Schizophrenia: symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment.

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Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that includes a variety of cognitive, behavioral, and emotional dysfunctions. It is characterized by delusions (fixed false beliefs), hallucinations, disorganization, unusual behavior, and withdrawal. It usually begins at a young age and causes distress for people with the condition and their loved ones.

Schizophrenia is associated with changes in the structure and function of the brain and is believed to be caused by hereditary, environmental, and unknown factors. The diagnosis is made on the basis of clinical judgment.

Schizophrenia can be treated with medicine. Symptoms often change throughout a person's life and you may need to be hospitalized periodically. But many people with schizophrenia can work and have satisfying relationships.

Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman / Moment / Getty Images

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia can cause many dysfunctions. One of the common characteristics of this state is a lack of understanding. It can be difficult for someone to recognize that they have a medical condition or that it is manifesting itself. Often, family members, close friends, or colleagues are the first to identify symptoms.

Schizophrenia usually begins in your 20s, but it can start earlier in adolescence or later in adulthood. Symptoms can get worse and gradually become more severe.

Symptoms of schizophrenia can include:

  • Unusual and disorganized speech, sometimes causing panic.
  • Agitation
  • Disregard for personal hygiene
  • Unusual appearance in the way a person dresses or cares for.
  • Hallucinations
  • Hallucinations (to see or hear what is not)
  • Paranoia
  • Leaving others
  • Excessive sleepiness or lack of sleep

Deception is often characterized by the fear that others will conspire or communicate in secret.

Complications

Schizophrenia can seriously affect the functioning and safety of the person with the condition.

With schizophrenia, the risk of self-harm or suicide increases.

Causes

Schizophrenia has a strong genetic makeup. The condition runs in families. For example, one study found an increase in some cognitive impairment in first-degree relatives of people with schizophrenia. But many people diagnosed with schizophrenia do not have affected relatives.

Experts have also examined the role of drug use and its contribution to schizophrenia, but it is often difficult to determine to what extent drug use is a way to treat the early effects of an illness before it is diagnosed, or whether drug use is contributing. straight to schizophrenia .

Brain changes

Schizophrenia is associated with a disruption of dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain. Medications that increase dopamine activity in the brain can sometimes cause symptoms similar to those of schizophrenia.

Research shows that brain swelling and atrophy (shrinkage) of certain parts of the brain are associated with schizophrenia, but these results are not consistent or reliable enough to be used as diagnostic tools .

Diagnostics

The diagnosis of schizophrenia is based on criteria defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which are used by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals in the treatment of psychiatric illnesses.

To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, symptoms must be present for at least six consecutive months with a corresponding decrease in activity, self-care, and / or relationships compared to the time before the onset of symptoms.

Several signs are needed to diagnose schizophrenia .

At least one of the following:

  • Hallucinations
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganized speech

And two of the above, or one of the above and at least one of the following:

  • Severely disorganized or catatonic behavior
  • Negative symptoms such as a muffled voice, lack of facial expression, and apathy.

Diagnostic tests

Your healthcare provider will rule out other conditions similar to schizophrenia before making a definitive diagnosis.

You may need to have blood or urine tests to determine the potential effect of drugs or psychoactive substances on your symptoms. Schizophrenia is only diagnosed if the symptoms are not caused by medications. You can also get brain images, such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) , to detect lesions in the brain.

Other conditions that are often considered when diagnosing schizophrenia include:

  • Schizoaffective Disorder : This condition includes signs of schizophrenia and severe mood disorders.
  • Bipolar disorder : This condition causes episodes of mania and depression. Sometimes depression overlaps with the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Episodes of mania and depression in bipolar disorder can have signs of psychosis.
  • Drugs or medications . Drugs and withdrawal symptoms can cause hallucinations or delusions, as well as other cognitive and behavioral symptoms that can mimic those of schizophrenia. Occasionally, certain prescription medications, such as those used to treat Parkinson's disease, can cause hallucinations.
  • Brain tumor : A brain tumor or damage to the temporal lobe of the brain can cause hallucinations similar to those of schizophrenia. Brain imaging studies usually reveal a lesion in the brain.
  • Epilepsy : Temporal lobe epilepsy can induce behaviors that can be mistaken for schizophrenia. Often times, an electroencephalogram (EEG) can help distinguish the condition.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): In rare cases, the effects of PTSD can present with symptoms such as increased alertness and flashbacks, which can be hallucinatory in nature. However, a careful psychiatric history can often distinguish between conditions.

Watch out

Treatment of schizophrenia requires a comprehensive plan that includes prescription antipsychotics, counseling, family support, and possibly hospitalization in the event of an exacerbation. There is no cure for the condition, but symptoms can be controlled with treatment.

Family members and loved ones can provide emotional support and can recognize problems as the first warning signs of an outbreak. Counseling can be a helpful way for a person with schizophrenia to express themselves and learn to cope with the emotional toll of the condition .

Prescription drugs

If you or your loved one has schizophrenia, it is important to know that sometimes people with the disorder are willing to take medicine but are sometimes very reluctant .

The consequences of this condition can make a person suspicious of treatment and the disease itself can cause changes in the brain that affect awareness of the disease (anosognosia). Sometimes people with schizophrenia can say that they have been taking medicine even though they haven't.

Medications used to treat schizophrenia include :

Typical first-generation antipsychotics such as:

Second-generation "atypical" antipsychotics, such as:

Hospitalization

An exacerbation of schizophrenia can include agitation, attempts at self-harm, an inability to care for yourself, overwhelming fear or paranoia, and, in rare cases, violent behavior. In these cases, hospitalization may be necessary. These episodes can be triggered by a variety of emotional or physical triggers, and often lack of adherence to medication .

During a hospital stay due to an acute exacerbation of schizophrenia, the person will be in a safe place, receive appropriate medication, nutrition and counseling. It may take several days or weeks before an acute attack of schizophrenia begins to improve.

Get the word of drug information

Schizophrenia can be very unsettling for the person with it and can sometimes be difficult to put into words. Through an interdisciplinary approach to treatment and a strong support system, it is possible to lead a healthy, happy, and productive life with schizophrenia.

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