Schizophrenia: Meaning, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Schizophrenia: Meaning, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

B
Bajaj Finserv Health
December 20th, 2021
6 mins read

Key Takeaways

  • Schizophrenia affects the thoughts, behavior, and feelings of a person
  • Causes of schizophrenia include genetics and environmental factors
  • Delusions and hallucinations are the symptoms of schizophrenia

What is Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a serious mental condition that affects the thoughts, feelings, and behaviour of a person. This mental disorder generally occurs in late adolescence or early adulthood and affects around 20 million people worldwide [1]. People with this experience delusions and hallucinations.

It makes them interpret reality abnormally. The condition is associated with a disability that may affect a person’s work or education. It can bring distress to the individual’s friends and family too. There are several schizophrenia types [2]. However, this can be managed with an effective treatment. 

Read on to know schizophrenia symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Schizophrenia Causes

There is no definite cause of this mental condition. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), genetics, environmental factors, and difference in brain structure or functions may cause schizophrenia [3].

1. Genetics

This may be hereditary. It can run in families and be passed on to children from their parents. Your risk may increase if one of your parents is diagnosed with schizophrenia. However, your chances of developing this condition are below 1% if there is no history of this in your family.

SchizophreniaAdditional Read: Agoraphobia and Social Anxiety

2. Brain Chemistry

An imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin may cause this mental condition. If you have schizophrenia, your body may not be able to regulate these neurotransmitters or circuits of nerve cells responsible for affecting your thoughts and behavior.

3. Environment

Environmental factors may also contribute to the development of schizophrenia. It may occur when your body is undergoing physical or hormonal changes, mostly during teenage or young adult years. Here are the common environmental factors.

  • Migration
  • Viral infections
  • Urbanicity
  • Trauma
  • Pregnancy and birth complications
  • Malnutrition before birth
  • Exposure to certain toxins
  • Abnormal brain structure

According to researchers, people with schizophrenia may have an abnormal brain structure. However, it may not be the case with all schizophrenia patients. People with a normal brain structure can also suffer from this condition.

4. Certain Drugs and Medications

Drugs such as cannabis can trigger schizophrenia in some people. Similarly, using psychoactive or psychotropic drugs in your teenage or young adulthood days can make you prone to it. 

Schizophrenia Symptoms

It has a range of symptoms and may affect different people differently. Schizophrenia symptoms can be categorized into positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms. These are categorized based on how the symptoms present in the patient. Given below is a detailed look into the categories of schizophrenia symptoms and the common symptoms in each category.

Positive Symptoms of Schizophrenia

These are symptoms that are not ‘good’ for the patient but rather actions or thoughts that are not based on reality. Common schizophrenia symptoms under this include:

Delusions

In simple terms, these are thoughts or beliefs that are not related to real or actual occurrences. Generally, patients do not let go of these beliefs even they are presented with proof that disproves their thoughts.

Types of Schizophrenia

Catatonia

This refers to symptoms wherein the person may not move or speak and stay in the same position for longer periods. This is common in patients with acute mental problems, including schizophrenia.

Hallucinations

Here, the patient may see, hear, taste, or smell something that is present only in their mind and not in reality. The hallucinations are usually very personal to the person going through them. 

Disorganized Thoughts or Actions

In this instance, patients do not think, respond, or act normally. They may face difficulty In forming cohesive sentences, move slowly, be indecisive, experience a loss of memory, jump from one thought to another or repeat certain gestures or movements.

Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Like positive symptoms explained above, negative symptoms do not mean ‘bad’ symptoms. These symptoms refer to a lack of interest in daily social activity or withdrawal from the world around them. These symptoms may present in the form of poor hygiene, no motivation, lack of concentration, drop in performance, staying inactive, or more.

Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia

As the name suggests, this group's symptoms affect a patient’s cognitive ability making it challenging for them to lead a fulfilling life. The symptoms may include the inability to execute any decisions, comprehend important information, trouble paying attention to or focusing on something, and trouble using immediately learned information. 

Apart from the schizophrenia symptoms mentioned above, you may also notice these additional symptoms:

  • Temper flares
  • Sleeping difficulty
  • Trouble recognizing or accepting any symptoms
  • Speaking less
  • Feeling anxious
  • Dull emotions
  • Thoughts, emotions, and moods that do not match the situation
  • Overly active or having a lot of energy
  • Mood swings, irritability, or depressed mood

Complications of Schizophrenia

It is a serious medical condition that, when left untreated, can impair one’s ability to complete day-to-day tasks and lead a fulfilling life. With proper schizophrenia treatment, you can manage the symptoms and avoid hospitalization. More importantly, timely and effective treatment can help you avoid complications and take better care of your health. Some of the common complications seen in schizophrenic patients are as follows.

  • Poor physical health 
  • OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) 
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts
  • Victimization or isolation
  • Negative impact on work or school life due to hallucinations, delusions, etc.
  • Financial instability

Diagnostic Process and Tests for Schizophrenia

The diagnosis of schizophrenia is completed after seeing the results of a series of tests and questions that can help your doctor rule out other mental illnesses that may present with similar symptoms. A diagnosis for schizophrenia is usually given if you present two or more main schizophrenia symptoms, which have lasted at least for a month and negatively affected your day-to-day life. 

Conducting other tests is essential because it determines whether you need a treatment plan or a plan for other conditions. The tests generally ordered to rule out conditions other than schizophrenia include a urine test, MRI, CBC, spinal tap, CT, and EEG. An overall physical and mental evaluation helps your doctor determine what kind of treatment plan would be the most effective. 

Schizophrenia Treatment

Schizophrenia treatment aims at relieving the symptoms and reducing the chances of a relapse. Although it is a lifelong condition, you can manage schizophrenia symptoms, prevent relapses, and avoid hospitalization with effective treatment. Some treatments include antipsychotic drugs, counselling, and coordinated special care, which is a holistic approach involving medication, involvement of family, and education services. Some popular medications for schizophrenia include risperidone (Risperdal), olanzapine (Zyprexa), and quetiapine (Seroquel).

Additional Read: Can Mental Health Issues Be Diagnosed with A Blood Test?

There are several types of mental illness. As now you know schizophrenia's meaning and symptoms, it is your responsibility to take good care of your mental health. Help those dealing with mental illnesses and encourage them to get proper treatment. You can book an online doctor consultation on Bajaj Finserv Health for aid. An online physiatrist consultation or online neurologist consultation can help you receive the right care. The mental health specialist may conduct a schizophrenia test to understand your condition better and prescribe a proper treatment plan.

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