Schizophrenia is commonly diagnosed in late teens and early twenties and the causes are not fully understood. They are likely to be a combination of hereditary and other factors. It is probable that some people are born with a predisposition to develop this illness, and that stress or use of certain drugs, such as marijuana or amphetamines, can be a trigger.
Schizophrenia is an illness that affects the normal functioning of the brain. It interferes with a person’s ability to think, feel and act. During onset, the person often withdraws from others, becomes depressed or anxious and develops unusual ideas or extreme fears. Early detection is vital to the person’s wellbeing.
If untreated, the person with schizophrenia will experience persistent psychosis with all or a number of the following symptoms:
Confused thinking: Thoughts become confused and jumbled. It can be hard to think clearly enough to talk logically. It can be difficult for a person to concentrate during a conversation or to remember what is being said. Thinking can be much faster than usual or slowed down.
Hallucinations: People experiencing a psychotic illness may see, hear, feel, smell, or taste something that is not actually there. They might hear voices no one else can hear, see things that aren’t there or feel something moving on their skin. They might feel cut off from the world around them, or that everything is unreal.
Delusions: Some people experiencing a psychotic illness may hold false beliefs known as delusions, ie that someone is trying to hurt them or control their thinking. A person may be convinced their delusion is real even if those around them challenge it, and they find evidence supporting the fact that their delusion seems illogical to others.
Changed feelings: How a person feels may change for no apparent reason. Some people may experience moods that swing from one extreme to another very quickly. For example, swinging between being very happy and feeling very heavily depressed. Some people’s feelings may seem dampened or flat and they may show less emotion than other people.
Changed behaviour: People experiencing a psychotic illness may behave in ways that they did not behave before they became unwell. For example, they may become angry seemingly without cause, be very active, have no energy, have trouble sleeping or eating, have trouble socialising, or be fearful. These behaviours relate to their hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking.
Treatment can do much to reduce and even eliminate the symptoms. Anti-psychotic medication helps correct the chemical imbalance in the brain while lifestyle changes such as reducing alcohol and other drugs helps to improve physical health as well. Individual counseling; family support and counseling; and involvement in a recovery program that focuses on reducing social isolation and building personal relationships are essential.