One of the most serious mental health conditions that an individual can be diagnosed with is schizophrenia. A disorder that includes debilitating symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations, schizophrenia can prevent a person from being able to perform even the most mundane of tasks. Sufferers of this mental illness are likely to struggle with deciphering between what is real and what is a deluded perception that is brought on by this disorder. Additionally, those who grapple with schizophrenia may have a hard time conveying ideas or needs, as incoherent or disorganized thoughts and speech can be common among these individuals. Lastly, because delusions and hallucinations can present as disturbing auditory or visual disturbances, people who have schizophrenia often experience elevated levels of stress and trepidation when these symptoms are present.
Given the severe nature of this condition, it is likely that sufferers of schizophrenia will suffer from additional mental health concerns if treatment is not sought to alleviate the symptoms of this condition. Moreover, substance use is common among those with schizophrenia as drugs and/or alcohol may offer a false sense of relief from the detrimental symptoms of this illness. Fortunately, there are options for care that can greatly improve the lives of individuals who grapple with schizophrenia. Oftentimes, these options include therapeutic interventions that are aimed at reducing symptoms though pharmacological means and traditional psychotherapies that can instill skills for managing symptoms. The pivotal thing to know is that while there is no cure for schizophrenia, there are methods for decreasing this disorder’s control over a person’s life.
It is speculated that one percent of the overall population meets diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia. Additionally, it is believed that schizophrenia equally affects men and women alike. Finally, even though some youth present with symptoms of this disorder early in life, the typical age of schizophrenia symptom onset is during late adolescence and young adulthood.
Causes and Risk Factors for Schizophrenia
Since the exact cause of schizophrenia has yet to be realized by researchers, it is widely agreed upon by professionals in the field of mental health that there are a number of contributing factors that cause symptoms of this disorder to manifest. The following genetic, physiological, and environmental influences, along with additional risk factors, are expanded upon and explain why and how a person develops schizophrenia:
Genetic: Researchers have found that schizophrenia is a disorder that is prevalent among family members. In fact, studies have concluded that ten percent of people who meet diagnostic criteria for this condition have a family history of schizophrenia. Because of this finding, it can be deduced that schizophrenia can be inherited.
Physical: Through the use of neuroimaging, it has been realized that those with a schizophrenia diagnosis have structural differences in their brains when compared to individuals who do not meet diagnostic criteria for this condition. Specifically in the ventricles of the brain, these structural differences are believed to contribute to the presence of schizophrenia. Additionally, individuals who battle schizophrenia are believed to have serotonin and dopamine imbalances within their brains, of which causes dysregulated emotions and impulses.
Environmental: Many experts in the field of mental health believe that certain environmental influences or circumstance can trigger the onset of schizophrenia symptoms. While a baby is in utero, exposure viruses, toxins, or poor nutrition can increase an individual’s chances of developing this disorder. Additionally, if a person abuses mind-altering drugs, the manifestation of symptoms synonymous with schizophrenia can happen. In sum, there are a number of inorganic causes for the onset of schizophrenia.
- Personal history of mental health condition or conditions
- Presence of undiagnosed mental health condition or conditions
- Being born to a father who is of advanced age
- History of abusing mind-altering substances
- Preexisting autoimmune disease
- Prenatal exposure to poor nutrition
- Prenatal exposure to viruses
- Family history of schizophrenia or other mental health condition or conditions
Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia
There are a number of signs and symptoms that suggest a person is struggling with schizophrenia. Some symptoms can vary in their severity and other signs may not be observable by others as they exist in the minds of sufferers. The listed cognitive, positive, and negative symptoms are cornerstone to schizophrenia and can be alleviated through the implementation of effective treatment:
Cognitive symptoms: Because schizophrenia can severely impact a person’s brain functioning, there are a number of cognitive symptoms that can appear. The following impairments are examples of symptoms that can be present when schizophrenia affects how an individual’s brain operates:
- Memory impairment
- Poor focus
- Impaired executive functioning
Positive symptoms: Certain thought processes or patterns of behavior occur when schizophrenia causes positive symptoms to manifest. The most commonly experienced positive symptoms include:
- Incoherent speech
- Repetitious behaviors
Negative symptoms: Schizophrenia is known to cause symptoms that lead to the removal of behaviors or abilities that would otherwise be present if a person was not suffering from this disorder. Below are examples of these symptoms, known as negative symptoms:
- Decline in interests or activities that were once enjoyed
- Loss of speech
- Flat affect or diminished facial expression
- Decline in ability to concentrate
- Social isolation
- Poor hygiene
Effects of Schizophrenia
Failing to seek care for this debilitating disorder can render a number of harmful and potentially lasting effect for those to struggle with schizophrenia. The listed effect are examples of what can happen if treatment is not implemented to alleviate symptoms of this mental health condition:
- Inability to secure or maintain employment
- Development of another mental health condition(s)
- Substance use leading to addiction or dependence
- Decrease in quantity or quality of interpersonal relationships
- Self-harming behaviors
- Suicidal ideations
- Suicide attempts
Schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition that is known to occur alongside other mental illnesses. The severe symptoms associated with this disorder can trigger the onset or exacerbate symptoms of another mental health disorder, of which could also require therapeutic intervention in the even treatment is sought. The following disorders are examples of those that can be diagnosed in conjunction to schizophrenia:
- Schizotypal personality disorder
- Paranoid personality disorder
- Substance use disorders
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Social anxiety disorder