Schizophrenia Awareness Day was on the 24th of May 2022.
Schizophrenia refers to a condition and to a spectrum of disorders that all involve a disconnection from reality, including hallucinations and delusions.
It also affects a person’s ability to recognise the symptoms they have of this condition.
It’s a severe condition, but is treatable, and many people with it can still live happy, fulfilling lives.
This lifelong disease can’t be cured but can be controlled with proper treatment.
Unfortunately, popular books and movies often depict people with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses as dangerous and violent.
This usually isn’t true.
More typically, most prefer to withdraw and be left alone.
When people with mental illness do take part in dangerous or violent behaviours, it’s generally a result of their psychosis and the fear that they’re being threatened in some way by their surroundings.
Drug or alcohol use can make it worse. On the other hand, people with schizophrenia can be a danger to themselves.
Suicide is the top cause of premature death among people with schizophrenia.
Anyone can get schizophrenia. It affects people all over the world, from all races and cultures.
While it can happen at any age, schizophrenia typically first appears in the teenage years or early 20s.
The disorder affects men and women equally, although symptoms generally appear earlier in men.
The earlier the symptoms start, the more severe the illness tends to be.
Children over the age of 5 can have schizophrenia, but it’s rare before adolescence.
Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia is not a split or multiple personality.
Schizophrenia involves a psychosis, a type of mental illness in which a person can’t tell what’s real from what’s imagined.
At times, people with psychotic disorders lose touch with reality.
The world may seem like a jumble of confusing thoughts, images, and sounds.
Their behaviour may be very strange and even shocking.
A sudden change in personality and behaviour, which happens when people who have it lose touch with reality, is called a psychotic episode.
People with schizophrenia often experience human rights violations both inside mental health institutions and in community settings.
Stigma against people with this condition is intense and widespread, causing social exclusion, and impacting their relationships with others, including family and friends.
This contributes to discrimination, which in turn can limit access to general health care, education, housing, and employment.
WHO’s Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030 highlights the steps required to provide appropriate services for people with mental disorders including schizophrenia.
A key recommendation of the Action Plan is to shift services from institutions to the community.
Presentation varies but the main symptoms include;
λ Delusions: These are false, mixed, and sometimes strange beliefs that aren’t reality based, and that the person refuses to give up, even when shown the facts.
For example, a person with delusions may believe that people can hear their thoughts, that they are God or the devil, or that people are putting thoughts into their head or plotting against them.
λ Hallucinations: These involve sensations that aren’t real.
Hearing voices is the most common hallucination in people with schizophrenia.
The voices may comment on the person’s behaviour, insult them, or give commands.
Less common types include seeing things that aren’t there, smelling strange odours, having a funny taste in your mouth, and feeling sensations on your skin even though nothing is touching your body.
λ Catatonia: In this condition, the person may stop speaking, and their body may be fixed in a single position for a very long time.
Other related symptoms include:
λ Talking in sentences that don’t make sense or using nonsense words, making it difficult for the person to communicate or hold a conversation
λ Shifting quickly from one thought to the next without obvious or logical connections between them
λ Moving slowly
λ Being unable to make decisions
λ Writing excessively but without meaning
λ Forgetting or losing things
λ Repeating movements or gestures, like pacing or walking in circles
λ Having problems making sense of everyday sights, sounds, and feelings
The person will have trouble:
λ Understanding information and using it to make decisions
λ Focusing or paying attention
λ Using their information immediately after learning it (this is called working memory)
λ Recognising that they have any of these problems
λ Lack of emotion or a limited range of emotions
λ Withdrawal from family, friends, and social activities
λ Less energy
λ Speaking less
λ Lack of motivation
λ Loss of pleasure or interest in life
λ Poor hygiene and grooming habits
Research has not identified one single cause of schizophrenia.
It is thought that an interaction between genes and a range of environmental factors may cause schizophrenia.
Psychosocial factors may also affect the onset and course of schizophrenia.
Several things that appear to make someone more likely to get schizophrenia, including:
λ Genetics (heredity): Schizophrenia can run in families, which means a greater likelihood to have schizophrenia may be passed on from parents to their children.
λ Brain chemistry and circuits: inability be able to regulate brain chemicals called neurotransmitters that control certain pathways that affect thinking and behaviour.
λ Brain abnormality: abnormal brain structure. But this doesn’t apply to all people with schizophrenia. It can affect people without the disease.
λ Environment: Things like viral infections, exposure to toxins like marijuana, or highly stressful situations may trigger schizophrenia in people whose genes make them more likely to get the disorder.
With proper treatment, most people with schizophrenia can lead productive and fulfilling lives.
Early diagnosis and treatment can help avoid or ease frequent relapses and hospitalisations, and help cut the disruption to the person’s life, family, and relationships.
The primary medications used to treat schizophrenia are called anti-psychotics.
These drugs don’t cure schizophrenia but help relieve the most troubling symptoms, including delusions, hallucinations, and thinking problems.
Family therapy, which can help families deal with a loved one who has schizophrenia, enabling them to better help their loved one
Some famous people who were schizophrenic but achieved greatness despite their mental infirmity include;
λ Rufus May – 1968 -Clinical Psychologist
λ John Nash – 1928 – 2015 – American Mathematician
λ Mary Todd Lincoln – 1818 – 1882 -Wife of Abraham Lincoln and First Lady of the United States
λ Vincent van Gogh – 1853 – 1890- Artist
λ Sir Isaac Newton the physicists who needs no introduction
Adapted from WebMD website.