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What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a very serious and chronic mental illness that affects close to 1% of the world population. Patients with schizophrenia often experience episodes leading to distortions of reality which ultimately leads to delusions and hallucinations. In this guide, we will learn about the common misconceptions, diagnosis, and treatment procedures for Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia can be seen in men and women of any age group and usually requires lifelong care and treatment.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

In most cases, schizophrenia mental disorder starts during the early 20s and late teenage of men and women. The early symptoms of schizophrenia are often hard to diagnose or may get overlooked because of the common adolescent behaviors. The most common symptoms of schizophrenia that can be seen early in life include:

  • Isolating oneself from friends and family
  • Having trouble focusing or concentrating and getting easily distracted
  • Developing the habit of changing friends or social groups frequently
  • Change in sleep pattern or difficulty sleeping
  • Being easily agitated or irritated
  • Poor academic performance and having trouble with school work
  • Facing difficulty with personal relationships

The issues mentioned above can be confused with common adolescent problems which makes it difficult for the patient or their caregivers to identify the symptoms of schizophrenia mental disorder.

There are various types of symptoms of schizophrenia. Let us look into them one by one:

Positive Symptoms

There are certain symptoms of schizophrenia disease that can pinpoint to the primary healthcare provider the actual presence of the disorder. These symptoms are called ‘positive’ symptoms of schizophrenia as they are strikingly different from common teenage behaviors. 

The positive symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Hallucinations: Experiences of hallucinations refer to a lapse of reality. Schizophrenic patients often seem to have experiences that appear real but are actually figments of their imagination.  They mostly tend to see, hear and smell things that people around them do not experience. To the patients, these experiences are very real which makes it difficult for the doctor to convince them that they are not.
  • Delusions: A delusion is said to have occurred when the patients seem to believe in something in spite of the presence of facts and evidence to the contrary.
  • Thought disorders: One of the ‘positive’ symptoms of schizophrenia mental disorder is when the patient experiences thought disorders – they process information and thoughts in an abnormal pattern. 
  • Movement disorders: These symptoms include agitated body movement, constant twitching, and unstable body postures.

Negative Symptoms

These symptoms are the ones that can be seen to interrupt the patient’s typical emotional behavior and abilities. These consist of:

  • Disorganized thinking or speech The main symptom that is seen in this case is disorganized. speech. The patients suffering from this tend to speak gibberish with unconnected sentences or switching topics frequently. They tend to use made-up words or phrases.
  • The person suffering might also have trouble controlling their impulses leading to rash decisions. 
  • Negative symptoms are also characterized by odd emotional responses to situations.
  • Patients often seem to suffer from a lack of emotion or expressions even in stimulating conditions.
  • The affected individuals often seem to have lost interest or excitement for life.
  • People with schizophrenia tend to go into social isolation.
  • The patients seem to have difficulty in following through with plans and completing normal everyday activities.

Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Among the most widely known schizophrenia facts, there has been evidence that the disorder affects thinking and cognitive abilities. These symptoms are often very hard to detect:

  • Poor decision-making skills and the lack of ability to understand and process information
  • Lack of insights or the patient being unaware of their health situation
  • Disorganized thinking and the loss of focus or concentration

The possible signs of schizophrenia are quite difficult to detect which leads to late diagnosis and possible complications later in life.

Causes of Schizophrenia

Before we talk about the possible schizophrenia treatments, let us learn in detail what causes schizophrenia. The exact cause of schizophrenia is still unknown but experts believe that schizophrenia causes might emerge because of the following factors:

Biological factors: 

Recent studies have proven that one of the schizophrenia causes might be abnormal brain formations and structures. Chemical deformities in the brain might be one of the main schizophrenia causes. Research is still ongoing about what causes schizophrenia biologically but up until now, scientists assume that the following areas of the brain might be affected for the disorder to develop in an individual:

  • Medial temporal lobe – This portion of the brain is responsible to help in memory functions. Damages or changes in this area might mean difficulties in the working memory of the patient.
  • Superior temporal lobe – This is the area of the brain to which if alterations are caused, the individual may have trouble with processing auditory information.
  • Pre-frontal lobe – This part of the brain is very critical for the normal functioning of the human nervous system. Any chemical changes to this part of the brain might cause difficulties in the individual’s decision-making skills and inhibition control.

Genetic factors: Is schizophrenia hereditary

People with a family history of schizophrenia mental disorder are at a higher risk of developing the disease. It has also been seen that identical twins have higher chances of developing the disease than fraternal twins. 

Environmental factors:

Certain other environmental factors might contribute to the causes of paranoid schizophrenia. These include:

  • Exposure to toxins or harmful chemicals during infancy or in the fetal stage
  • Having inflammatory disorders autoimmune diseases
  • Being exposed to mind-altering drugs
  • Having to work under high-stress levels for a long period of time

Scientists believe that the main causes of paranoid schizophrenia can be related to the chemicals that influence emotion and behavior in the brain.

 

Types of Schizophrenia

Before 2013, the symptoms of schizophrenia were divided into five different subtypes. Today, schizophrenia is a single diagnosis. Several types of schizophrenia symptoms help doctors and caregivers chart out the plan for schizophrenia treatment guidelines but the types are no longer considered as a reference for clinical diagnosis. The types of schizophrenia are:

Paranoid schizophrenia: Since 2013, this subtype of schizophrenia has been labeled under one of the ‘positive’ symptoms and not a separate type.

Hebephrenic schizophrenia or Disorganised schizophrenia: These schizophrenic disorders do not show symptoms of hallucinations or delusions but often exhibit disorganized speech patterns or behavior.

Residual schizophrenia: These schizophrenic disorders referred to patients who were diagnosed with schizophrenia early in life but did not show any symptoms later.

Undifferentiated schizophrenia: The type of schizophrenia disease in which the patient shows more than one type of predominant symptom. 

Catatonic schizophrenia: This schizophrenia subtype was diagnosed in people who showed signs of autism or those who developed a stupor-like effect.

 Childhood Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia diagnosis is common in children and is mostly seen during their teens or early 20s. Most of the important recognizable symptoms occur before the person reaches 13 years of age. This condition of the early onset of the disease is known as childhood schizophrenia. The symptoms that can be seen in the cases of childhood schizophrenia include the following:

  • The child is unusually fearful or anxious and can be considered to be paranoid
  • When the child claims to hear voices or see things that are unnatural, hence pointing as early signs of hallucinations
  • They face the loss of interest in self-care and do not pay attention to themselves
  • Sudden deterioration in academic performance
  • Abrupt mood swings 
  • Changes in sleep patterns or being unable to sleep at all
  • Unwarranted changes in behavior patterns

 

Schizophrenia Diagnosis and Treatment 

There is no single health exam or a brain scan that can suffice for the diagnosis of schizophrenia. Since the doctors are still unaware of the exact cause of schizophrenia, to determine how to treat schizophrenia, multiple psychometric tests and exams need to be done before confirming the diagnosis. These health exams comprise of the following:

  • During the initial appointment checkup, the doctor needs to know the entire medical history of the patient and their family, followed by their normal mental health, mood patterns, and substance abuse problems. They may also ask for school or work performance reports to get insights into the cognitive abilities of the patient. 
  • For the next step, the doctor may prescribe several blood tests, physical exam and imaging tests like Computed Tomography (CT) scan and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
  • Even psychometric assessments are essential to establish the diagnosis.
  • For the final step and confirmed diagnosis, the patient should have experienced symptoms of ‘positive’ schizophrenia in a one-month period. These symptoms are hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized speech.

The symptoms of schizophrenia often overlap with other mental health conditions like bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder. Again, there are other medical conditions that can also show the same type of symptoms. This is why doctors need to perform an exhaustive number of tests to rule out other issues. Some of the health disorders that have similar symptoms to schizophrenia are:

  • Delirium
  • Brain tumor
  • Endocrine and inflammatory diseases
  • Dementia
  • Substance and alcohol abuse-related disorders

 

How Is It Treated?

Let us now talk about how to treat schizophrenia after a confirmed diagnosis of the schizophrenia mental disorder. There is no cure for schizophrenia but the schizophrenia treatment guidelines that doctors follow can help patients ease the symptoms to a great extent. The possible treatment for schizophrenia include:

  • Medications:

There is no cure for schizophrenia but with the help of antipsychotic medications, the patients can deal with the symptoms better. These medications help stop hallucinations, delusions and ward off the symptoms of psychosis. If and when psychosis occurs the doctors might prescribe immediate hospitalization. The common medications prescribed by doctors are described below.

The first generation of antipsychotic medications is essentially a class of drugs that were launched in the 1950s. These are also called typical antipsychotics as they are prescribed for a lot of other mental health problems similar to schizophrenia. 

This group of antipsychotics tends to have similar side effects like problems with movement, also known as extrapyramidal symptoms, issues of drowsiness or change in sleep patterns, and dry mouth due to dehydration. 

Group of researchers developed a newer group of antipsychotics in recent times that are often called as the second generation of antipsychotics or atypical antipsychotics. 

The side effects of these drugs do not cause the movement problems of the first generation medicines or typical antipsychotic drugs. However, they have their own set of side effects too. They are more likely to cause weight gain and other problems with metabolism, among other side effects.

  • Psychosocial rehabilitation and intervention:

Schizophrenia treatments often include certain social measures that can help the patient improve their social and communication skills. Along with social training, this type of treatment may also include individual counseling, group counseling to help the patient cope with the symptoms of schizophrenia.

  • Vocational rehabilitation:

Often conducted with the help of social workers or NGOs, vocational rehabilitation aims to help patients develop skills that can help them maintain a regular job easily.

  • Alternative treatments for schizophrenia:

In the path towards discovering a cure for schizophrenia, there are certain treatments that doctors are prescribing recently. These are food supplements besides the usual medicines. Such supplements consist of vitamin treatment, fish oil supplements, glycine-enriched foods, and diet management. These are mostly for the purpose of psychological intervention.

 

Myths and Facts About Schizophrenia

There are many misconceptions about schizophrenia leading to questions like are schizophrenics dangerous? and can schizophrenia cause violence? Several myths about schizophrenia give rise to schizophrenia stereotypes that make it tough for the patients to cope with the already difficult disease.

Busting such myths, here are some interesting facts about schizophrenia

Myth – Schizophrenia patients seem to have multiple personalities

Fact – One of the most common myths about schizophrenia is about schizophrenia causing multiple personalities. Most people believe that patients suffering from schizophrenia might have split personalities, meaning they act as two separate people. Schizophrenia multiple personalities is a myth as the patient does not have two personalities but they have lost touch with reality or have false ideas about the same. There is a condition known as Multiple Personality Disorder but it is totally unrelated to schizophrenia.

Myth – Schizophrenics are dangerous 

Fact – One of the most important schizophrenia facts is that people suffering from this mental disorder are not violent or dangerous. It is true that most of the patients can behave unpredictably at times but if they are getting treated properly at the hospital and taking medications on time as prescribed by the doctor, then there are very fewer chances of the patient being violent to others.  If the patient commits any act of violence, then in general, the behavior may stem from problems of substance abuse which is very common among patients suffering from schizophrenia.

Myth – If the parents have schizophrenia then the child would definitely inherit the disease

Fact – Most often, the question doctors get asked is schizophrenia hereditary? As per experts, genetic factors do play a role in causing schizophrenia but if only one parent has schizophrenia, then the chances of the child getting the disease are only 10%. Notably, if more than one relative of the patient in question has schizophrenia then the risk of inheriting the disease increases.

Myth – Schizophrenics need to be isolated

Fact – These types of common myths about schizophrenia comes from unfair schizophrenia stereotypes that the people at large believe in. With the importance of mental health increasing in the society, the patients with schizophrenia do not actually have to commit themselves to a mental asylum or lead a life of isolation. Presently, patients who are suffering from this chronic mental disorder are advised to live with family or in community homes that support the needs of such patients.

Myth – People with schizophrenia cannot recover from the disease

Fact – Schizophrenia can be hard to treat but with the availability of medicines in the modern world and the changing mindset of people about medication, counseling, and psychotherapy, improvements are being seen. Presently, 50% of the population suffering from schizophrenia can go on to live full, productive lives with the help of lifelong treatment and medications.

 

Risks and Complications of Schizophrenia

Though the cause of schizophrenia is still unknown, researchers have found certain factors that have proven to increase the risk of schizophrenia in patients. These risk factors include the following conditions:

  • Birth complications at the fetal stage or during delivery
  • Infection of the central nervous system during infancy or early childhood
  • Childhood trauma like having to witness the death of a family member
  • Social stresses like economic troubles or family separations

Even though these risk factors can increase the chances of an individual being diagnosed with schizophrenia, many patients are often seen who have not been exposed to these aspects of their life.

Schizophrenic disorders are a severe mental illness that can lead to several complications throughout life. The mental disorder needs lifelong treatment and should not be left untreated. The most common complications that might arise are:

  • Attempts of self-injury and suicide
  • Development of phobias
  • Social anxiety in day-to-day tasks
  • Depression and feelings of hopelessness
  • Troubles with personal relationships and family

Schizophrenia makes it difficult for people to attend school or work, giving rise to financial problems too.

 

Living With Schizophrenia

Schizophrenic patients need to develop emotional and social coping mechanisms over time to deal with the symptoms. As discussed below, schizophrenic patients suffer from delusions which makes it tough for the doctors and the caregivers to convince them that they have a mental health disorder. 

Initially, patients need to be monitored by family and close friends until they develop coping mechanisms to learn how to effectively control and regulate their emotions. Through regular psychotherapeutic interventions, counseling and peer support, the patients with schizophrenia can live a normal life devoid of frequent episodes or symptoms. Steps patients can take to lead a better life with schizophrenia:

  • Join a peer support group – This gives the patient to share their experiences and be a part of a non-judgemental environment to discuss courses of growth and improvement.
  • Ask for feedback from friends and family – With feedback from close ones and the counselor about the improvement in social skills, the patient might be able to develop their cognitive abilities over time and reduce occurrences of the symptoms of schizophrenia.
  • Take part in social skills training activities – Currently, as mental health is gaining more prominence and patients can take part in social skills training activities organized by NGOs for improvement.
  • Consider living in community housing facilities – If you’re suffering from a particularly crippling episode with the possibility of inflicting self-harm, check yourself into a rehab facility or residential treatment facility for Schizophrenia immediately. 

 

Prognosis

There is no surefire way to prevent schizophrenia as the researchers have still not been able to figure out the actual causes that lead to the development of this disease. This means that the patients can only find out about their chronic disease after a confirmed diagnosis by a trained psychiatric health professional. 

By following the doctor’s recommendations and attending regular psychotherapy sessions and support groups, you can be relatively symptom-free and lead a functional and meaningful life. Patients need to constantly educate themselves about the disease and cultivate ways to cope with the condition in consultation with their psychiatrist, family, and support groups. 

 

Getting Help For Schizophrenia

It can be really stressful to deal with Schizophrenia or have a loved one dealing with the illness. Seeking help and support is essential to help patients lead functional lives. If you are staging an intervention for a loved one with Schizophrenia, ensure you follow these guidelines. 

  • Make sure the person is comfortable and does not feel threatened.
  • Close family members or a partner should lead the conversation.
  • Do not include anyone who may be mistrusted by the individual.
  • Calmly take them through the options available such as a residential treatment facility or schizophrenia treatment centre
  • Reassure them that seeking help will help them lead a fuller and happier life.
  • Make sure they feel supported and not isolated. 
  • Use positive language and ensure that they feel loved and appreciated.

 

Rehab For Schizophrenia: What happens at Rehab?

Schizophrenia recovery is possible with treatment that can help manage symptoms, live and work independently, and build satisfying relationships. Apart from medication, psychosocial treatment is also very important. For such treatment to work well, the trust factor between a patient and the mental health care profession is crucial as the patient needs to be hopeful about the recovery. Inpatient rehab facilities are apt for such treatments, as it is a stable and relaxing environment where all the medication and possible therapies are provided under one roof. It helps the mental health professional or the doctor to constantly monitor the patient’s condition. 

At Cadabam’s world-class rehab facility, professionals curate a  comprehensive and innovative residential treatment program designed to address Schizophrenia. Each treatment program is personalized as per the individual needs and expectations. This encourages the patients to have a contributing engagement in their recovery process.

Cadabams’ broad-spectrum assessments and evaluation process help to determine the root cause of suffering. Our clinicians use this information to design comprehensive and thoughtful treatment plans for the best possible outcome. Each plan offers individual psychotherapy and therapy groups in order to understand and heal the patient’s psychological and physical state.

 

 

Rehab For Schizophrenia: Myths and Facts

Myth: In-patients will have no access to the outside world.

Fact: This aspect is partially true for a major reason. An external environment might trigger any schizophrenic episode so they will have limited access to the outside world. At Cadabams, our staff does everything possible to arrange fun activities and plan trips to make sure that the patient doesn’t feel completely isolated from the external world.

Myth: You can do it on your own

Fact: Patients cannot rely on only medicines or going to therapy twice a week. There’s a strong desire to quit especially when it comes to psychological problems like schizophrenia. Rehabilitation provides expert advice to help the patient go through it. There’s an accountability of the mental health profession, the rehab structure, and support to help avoid falling back into the condition again.

Cadabams is India’s leading Mental Health Rehab for Schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses. Visit our residential treatment facility for a guided tour of our Schizophrenia treatment centre.

Call us on our mental health helpline +91 96111 94949 for further details or Schizophrenia related emergencies. 

Why Cadabams?

Living with schizophrenia can be quite tough. At Cadabams, we aim to help people get an early and speedy diagnosis for a better and healthy life. Our expert team of psychiatrists are the best in the country and hold two decades of experience in treating the most complex cases of schizophrenia.

Coping and Support Techniques we use

Psychosocial Rehab – Aimed at reintegrating patients back into society to find purpose and dignity.

Developing awareness and understanding – Awareness about various aspects, such as causes and treatment of schizophrenia

Specific treatment goals – Milestone based treatment plans to keep patients motivated

Support help groups – Sharing individual experiences with a group of similar people

Stress management and relaxation techniques – Relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation may help

Luxurious Living

At Cadabams, we provide clean, modern, fully furnished accommodations with all the necessary creature comforts.

Modern Amenities

Kitchen and dining hall, laundry facilities, indoor games area, yoga and meditation hall, outdoor games area for cricket, badminton, Round the clock counsellor support, 24×7 ambulance on demand.

Healthy Cuisine

Our everyday menu is curated by Dieticians aimed at providing healthy and nutritious and tasty meals to satisfy everyone’s palate.

Entertainment Options

Recreation facilities such as TV, sports, gym, picnics and outings and more.

It’s not known as to what causes schizophrenia, but experts believe that a combination of brain chemistry, chemical imbalance in the brain, genetics, family relationships and environmental conditions contribute to the development of this disorder.

Certain issues with brain chemicals may develop the illness. Many research studies show the differences in the structure of the brain and the central nervous system (CNS) of the people with schizophrenia.

While some researchers are not certain about the importance of the changes as they indicate that it is a brain-related disease.

Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia vary from person to person, depending on the individuals. The early symptoms of schizophrenia include –

Schizophrenic people can exhibit signs of reduced physical or mental activity by sitting in one place and doing nothing for hours. On the other hand, they can exhibit signs of a high level of excitement by shouting, talking fast and acting in a violent manner.

The extreme symptoms of schizophrenia can be classified into three categories:

Negative symptoms for schizophrenic people also include apathy, appearing completely indifferent to things going on around them and showing no interest in taking part. They may spend all day doing nothing to the degree that they may even neglect personal hygiene.

The symptoms of schizophrenia are numerous and can mimic other mental health challenges, such as depression and bipolar disorder. There is no litmus test for diagnosing schizophrenia; only a psychiatrist can correctly diagnose and treat it.

Schizophrenia, if left untreated, can lead to severe health issues that can affect all the areas of life. Some of the complications or effects which schizophrenia can cause include:

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