|Nobel Prize Laureate John Nash whose struggles with schizophrenia was the basis for Sylvia Nasar‘s biography, A Beautiful Mind, as well as the multi-Academy winning film of the same name starring Russell Crowe|
Schizophrenia is a very severe and chronic brain disorder which affects neurotransmitters in the brain and causes the person to exhibit strange behavior and find it difficult to distinguish between what is imagined and what is real. It causes the person to have disorderly thinking patterns, delusions and hallucinations and has been estimated to afflict an approximate 1% of the world population. Schizophrenia affects both men and women but its symptoms usually appear and are detected early in men than women. Popular culture and movies usually portray all schizophrenic people as dangerous and violent but this portrayal is untrue and unsympathetic to the plight of those schizophrenic people.
Some experts are of the opinion that schizophrenia affects men in their early 20’s and affects women in their late 20’s and early 30’s while others are of the opinion that it usually starts earlier but the early symptoms are not detected until it escalates.
Schizophrenia is said to start during teenage years but is difficult to diagnose at this time due to the similarities of the early symptoms used to determine the presence of the illness with the symptoms of adolescence. Some of these symptoms include depression, lack of motivation, drop in grades at school etc.
What Causes Schizophrenia?
Experts are not sure what causes this disorder but it has been known for a long time that a person with a schizophrenic family member e.g. parent or other immediate family member is very much likely to develop the disorder than someone with no family history of the disorder.
There have also been some interesting research findings that the illness is majorly caused by a neuro-chemical imbalance of Serotonin, Dopamine and Norepinephrine. Neuro scans of the brain of people who do not suffer the illness shows that the “listening” part diminishes as the frontal lobe increases its blood flow; however, scans of schizophrenic brains reveal that the “listening” part remains active as the frontal lobe is active.
Many psychiatrists believe schizophrenia is genetic and so it can be inherited from parents by a child, they also believe that the illness can be protracted through the use of psychoactive and psychotropic drugs by young adults and teenagers and by exposure to malnutrition, toxin and virus while a child is in the mother’s womb.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Living and Coping with schizophrenia can be challenging if you have been diagnosed with the illness but it is helpful for schizophrenic persons and their family to have an understanding of what schizophrenia actually is, as it is always easier to cope with something that is understood.
Early signs and symptoms of the presence of schizophrenia include, depression, poor hygiene, lack of motivation in doing anything, withdrawal, irritability and trouble sleeping.
When the illness strikes, a person with schizophrenia would often experience psychotic symptoms and episodes like delusions or hallucinations. Delusions are beliefs that are not based in reality, whereas hallucinations consisting of imagined perceptual experiences, visual hallucination of seeing things and people that are not real and auditory hallucination in form of the schizophrenic person hearing imaginary voices commenting on his or her actions and telling him or her what to do. These psychotic symptoms or episodes could make the schizophrenic person feel paranoid and scared.
Schizophrenic persons often exhibit a variety of other symptoms like showing little or no emotional expression, displaying bizarre behavior, difficulty in organizing thought, speaking erratically and withdrawing from people.
Types of Schizophrenia
According to the DSM-IV-R, there are currently five types of schizophrenia, determined by the most prominent symptoms at a given time. The five types are:
Treatment of Schizophrenia
The treatment for schizophrenia generally includes a combination of the following:
· Inpatient treatment
· Residential or day treatment Programs
· Education (for the individual and his or her family, significant other, or support system)
Most persons with schizophrenia require constant and continuous medication to manage their symptoms and reduce the occurrence and severity of psychotic symptoms or episodes. The severity of the symptoms or episodes experienced by a schizophrenic person, can often make it very difficult for the person to do well in a job or function in society as most of them are in and out of treatment facilities most of their lives. While a schizophrenic diagnosis can be heartbreaking, family members, Friends and other loved ones can play an important role by motivating, assuring and giving support to the person.
There is presently no known cure for schizophrenia but as our understanding and treatment of the illness constantly improves, and medical research continues there is hope that medical researchers will eventually find ways to prevent and cure it.