What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder in which a person is unable to distinguish between the real and the imaginary. Such people are almost always in a state of mental conflict, which affects several aspects of their living. Their thought patterns are altered and disturbed. They feel things differently than other people do, and, in some cases, they even put these thoughts into actions.
Schizophrenia is not just difficult for the person affected from it, but it could also be dangerous for the other people in the vicinity of the affected individual. Feelings are often compounded in a schizophrenic mind. Even a stray evil thought could be compounded to much greater intensity, and this could lead the person to act in particular manner, even causing harm to others.
About 1% of all American people are believed to suffer from schizophrenia, which means this is a very common condition. The onset age could be different for different people, but it is general considered to be in the 20s for men and in the 30s for women. There are more schizophrenic men than women.
How Does a Schizophrenic Person Behave?
The symptoms of schizophrenia worsen over time. They are also different from one person to another. On observing a patient for a period of over six months, the following observations can be made:-
- There are hallucinations. This is an important symptom of schizophrenia. The person will begin to perceive things that do not exist. They will be able to see, hear, smell, and feel things as though they are real. The person who experiences these hallucinations sees them as a part of their real existence and will not be able to make the distinction between what’s real and what’s not. They might hear voices instructing them to do certain things, even harmful ones. To a healthy person who witnesses such an episode, it might appear quite scary.
- There are delusions. Delusions are untrue feelings and beliefs that the patient holds as true. They might think they are someone else, for example. Or they might think that others are hiding facts from them. They develop these false beliefs without any provocation and once they are formed, they are deeply ensconced in their conscious mind. It is very difficult to remove these delusory feelings once they are formed.
- There are negative symptoms. These are symptoms that come in the way of the productive life of the individual. They do not allow the person to function in a healthy manner. They remain dull and listless and not interested in what happens around them. They might lose their interest in everything, even life itself. A repercussion of these negative symptoms is that they are not able to sustain their relationships.
- There are cognitive symptoms, which lead to disorganized thinking. This includes forgetfulness, where they might forget even basic personal details about themselves such as their own names. They won’t remember to do chores. They won’t be able to articulate themselves in words and gestures at times because they might not be able to coordinate their feelings with suitable expressions. They might also harbor wrong feelings about themselves, such as they might not accept that they need treatment. Healthcare professionals often suggest that the biggest challenge in treating schizophrenia is that the patient does not accept that they are sick.
Why Are Some People Schizophrenic?
Schizophrenia could occur due to one or more of the following factors:-
- Genetic Mutations — There are several genetic factors at play that can be the cause for schizophrenia. It is not just genetic mutation though, but it is typically a blend of genetic and environmental factors that cause this disorder. If one of the parents or a sibling has this condition, then the chances of an individual getting it are high. Among twins, it is observed that if one of them has this condition, then there are 50% chances that the other one will also be schizophrenic.
- Composition of the Brain — It is observed that schizophrenic people have a special composition of the brain. The neurotransmitters present in their brains are in a different proportion than in a normal brain. They generally show a lower concentration of neurotransmitters such as glutamates and dopamine. This causes malfunctioning of cerebral responses.
- Infections — Certain viral infections during pregnancy could lead to an onset of schizophrenia in the child. The first and second trimesters are the most delicate periods.
- Drug Abuse — Schizophrenia is commonly found in people who are involved in substance use. Narcotics such as marijuana can cause the specific symptoms that schizophrenic patients are known for.
Who Is at a Higher Risk for Developing Schizophrenia?
The following people are considered to be high-risk categories for schizophrenia:-
- People who have a family history of the condition.
- Children born to fathers of an advanced age
- Infants whose mothers suffer from viral infections in the first or second trimesters of pregnancy
- People who have autoimmune diseases of some kind
- Teenagers who consume psychoactive or psychotropic drugs.
Why Must Schizophrenia Not Be Ignored?
Schizophrenia is mostly a psychosomatic disorder. Being so, it can have severe complications if left untreated. It can cause physical health problems as well as emotional distress. This could hamper the productivity of the person in terms of their professional life, and could thus bring on financial distress. Due to the unstable nature of such a person, schizophrenia can also put a huge question over the relationships of the person.
Along with these, there are the following dangers that caretakers of schizophrenic patients must be aware of:-
- Schizophrenic persons might injure themselves. They can even go to the extent of attempting suicide.
- They could develop severe anxiety disorders and phobias.
- They could plunge into depression.
- To cope with their disorder, they could resort to substance abuse.
- They might show dangerously aggressive behavior.
- They could have rapid mood swings and behave irrationally most of the time.
If you are responsible for a schizophrenic person, then it is imperative that you bring them to treatment as soon as possible. This is in the best interest of not just the patient but of everyone around them.