Schizophrenia is a serious psychosis, a type of mental illness characterized by distortions in thinking, perception, emotions, language, sense of self and behavior. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality, which causes significant distress for the individual, their family members, and friends. When schizophrenia is active, symptoms can include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, trouble with thinking and lack of motivation. If left untreated, the symptoms of schizophrenia can be persistent and disabling. However, Schizophrenia is treatable. Treatment with medicines and psychosocial support is effective when delivered in a timely, coordinated, and sustained manner, treatment can help affected individuals to engage in school or work, achieve independence, and enjoy personal relationships.
Causes of schizophrenia:
Research has not identified one single factor.
It is thought that an interaction between genes and a range of environmental factors may cause schizophrenia. Psychosocial factors may also contribute to schizophrenia.
Onset and Symptoms
Schizophrenia is typically diagnosed in the late teen years to the early thirties and tends to emerge earlier in males (late adolescence – early twenties) than females (early twenties – early thirties). A diagnosis of schizophrenia often follows the first episode of psychosis when individuals first display symptoms of schizophrenia. Gradual changes in thinking, mood, and social functioning often begin before the first episode of psychosis, usually starting in mid-adolescence. Schizophrenia can occur in younger children, but it is rare for it to occur before late adolescence.
The symptoms of schizophrenia generally fall into the following three categories:
Psychotic symptoms include altered perceptions (e.g., changes in vision, hearing, smell, touch, and taste), abnormal thinking, and odd behaviors. People with psychotic symptoms may lose a shared sense of reality and experience themselves and the world in a distorted way. They may experience:
- Hallucinations: such as hearing voices, feeling, or seeing things that are not there
- Delusions: fixed false beliefs or suspicions not shared by others in the person’s culture and that are firmly held even when there is evidence to the contrary, these beliefs are firmly held beliefs not supported by objective facts (e.g., paranoia – irrational fears that others are “out to get you” or believing that the television, radio, or internet are broadcasting special messages that require some response)
- Thought disorder, which includes unusual thinking or disorganized speech
- Abnormal behavior: disorganized behavior such as wandering aimlessly, mumbling, or laughing to self, strange appearance, self-neglect or appearing unkempt.
- Disorganized speech: incoherent or irrelevant speech
Negative symptoms include loss of motivation, disinterest, or lack of enjoyment in daily activities, social withdrawal, marked apathy or disconnect between reported emotion and what is observed such as facial expression or body language.
Typical presentations include:
- Amotivation or Reduced motivation and difficulty planning, beginning, and sustaining activities
- Anhedonia or Inability to feel pleasure in everyday life
- Affective flattening or reduced expression of emotions via facial expression or voice tone
- Alogia or Reduced speaking
Cognitive symptoms include problems in attention, concentration, and memory. For some individuals, the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are subtle, but for others, they are more prominent and interfere with activities like following conversations, learning new things, or remembering appointments. Specifically, individuals typically experience:
- Difficulty processing information to make decisions
- Problems using information immediately after learning it
- Trouble focusing or paying attention
Treatment: Because the cause of schizophrenia is poorly understood, treatment is designed to manage symptoms through conventional medications and psychotherapies.