The most important things to know about schizophrenia

The most important things to know about schizophrenia

17/10/2022

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental illness which most often starts at a young age, at the beginning of a person's maturation (~20-30 years). The possibility that you will develop schizophrenia during your lifetime is 0.3-0.7%, which may seem a low index, but it is the most spread illness of the group of psychotic disorders! [1]

Why Does Schizophrenia Develop?

The cause of the illness is combined - heredity and influence of environmental factors. Physical, sexual and emotional abuse, loss of parents in childhood, parents with addictions (alcohol, drugs), frequent relocation, use of the addictive substances are just some of the environmental risk factors. [2]

Interestingly, men have a higher risk of getting ill with a more severe form of

the illness, but in children under 13 years of age, schizophrenia is extremely rare. [1]

What are Symptoms?

The symptoms are different, and their manifestations are determined by the type, duration of the illness, treatment, or its absence, as well as the influence of other concomitant diseases (including the mental ones).

A patient with schizophrenia may show perceptual disturbances (most often in

the form of auditory hallucinations), delusions (not related to reality), false beliefs, incomprehensible speech, illogical thinking, isolation from society, decreased intellectual abilities, changes in behaviour which have not been previously characteristic of him. [1]

Debunking the myths!

Patients with schizophrenia are socially isolated and cannot fit into society.

Myth! A person who has undergone treatment will be able to adequately fit into society, go to school, work at a good job, be independent in everyday life and not to show any obvious symptoms of schizophrenia! [3]

A schizophrenic patient is dangerous for society

Partly the myth! Most people with schizophrenia are not violent. In fact, it is much more likely that a person with schizophrenia may become a target for violence because of his/her idiosyncratic behavior. The risk that the patient will become dangerous, of course, does exist, but in cases where the disease is not treated. [3]

If there is a schizophrenic in my family, I will get sick too

Partly the myth! This statement has received confirmations, especially in twins. [1] However, just because someone in the family has schizophrenia does not mean that other family members will also develop it. Scientists suggest that there are several genes which increase the risk of the disease, but there is no a specific gene necessarily associated with the disease itself. [3]

Antipsychotics are addictive

Myth! Antipsychotics are needed because schizophrenia is a chronic illness. The use of medications helps to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms. [3] Medications are the cornerstone of therapy! [1] Of course, if medication is stopped, symptoms return, so it may seem impossible to live without medications. However, it is not due to the dependence, but due to the specifics of the illness!

How to Live with Schizophrenia?

  • You should cooperate with Your doctor and carefully observe the prescriptions for the use of medicines.
  • Aerobic exercises (running, walking, gymnastics), yoga or strength training can improve Your well-being.
  • Psychotherapy, psychoeducation, learning various skills, interacting with family members, social activities are very useful because they promote recovery, help overcome addictions or thoughts of self-harm, and adapt to everyday life.

Support of Loved Ones

The diagnosis of schizophrenia is associated with serious health risks: higher mortality, poor monitoring of comorbidities, risk of the addictions, cognitive impairment [1], so both medical care and simple human support from the loved ones are very important!

  • Help a person with schizophrenia to get to the right doctor and encourage them to use their medications!
  • Remember that hallucinations seem absolutely real to the schizophrenic patient, do not express doubts about their existence, do not laugh at the sick person!
  • Be respectful and friendly and support the sick man. Do not turn away from dangerous or socially inappropriate behaviour, but act and help the sick!
  • Ask about the possibility of obtaining additional non-drug treatment, participation in support groups, use of rehabilitation measures!
  • If a friend or family member expresses suicidal thoughts, immediately call Emergency Medical Services (113) or go to the emergency room of the nearest neuropsychiatric hospital!

References

  1. DynaMed. Schizophrenia. EBSCO Information Services. Accessed September 8, 2022. https://www.dynamed.com/condition/schizophrenia
  2. Stilo Simona A, Robin M Murray. Non-Genetic Factors in Schizophrenia. Current psychiatry reports, vol. 21, 10 100. 14 Sep. 2019, doi:10.1007/s11920-019-1091-3
  3. National Institute of Mental Health. Schizophrenia. Accessed September 8, 2022. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia

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