What is Psychosis/Schizophrenia:
Schizophrenia is a mental health condition and a disorder of the brain’s functioning. It can seriously disturb the way people think, feel, experience reality, and relate to others. People with schizophrenia are often misunderstood and blamed for their behaviour. It is important to understand that this is a medical disorder and it is not the person’s fault. It’s not due to lack of effort, intelligence, or anything a parent, family or friends did or didn’t say or do.
How common is schizophrenia?
About one person in 100 develops schizophrenia. Men and women are affected equally; however, men tend to have their first episode of schizophrenia in their late teens or early 20s. With women, it is usually a few years later.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of schizophrenia vary greatly from person to person, from mild to severe. A mental health expert is best to make the diagnosis, especially because there is no such thing as a simple schizophrenia test.
Making it even harder to diagnose, schizophrenia often starts slowly. When the symptoms first appear, usually in adolescence or early adulthood, they may seem more confusing than serious. We call this period the prodrome followed by the first episode of psychosis, which may or may not turn out to be schizophrenia.
In the early stages, people with schizophrenia may find themselves losing the ability to relax, concentrate or sleep. They may start to shut their friends and family out of their lives. Work or school begins to suffer; so does their personal appearance. During this time, they may talk in ways that could be difficult to understand and they may start to perceive things in an unusual way.
Once it has taken hold, schizophrenia tends to have worse episodes of psychosis that come and go.
Other symptoms may include include:
- delusions (false beliefs that are not consistent with the person’s culture, and have no basis in fact, maybe weird or paranoid)
- hallucinations (people hear, see, taste, smell or feel something that does not actually exist)
- disorganized thought (unconnected thoughts that make it impossible to communicate clearly with other people)
- disorganized mood (finding it hard to express feelings; feeling inappropriate or intense bursts of emotion; feeling empty of any emotions)
- disorganized behaviour (odd behavior or cannot complete everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing appropriately and preparing simple meals)
- changes in sensitivity (more sensitive and aware of other people; or withdrawn and seeming to pay no attention to others).
No single cause has been found for schizophrenia, although there seems to be a partial genetic link. Old theories blaming parenting or the “schizophrenogenic mother” have been debunked and thought to • be grossly incorrect, unfair, and damaging too many.
Treatment usually consists of medication and counseling, and social support and intervention. Antipsychotic medications are the main class of drugs used to treat schizophrenia. Psychotherapy can offer understanding, reassurance and suggestions for handling the emotional aspects of the disorder and providing less stressful living situations. Social supports for housing, finances and employment or daily activity are important for treatment and recovery. Families, friends and coworkers can benefit from education and support.
It is impossible to predict how well a person will recover after the onset of the disorder. Some will recover almost totally. Some people will need treatment, medication and support for the rest of their lives.
For further information about schizophrenia contact a community organization or your family doctor to find out about support and resources available in your community.
To be advised at a later date