Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it hard to:
- Tell the difference between what is real and not real
- Think clearly
- Have normal emotional responses
- Act normally in social situations
There is a commonly held mistaken belief that schizophrenia means a person has more than one personality. This is incorrect. Schizophrenia involves hallucinations (perceptions in the mind that do not exist in reality) and delusions (a strongly held belief despite evidence to the contrary).
It’s generally agreed that schizophrenia is probably caused by a combination of factors; someones genetic make-up could make them more vulnerable, but stressful events or life experiences could trigger the onset of symptoms.
About one in every hundred people is diagnosed with schizophrenia during their lifetime and everyone diagnosed with schizophrenia will have a different experience of the symptoms.
Most people diagnosed with schizophrenia are aged between 18 and 35, with men tending to be diagnosed at a slightly younger age than women. The onset of schizophrenia is typically between 14 to 35 years old. It rarely appears before 10 years of age or after 40 years of age. The average age of onset depends in part upon the sub type of schizophrenia. Most sub types present before 25 years of age. The paranoid sub type usually presents later at between 25 to 40 years old. In addition, male patients tend to have symptoms earlier than female patients.
Anti psychotic medications are the most effective treatment for schizophrenia. They change the balance of chemicals in the brain and can help control symptoms. These medications are usually helpful, but they can cause side effects.
In order to make an accurate diagnosis of schizophrenia, a doctor must do a thorough evaluation of the person’s medical and behavioral history. The doctor will question the person, obtain lab tests or try to get information on the following factors:
- symptoms of behavior, thoughts, and feelings
- physical symptoms
- family history of mental illness
- recent stresses or changes in one’s life
- blood tests
- brain scans or brain chemistry evaluation
- recent drug or alcohol use
The doctor will talk to the person to see if the symptoms have impaired the person’s work, relationships, or other facets of life. After evaluating these aspects of a person’s health, the doctor will consult the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to see if the person meets the requirements for schizophrenia. The DSM defines each mental illness in detail, helping doctors to best diagnose and treat their patients.
There is no known cure for Schizophrenia. With the proper medications and supportive counseling, the ability of schizophrenic persons to live and function relatively well in society is excellent. The outlook for these patients is optimistic.
Ten years after initial diagnosis, approximately fifty percent of people diagnosed with schizophrenia are either noted to be completely recovered or improved to the point of being able to function independently. Twenty five percent are improved, but require a strong support network, and an additional fifteen percent remain unimproved and are typically hospitalized.
Talking therapies, such as psychotherapy, counselling and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), can help to manage and treat schizophrenia. Talking treatments help you to identify the things you have issues with, explore them and discuss strategies or solutions. They can allow you to explore the significance of your symptoms, and so to defeat them.
The key to successful recovery is early diagnosis and treatment. In general, the earlier someone with schizophrenia is diagnosed and stabilized on an appropriate treatment regime, the better their chance of recovery. In light of this tendency, anyone who suspects that they (or someone they know) may have signs and symptoms consistent with schizophrenia should consult with a psychiatrist/psychologist as soon as possible.
All names have been changed to protect the identity of clients. Personal client stories shared in this blog have been published with prior permission from the relevant clients.