sufferer better cope with the challenges associated with the difficult mental illness of schizophrenia.
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