Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia, pronounced skit-suh-free-nee-uhis a serious mental condition affecting approximately 24 million of the world’s population across all cultures and races. It is a chronic condition and requires lifelong treatment.

Schizophrenia can be a disabling disorder as it may result in hallucinations, disordered thinking, dysfunctional behaviour and delusions. If someone suffers from this condition, their daily life will take a toll as it impacts the way think, feel and act. It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between fantasy and reality or act normal in social situations. The sufferer may have hallucinations, hearing or seeing things that are not actually there and delusions wherein they believe in something that in reality, is not true.

Many people think that schizophrenia results in having multiple personalities or a split personality, however, this is not the case. Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is the disorder characterised by the presence of split or multiple personalities. While the word “schizophrenia” translates roughly to “split mind”, this split is in the brain’s capacity to deal with reality and not in personality and this condition is not related to identity issues.

Schizophrenia, is therefore, a brain disorder that impacts the way that one sees the world, and most people with the condition do not pose danger to others or act violently. The condition is also not the result of a traumatic childhood, bad parenting, or traumatic occurrences and while these can be contributing factors to schizophrenic symptoms, they are not the direct cause.

Symptoms are different for each person. The most common form of the condition is known as schizophrenia with paranoia, otherwise known as paranoid schizophrenia. This results in the sufferer’s perception of reality being altered in some way, in seeing things that may not exist, speaking in strange and even confusing ways, believing that someone or other people are trying to harm them, or that they are being watched – these are all symptoms of paranoia.

This can often result in the disruption of daily activities such as bathing, socialising, and even eating. The affected person may also be likely to turn to drugs and/or alcohol to try and numb their paranoia and self-medicate when the condition becomes overwhelming.

The majority of those with schizophrenia tend to withdraw and keep to themselves, they may also act out in fear and confusion. Suicidal thoughts are common in those with the condition, particularly when they are experiencing a psychotic episode, depression and especially during the first six months of treatment as their body may react negatively to medication.

Suicidal thoughts, no matter who is experiencing them and regardless of whether or not they have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, should never be taken lightly as many people may act on these when they do not receive the treatment and help they need. Symptoms related to schizophrenia are manageable and the condition can get better with the right treatment.

The condition is episodic, meaning that the symptoms appear in episodes, with periods of remission in between. This may sound similar to bipolar disorder, however, the defining difference between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia is that schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder, whereas bipolar disorder is known as a primary mood disorder which is known to also include psychosis. Psychosis refers to an emotional state and mental disorder which results in impaired judgments and losing contact with reality and having a distorted version of the outside world.

There are more men diagnosed with schizophrenia than women and people are typically diagnosed win their late teens or early 20s, it is also a less common condition than bipolar disorder. Many people with bipolar can be treated easily and manage to control their manic and depressive episodes. Schizophrenia, on the other hand, can be harder to control and people find it difficult to maintain their program of treatment.

Some people may be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, this is a condition where schizophrenia and depression or bipolar disorder is present. To explain it in simpler terms in order to differentiate between the two, bipolar is known as a condition that includes changes of the mood and is characterised by extreme highs and lows, whereas schizophrenia distorts the patient’s thinking, the ways emotions are expressed and how they perceive and react to reality.

The first step in treating schizophrenia is to recognise the symptoms and signs and then seek immediate professional help. Recognising the symptoms in yourself or a loved one can often be a traumatic and stressful situation to be in, however with the right treatment and help, many people are able to live full and rewarding lives in managing the disorder.

In this article, we will discuss the important factors surrounding the condition, it’s causes, complications, risks, treatment and more. This information is written with the sole purpose of education and information and should not be regarded as a professional opinion, should you be seeking medical help, please consult with your doctor or healthcare provider.

What are the early warning signs of schizophrenia?

The symptoms and signs of schizophrenia are different for each person. The symptoms can sometimes develop over years or appear abruptly. The condition may also appear in cycles of remission and relapse.

There are a few behavioural symptoms that can indicate the presence of the condition, these are as follows:

  • Constantly feeling as if one is being watched.
  • Seeing or hearing something that is not real or present.
  • Writing or speaking in a strange or peculiar way.
  • Work and academic performance deteriorating.
  • Changes in hygiene and/or appearance.
  • Acting irrationally with anger or fear.
  • Not regarding important situations as important.
  • Being extremely preoccupied or focused on the occult or religion.
  • Strange, inappropriate and bizarre mannerisms and behaviour.

If some of the above symptoms are experienced over more than a period of 14 days, the patient or loved one should immediately seek a professional opinion and diagnosis.

What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a condition that comes with a range of cognitive (thinking), behavioural and emotional issues. The symptoms and signs are often different and vary from person to person. The typical symptoms are known to include hallucinations, delusions, disorganised speech, impaired social interactions.

These symptoms are further explained as follows:

Symptoms can be classified as positive ones – those that add to the person’s personality and negative ones - those that are lost from the personality.  This can sometimes seem confusing so it is important to note that the use of the terms “positive” and “negative” are not describing the nature of the symptoms as being or having positive or negative connotations but simply they are adding something to the person, or taking something away from them.

Positive traits are as follows:

Hallucinations

These are typically known to involves hearing, smelling, tasting or seeing things that aren’t actually there. Hearing voices that are telling the person what to do are often reported as a symptom. Even though these things are not real, a person with schizophrenia feels them in full force. Hearing things that are not there is often the most common kind of hallucination.

Hallucination

Delusions

These are known as beliefs or ideas that are false but seem very real to the person experiencing them. The person may feel as though someone is watching them or spying on them. They may even believe that they are famous or a well-respected religious figure.

Disorganised speech/thinking

The person may often move from one topic to a completely different one in a single conversation. They may not be able to communicate properly so that you can understand them or the point they are trying to make. They may even make up their own words or repeat ideas and words.

Abnormal and disorganised behaviour

This can include actions that are silly and often child-like. The affected person may act inappropriately in either a social or sexual way or seem abnormally agitated. They may resist instructions, dress strangely or have strange posture or body movements (exhibit catatonic behaviour).

Negative traits are as follows:

  • Lack of enthusiasm or interest, experiencing extreme apathetic emotions.
  • Withdrawing themselves socially.
  • Lacking initiative and drive.
  • Lack of facial expression (medically known as blunting of affect).
  • The absence of content in speech.
  • Impaired attention.

The symptoms of schizophrenia can change over time and can include the patient going through periods of remission, however, some symptoms are often always present and should be present for a month or more.

Men with schizophrenia generally start to show their symptoms in their early or mid-20s. However, women will generally show symptoms in their late 20s. It is not common for children to be diagnosed with the condition, not because it doesn’t exist in childhood, but rather because other disorders have similar symptoms and the child may be misdiagnosed. It is also very rare for adults over 45 to be diagnosed as most sufferers are diagnosed earlier in life.

Symptoms of schizophrenia in teenagers

Teenagers experience symptoms of schizophrenia in a similar way to adults. However, it can often be more difficult to diagnose or recognise in teenagers as hormonal changes of puberty are often attributed to personality changes.

Symptoms of schizophrenia in teenagers are often similar to those of developmental changes, these can include:

  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Having trouble with sleeping
  • Not performing well at school
  • Lacking motivation
  • Irritability or depression

When compared with the symptoms of schizophrenia in adults, teenagers vary in the following ways:

  • Delusions are not as prominent in teenagers
  • Hallucinations are more commonly seen in teenagers

Types of schizophrenia

Based on the symptoms experienced, schizophrenia may be classified according to five main types:

Paranoid

The sufferer becomes distracted by delusions or frequently occurring auditory hallucinations (thinking one hears things or voices that don’t exist). Disorganised speech and behaviour, catatonic behaviour and lack of facial expressions are not usually noted.

Catatonic

The person will exhibit two or more of the following:

  • Immobility – not moving.
  • Excessive movement with no apparent purpose and not due to external stimuli.
  • Extreme negative symptoms (ignoring instructions, rigid posture or mutism).
  • Unusual voluntary movement indicated by pronounced grimacing, posturing and mannerisms.
  • Repetition of words or repeating another’s movements.

Disorganised

This type of schizophrenia is characterised by disorganised speech, behaviour and an expressionless face.

Residual

This type is characterised by the following:

  • No prominent hallucinations, delusions, disorganised behaviour (catatonic or otherwise) or disorganised speech.
  • Two or more negative symptoms exist as well as abnormal perceptions or strange beliefs.

Undifferentiated

With this type, symptoms include disorganised speech and/or behaviour, hallucinations, delusions and negative symptoms that occur for a month or more but the person will not exhibit the criteria under the disorganised, paranoid or catatonic types.

When to see a doctor

Schizophrenia is often not detected by the person who has it. This is due to the fact that he/she feels as though their hallucinations and other symptoms are real and do not link these symptoms to a mental disorder. It is, therefore, the responsibility of friends and family to detect the symptoms and seek medical attention for a definitive diagnosis.

How to help someone with schizophrenia

If someone you know has schizophrenia, it is best to talk to them about the concerns that you have. You cannot force someone to get professional help, you can, however, provide them with encouragement needed in order to help them seek the help they need.

If the person poses a danger to others or themselves or battles to perform daily tasks such as eating, it is best to seek emergency help so that they can be evaluated by a doctor who specialises in mental health disorders.  

In more severe cases, hospitalisation is required.

If you feel you may be suffering from the condition, do not ignore it or attempt to deal with it on your own, consult a doctor or psychologist in order to get an accurate diagnosis.  Involve your friends or loved ones so that you have a support structure during the diagnostic process and thereafter.

Suicidal behaviour and thoughts

Thoughts and behaviour that is suicidal is a common occurrence with schizophrenia. If you know someone who might be in danger of committing or attempting suicide, make sure you stay with them and get medical help.

What are the causes, risk factors and complications of schizophrenia?

The causes of schizophrenia

The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown, however, doctors and researchers believe that a combination of genetics, brain chemistry, function and structure as well as some environmental factors contribute to the development of the condition.  Immune disorder/s and viral infections have also been investigated as possible causes.

Excessive levels of the neurotransmitters glutamate and dopamine in the brain are seen as contributing brain chemistry factors. Studies of neuroimaging results have shown structural differences in the brain and abnormal central nervous and limbic system function in people with schizophrenia. While the full significance of these difference is not yet known, they do indicate that schizophrenia is, in fact, a brain disorder.

These factors are discussed in more detail below.

Heredity factors (genetics)

Researchers and scientists have noted that risk factors for schizophrenia are genetic and usually run in the person’s family. If you have schizophrenia you may have inherited a genetic predisposition to it, which placed you at higher risk of developing the condition.

Schizophrenia is known to appear once the body has undergone physical and hormonal changes such as those experienced during young adult and teenage years. It is also known to trigger after dealing with extremely stressful situations.

Biological factors

Chemistry Scientists say that people with schizophrenia have a chemical imbalance in their brain or an imbalance of the related neurotransmitters serotonin, glutamate and dopamine. These are the neurotransmitters that allow the nerve cells of the brain to communicate and send messages to one another.

If these chemicals are imbalanced, it can affect the way that a person’s brain reacts to certain situations. This allows us to understand why someone with schizophrenia will react in a sensitive fashion to bright lights or loud music for example, which are situations the average person can handle.

Delusions or hallucinations stem from the issue of not being able to perceive different stimuli effectively.

Structure – There are some researchers who suggest that issues with the development of the connections and pathways of the brain whilst still in the womb may lead to schizophrenia later on in life. Evidence that confirms this theory indicates that those with schizophrenia have a smaller cranial size than the average person. Cranial development occurs within the first years of life and this structural difference may be explained by complications in pregnancy or exposure to viral infections in the early life of the person with schizophrenia.

Various areas of the brain have been studied through magnetic resonance imaging and research shows that people with schizophrenia have distinct structural differences within the brain including enlarged cerebral ventricles and a reduction in the volume of the superior temporal gyrus. The size of the medial temporal cortex, entorhinal, hippocampal and parahippocampal cortex within the brain is also reduced in those with schizophrenia. Brain tissue loss has also been noted in the first two years after the initial schizophrenic episode, but this plateaued thereafter, making early diagnosis very important.

Function – Reduced blood flow to the prefrontal cortex is noted in patients with schizophrenia. This area of the brain is also influenced by excessive levels of dopamine in those with this disorder. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for complex brain activity such as strategy, decision making and behavioural adjustment based on experience or social cues. 

Dysfunction due to decreased blood flow and excess dopamine levels may lead to disorganised thinking and loss of the ability to make strategic or complex decisions and interact socially.  All of which are characteristics of those with the disorder.

The prefrontal cortex is also connected to an area of the brain called the basal ganglia which is responsible for dopamine production and regulates motivation, coordination and the pleasure and reward centres that reinforce behaviour and make one feel good. In patients with schizophrenia, there is an elevated level of activity in the basal ganglia region and decreased connection to the prefrontal cortex.

The limbic system is made up of structures within the brain that influence learning and emotional processing which usually aid the prefrontal cortex in decision making and behavioural processes. In people with schizophrenia, there is abnormal brain chemistry and an altered connection between limbic system structures and the prefrontal cortex.

Environmental factors

Immune disorders and viral infections

Schizophrenia is also able to be triggered by certain environmental events, some of which have biological implications, these can include immune disorders or viral infections. For example, if a mother has the flu during pregnancy, their baby will have a higher risk of potentially developing schizophrenia.

This risk also includes people who are hospitalised due to serious infections.

Narcotic use

The use of marijuana (cannabis) and other drugs in adolescence as a possible contributing risk factor in the development of schizophrenia is still being investigated on an ongoing basis, however existing evidence points to marijuana use doubling the risk of development of later onset schizophrenia or a schizophreniform disorder.

Trauma

Emotional trauma during childhood and adolescence or an environment characterised by emotional stress are often identified as precipitating risk factors in the development of schizophrenia.

Risk factors for schizophrenia

The exact cause of schizophrenia may not be known, there are however a number of risk factors (in addition to those mentioned above) that are known to increase the chances of triggering or developing schizophrenia.

These risk factors include:

  • There is a history of schizophrenia in the family.
  • The father is older upon the conception of a child (35 years or older).
  • Birth and pregnancy complications have also been known to be risk factors such as brain development issues or the exposure to certain harmful viruses or toxins.
  • Immune system activation has been increased through diseases or inflammation.
  • Taking drugs that are mind-altering as a teenager or young adult.

Complications of schizophrenia

If the condition is left untreated, this may result in serious issues affecting every area of daily life. Further complications that may be associated with schizophrenia are as follows:

  • Attempts to commit suicide, or suicidal thoughts
  • Feeling depressed
  • Self-inflicted injury
  • Isolation and withdrawal from social interactions
  • Not being able or wanting to attend work or school
  • Having financial issues or being homeless
  • Having other medical or health issues
  • Expressing aggressive symptoms – this is however rather uncommon in those with schizophrenia.

What are the three phases of schizophrenia?

Research has identified schizophrenia to have three phases, these are as follows:

  • Prodromal
  • Acute / active
  • Residual

It may sometimes seem as though schizophrenia suddenly develops out of nowhere, this, however, is not the case. There is no such thing as waking up one morning and have bouts of full-blown psychosis. The disease instead consists of psychotic symptoms that slowly start to appear, and the sufferer begins to show a way of thinking that is distorted and has difficulty relating to others.

The phases can be explained accordingly:

  1. Prodromal Stage

This is the first stage and refers to the period of a year before the illness begins to manifest. The term ‘prodrome’, which is derived from ‘prodromos’ – a Greek term which means something that appears before an event, signalling the occurrence of the event. Medically, ‘prodrome’ refers to the initial symptoms of a condition, those that typically appear before the characterised symptoms begin to show.

People in this stage of schizophrenia tend to isolate themselves from others, they will often stay in their rooms, sleep most of the day and not want to see friends or family. Their work or school performance can often take a turn for the worst due to their motivation being decreased as well as a loss of interest in things they once found joy in.

The signs of this stage are not only specific to schizophrenia. They may also be linked to depression among other issues. This is the reason why doctors are unable to identify the first stage until the person has reached the active phase and this can then be done in retrospect. Psychotic symptoms usually need to be experienced in order for the doctor to diagnose schizophrenia at this stage.

In this stage, close friends and family are able to feel as though something is wrong with the person developing schizophrenia. They may suspect the changes in personality being due to increased drug or alcohol intake, or just because they are in a bad mood.

An interesting fact is that early signs of the prodromal stage of schizophrenia have been seen and identified in children. A study was done that examined video footage of the schizophrenic adults as children. The researchers, without knowing who had the condition, noted that the majority of the children who developed schizophrenia as adults, were often excessively awkward and clumsy and by observing the footage could accurately point out which children were likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia later in life. Although clumsiness is not purely a sign of schizophrenia, as it is often common in children and adults alike, it is an early sign that may hold a link to the condition – therefore it can be said that certain signs of the condition may be identified in childhood.

  1. Acute Stage

The acute or active stage describes the period when someone is starting to show symptoms of schizophrenia that are psychotic in nature. These include delusions, hallucinations and/or extremely disorganised behaviour. This stage represents the full development of schizophrenia – and it can be said that the disorder has ‘activated’.

This is where diagnosis due to psychosis is possible. The best thing to do when you notice these symptoms is to get the person displaying them to a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. This first assessment will involve trying to determine when and how the symptoms began, questioning the patient and their family. This also allows for other conditions to be ruled out. The behaviour of the patient may have become serious enough to require hospitalisation.

When treated, many of the symptoms of schizophrenia can disappear. If this stage is not treated, the symptoms can last from several weeks to months, or even indefinitely. For many people with schizophrenia, this stage is characterised by symptoms that are positive for schizophrenia i.e adding to the person’s personality.

Just to recap, these are:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Disorganised speech/thinking
  • Abnormal and disorganised behaviour
  1. Residual Stage

This is known as the final stage of schizophrenia. These symptoms are very similar to those of the prodromal stage. Patients in this stage are often not seen to be psychotic, but their symptoms shift from positive to negative (i.e. they take something away from the person). These symptoms are:

  • Lack of enthusiasm, energy or interest, experiencing extreme apathetic emotions.
  • Withdrawing socially.
  • Lacking initiative and drive.

Although the symptoms in this stage may not be psychotic, the person suffering from schizophrenia may still express beliefs that are strange. An example of someone in going through the stages can be explained as follows:

Nina starts to act out, sleep more and isolates herself from her friends (prodromal stage), some of her family and friends think that maybe she is just going through a bad patch or is moody. She then starts to believe that her lecturer at university is making a secret television show about her. As humorous as her friends think it is, she whole-heartedly believes it to be the truth and becomes quite traumatised by it and these thoughts do not pass. At times, she seems normal but then goes off on a tangent about how her lecturer watches her and the story is sometimes hard to follow.  Her mom then notices that she may need help and takes her to see a doctor. He then diagnoses her with schizophrenia after hearing about her bizarre beliefs (acute/active stage).

Nina then gets the treatment she needs, her symptoms are managed and she is somewhat able to return to a normal life. She now only believes that the lecturer does not like her and not that he is making a television show about her (residual stage).

The phases and recovery of schizophrenia

Recovery from psychotic episodes is not something that can be predicted. Some people may only experience one psychotic episode that is full-blown. Others have several different episodes. Some people may recover completely, however it is recommended that patients continue with lifelong treatment and support so as to avoid relapsing.

How is schizophrenia diagnosed?

The diagnosis of the condition typically involves ruling out any other disorders associated with mental health. In addition, the symptoms are also assessed to determine if the cause may be due to another reason such as substance abuse, another medical condition or medication.

The following is how the diagnosis of schizophrenia is conducted:

  • A physical exam is conducted in order to rule out whether the symptoms may be the result of other health-related issues.
  • Screenings and tests are conducted to help rule out if alcohol or drug abuse is the cause or other medical problems with similar symptoms. A CT scan or MRI, as well as X-rays, may be conducted to help with the diagnosis.
  • A psychiatric evaluation can also be done by a mental health professional (psychiatrist or a psychologist), where the mental status of the patient will be checked whilst observing the demeanour of the patient in their actions, hallucinations, delusions, thoughts and moods. This is done through the professional asking a series of questions to be answered by the patient, it can also involve a discussion of their personal history and family.
  • The mental health professional or doctor may also use the criteria known as DSM-5, which refers to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This set of criteria helps in providing an accurate diagnosis as to whether the patient is suffering from a mental condition or not.

What is the treatment schizophrenia?

The treatment for schizophrenia is often lifelong, even if the symptoms begin to subside. Psychological therapy along with medication can often aid in managing symptoms. However, in some cases, hospitalisation may be required.

The treatment is usually guided by a psychiatrist who specialises in schizophrenia. The patient may have to also with a psychiatric nurse, psychologist, a social worker and possibly even someone to coordinate the care, known as a case manager. A support group may also be joined at their own discretion or under the advisement of their primary care giver.  This is referred to as a full-team approach and typically requires the facilities of a clinic that deals with mental health disorders.

Medications

Medication is the most vital element in schizophrenia. With antipsychotic medications being most predominately used as they control the symptoms of schizophrenia by influencing the production of one of the neurotransmitters of the brain linked to the development of the disorder known as dopamine.

The idea of antipsychotic treatment is to manage the symptoms of the disorder effectively with the lowest does possible. Different drugs can sometimes be trialled in a patient by the psychiatrist, as well as different combinations and doses of medications so as to achieve the best possible result. Antidepressants, as well as anti-anxiety medications, are known also to be used in combination with antipsychotic drugs. It typically takes up to several weeks until a noticeable improvement can be seen in the patient.

The medications used for schizophrenia may cause some severe side effects and this can make sufferers reluctant to take them. Therefore, the willingness of the patient in accepting treatment can sometimes affect the drugs prescribed and their effectiveness. Injections can be an effective solution for those who do not have the patience or memory to take drugs consistently.

Antipsychotics - first-generation

Antipsychotics that are first-generation have a higher risk of side effects and also risk the patient developing tardive dyskinesia, which is a movement disorder that is not always reversible.

First-generation psychotics may include:

  • Perphenazine
  • Fluphenazine
  • Chlorpromazine
  • Haloperidol

This generation of drugs is often the method of choice as they tend to be cheaper than others, particularly as generic versions are available. This can make it easier for those having to pay for long-term treatment.

Antipsychotics - second-generation

There is also a new generation of antipsychotic drugs, these are known as the second-generation antipsychotics. These have fewer side effects than their first-generation counterparts but are often more expensive.

Second-generation psychotics may include:

  • Quetiapine (Seroquel)
  • Aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • Ziprasidone (Geodon)
  • Lurasidone (Latuda)
  • Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • Asenapine (Saphris)
  • Cariprazine (Vraylar)
  • Risperidone (Risperdal)
  • Iloperidone (Fanapt)
  • Brexpiprazole (Rexulti)
  • Clozapine (Clozaril)
  • Paliperidone (Invega)

Social and psychological interventions

As soon as psychosis has been effectively managed, medication regimes will be continued and social and psychological interventions, known as psychosocial, will begin to be introduced.

Psychosocial methods are known to include:

  • Social skills training This helps in improving the social interactions and communications of the patient and aids in improving their skills in participating in everyday activities and social gatherings.
  • Individual therapy – This is known as psychotherapy which can assist in normalising the patient’s patterns of thought, dealing with stress and being able to detect the symptoms and warnings of a relapse.
  • Family therapy – Group family sessions help families to support their loved one, learn how to cope with schizophrenia and its symptoms, and also educates them on the disorder.
  • Supported employment and vocational rehabilitation – This is a technique that involves focusing on the patient to help prepare them for the working world, helping them to find a job and giving them techniques to assist in keeping one.

Man in therapy

Many patients with schizophrenia are in need of constant daily support. This is the reason why most communities have formed programs that help people who have schizophrenia to find jobs, provide them with housing, develop coping mechanisms and offer support groups where challenges and triumphs can be discussed in an open and honest way. Resources like these can often be identified by the case manager assigned to the patient.

Other treatment options

Hospitalisation

If the person with schizophrenia has started to develop hallucinations that pose a threat to themselves or others, or they are not willing to eat and cannot sleep or bathe themselves, sometimes hospitalisation and constant monitoring are required so as to prevent the symptoms from worsening.

ECT (electroconvulsive therapy)

ECT is used for adults who have not shown an improvement with medication. This is also able to help those with depression. With this therapy, electric currents are passed through the brain so as to trigger a minor and brief seizure. This then creates a change in the brain’s chemistry and can often reverse the symptoms of several mental disorders, including schizophrenia.

Self-management

Dealing with a serious mental disorder like schizophrenia can be a challenge for loved ones of the patient and of course, the patient. There are a number of coping techniques that can be used, these are listed as follows:

  • Joining a support group.
  • Learning all there is to know about
  • Staying focussed on treatment and other goals (such as finding a job).
  • Asking for assistance through social services regarding transportation and housing.
  • Learning stress and relaxation techniques (such as yoga, meditation and breathing techniques).
  • Exercising regularly as this can help improve focus, sleep and engaging muscles, all of which induce a calmer feeling afterwards.
  • Trying to sleep for at least eight hours a night, also avoiding caffeine to aid in this.
  • Avoiding drugs, nicotine and alcohol as these can worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia and interfere with medication.
  • Eating nutritious meals regularly. This includes foods such as flaxseeds, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids and walnuts as these all help to improve focus and balance moods.

How can schizophrenia be prevented?

Unfortunately, schizophrenia does not have an exact prevention method. The suggestion is that early treatment be the first step in helping to manage the condition and the symptoms. This can also help prevent any other complications from developing in the long-term. The best option is to stick with a treatment plan and always follow the doctor’s advice and instructions.

Schizophrenia myths busted

False: People with schizophrenia have a split or multiple personalities.

True:  Multiple personality disorder is far less common of a condition and different to schizophrenia. Someone with schizophrenia does not have a split personality, they are however, ‘split’ from the outside world and reality.

False: Schizophrenia is a very rare condition.  It affects approximately 24 million people globally.

True: The risk of developing the condition is not as rare as people think. It is known to affect about 24 million people worldwide.

False: If someone has schizophrenia, they are dangerous.

True: People with schizophrenia have delusions and hallucinations that can sometimes result in violent behaviour, but this is very rare as most people with the condition are not violent but more paranoid by their hallucinations or delusions.

False: You cannot help someone with schizophrenia.

True: The treatment for schizophrenia may be long-term, the outlook I certainly not hopeless. Many with the condition are able to live happy and productive lives.

False: Schizophrenia is the same as a dissociative personality disorder (DID).

True: Schizophrenia is not the same as DID as DID is known to involve an identity issue that results in the patient having multiple identities or personalities. Schizophrenia results in the patient having a ‘split mind’ due to psychosis.

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