Oasis Behavioral Health Hospital helps individuals in Chandler, AZ diagnose and treat their mental health & addiction disorders.
Learn about schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder in which people suffer from significant misinterpretations of the world around them. People who have schizophrenia struggle to distinguish between what is real and what is not real. These men and women have difficulty thinking clearly, have difficulty acting appropriately in social situations, and have abnormal emotional responses to various circumstances. Schizophrenia is a severe, chronic, and disabling illness that can cause extreme turmoil and distress in a person’s life. However, with thorough treatment and the implementation of appropriate psychotropic medications, the symptoms of schizophrenia can be properly managed and those suffering from it can lead happy and productive lives.
It has been estimated that schizophrenia affects 1% of the American population. While many mental illnesses tend to affect one sex more than the other, schizophrenia appears to affect both men and women equally. Up until recently, schizophrenia was not diagnosed in children and adolescents. Recently, however, there has been growing awareness of the fact that schizophrenia can present its onset in childhood, with children younger than 5 years old having been documented as experiencing symptoms. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that it is uncommon for people over the age of 45 to suffer the initial onset of schizophrenia.
Causes and risk factors for schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is not believed to be the result of any one single factor but rather is a result of a number of factors working together. The most commonly noted factors that are believed to play a role in the development of schizophrenia include:
Genetic: Schizophrenia is known to run in families, which leads professionals to believe that there is a strong genetic component in its development. While schizophrenia is said to only affect 1% of the U.S. population, an estimated 10% of those individuals have a first-degree relative who suffers from the disorder as well. Scientists have found that people with schizophrenia have higher rates of rare genetic mutations that disrupt the development of their brains.
Physical: It has been suggested by professionals in the field that people who suffer from schizophrenia have an imbalance of the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate, which work to allow the brain cells to communicate with one another. As a result, the brains of people who have schizophrenia would then be lacking that ability to communicate amongst the different cells.
Environmental: Experts in the field have noted that there are likely many environmental factors that come into play in regards to the development of schizophrenia, but the most commonly noted are malnutrition before birth, exposure to viruses prenatally, and problems during the birthing process.
- Family history of schizophrenia
- Family history of other mental illnesses
- Malnutrition in utero / exposure to viruses in utero
- Existence of autoimmune diseases
- Taking mind-altering substances
- Having a father who is older in age
Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia
Certain symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations and delusions, are believed to typically start between the ages of 16 and 30, and men are believed to experience symptoms earlier than women. The signs of schizophrenia will vary from person to person and are broken down into three types, including positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms.
Positive symptoms: The positive symptoms of schizophrenia are characterized by psychotic behaviors that healthy people do not display. People experiencing positive symptoms often lose touch with reality. These symptoms can come and go and will change in levels of severity. Examples of positive symptoms can include:
- Thought disorders
- Movement disorders
Negative symptoms: The negative symptoms of schizophrenia are identified as emotional and behavioral abilities that a person can no longer experience or perform. These symptoms tend to be more difficult to identify than positive symptoms because they are not as obvious. Examples of negative symptoms can include:
- Speaking as minimally as possible
- Lacking the ability to begin and/or maintain continued involvement in activities
- Having a flat affect (e.g. speaking in monotone, lacking any form of facial expressions, etc.)
- Lacking the ability to articulate one’s thoughts
- Lacking the ability to concentrate
- No longer caring for personal hygiene
Cognitive symptoms: The cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia present in a very subtle manner and may not immediately be identified as symptomatic of the disorder. These signs may include:
- Difficulty paying attention
- Poor executive function
- Significant problems with one’s working memory
Effects of schizophrenia
Schizophrenia not only has a deteriorating effect on the people suffering from the illness, but it can also have devastating effects on their family and loved ones. The effects of schizophrenia can range from minor to severe and may include the following:
- Extreme phobias
- Severe anxiety
- Chronic substance abuse / addiction to substances
- Family discord
- Conflicts within significant relationships
- Social isolation
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
Schizophrenia and co-occurring disorders
People who suffer from schizophrenia may also suffer from symptoms of other mental health disorders as well. The most prominent type of co-occurring disorder is substance abuse and addiction, but other examples can include:
- Schizotypal disorder
- Paranoid personality disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Social phobia