Although schizophrenia means “split mind”, it does not mean, and is often a misnomer, that the person has a split personality. Instead, it is a psychotic disorder that is considered to be the most severe as it primarily affects how the person think, feels and acts. Thus, their perception of reality tends to be distorted as manifested by hearing voices in their heads or thoughts of other people controlling and even planning to harm them. This forces them to be paranoid, frightened, or often times withdrawn from reality, leading to serious repercussions on the person’s day to day living. If left untreated, the person will be unable to function in society and maintain meaningful relationships with other people.
The exact cause of Schizophrenia is current not known. However, most theories suggest that a combination of genetic and environmental factors play a big role leading to an imbalance of the chemical make up inside the brain. This is explained by the dopamine hypothesis wherein it postulates that there is too much dopaminergic action in the brain that is caused by the hypersensitivity of dopamine receptors to dopamine, too much dopamine release, too many dopamine receptors or a combination of these mechanisms. This is the reason why drugs that have the same dopaminergic activity, such as shabu cocaine and amphetamine, may lead to schizophrenic symptoms even after cessation of chronic use.
Schizophrenia is a disorder that affects all societies worldwide regardless of social class and race. It is estimated that 1% of the general population has this disorder it affects men and women equally. Studies have also shown that it is hereditary and it usually begins before 25 years old.
Subtypes of Schizophrenia
The following are subtypes of Schizophrenia:
- Paranoid – this subtype is the most common and has a better prognosis than the other subtypes as the mental deterioration is less. The patients are well groomed and organized but experience paranoia, persecutory delusions or grandiose delusions
- Disorganized – Formerly called hebeprhenic and is characterized by marked regression to primitive, disinhibited and unorganized behavior
- Catatonic – this subtype is characterized by marked disturbance in motor function such as rigidity, stupor, catalepsy or waxy flexibility. Mutism is particularly common
- Undifferentiated – this subtype is a combination of the others
- Residual – despite the absence of a complete set of active symptoms, there is continuing evidence of schizophrenic disturbance
Signs & Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Signs & symptoms of schizophrenia may vary as it involves a wide range of cognitive, behavioral and emotional problems that reduces the person’s ability to be functional.
- Delusions – false beliefs that are not based on reality
- Hallucinations – these are things that the person may see, hear, smell or feel that no one else can
- Thought disorders – these are unusual, dysfunction or disorganized way of thinking
- Disorganized speech
- Extremely disorganized or abnormal motor behavior
- Negative symptoms – these are symptoms that show a reduced ability to function normally. Examples are:
- Lack of pleasure in daily life
- Lack of ability to begin and continue planned activities
- Poor interpersonal skills
- Flat affect
Diagnostic Criteria for Schizophrenia
To meet the criteria for diagnosis of schizophrenia, the person must have experienced at least 2 of the abovementioned symptoms. At least 1 of the symptoms must be the presence of delusions, hallucinations or disorganized speech.
Treatment of Schizophrenia
Treatment of schizophrenia involves a lifelong management that may eventually allow a patient’s to regain functionality. However, it is important that schizophrenia is detected early on in order for the doctor to examine the patient and provide the needed medications. Antipsychotic medications are the most commonly prescribed drugs to treat schizophrenia. Other psychosocial interventions are also recommended such as:
- Individual therapy
- Social skills training
- Family therapy
- Vocational rehabilitation
Understanding schizophrenia can help when taking First Aid Courses. Schizophrenia is a chronic and serious mental disorder that is characterized by the patient’s inability to differentiate reality from imagination.