What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder in which the individual has difficulty differentiating between reality and unreal situations and distinguishing their own thoughts and ideas from reality. It is a long-term condition which changes how the person thinks and acts. It is a serious condition which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), affects over 21 million people worldwide.
Causes of schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a complex condition and the causes are not truly understood. However, there may be certain factors which influence the condition’s development, such as genetic and environmental factors. Schizophrenia can run in families, but it is worth noting that if you have a family member which the condition, it does not necessarily mean that you will develop it too.
Schizophrenia is also more likely to develop in those who experienced complications during their birth, such as being premature.
Certain situations or triggers can also contribute to schizophrenia developing in those who are already at risk. Triggers include job loss, abuse, mental trauma, divorce, or the end of a relationship. These do not cause schizophrenia but can contribute to its development. Drug misuse also increases the risk of schizophrenia and can trigger symptoms.
Symptoms of schizophrenia
Those with schizophrenia can display different symptoms, including personality changes or a change in behaviour which would not be exhibited in a mentally ‘healthy’ person, such as becoming withdrawn or appearing emotionless. Other symptoms include:
- Hallucinations: hearing, feeling, seeing, or experiencing something which is not real and only exists in the person’s mind. Of the types of hallucination experienced, hearing voices is the most common.
- Unpredictable behaviour: shouting, swearing or appearing agitated for no apparent reason.
- Disorganised thoughts: those with schizophrenia have sometimes described the feeling that someone is removing their thoughts from their brain, or that their body is being taken over by someone else.
- Lack of interest or motivation: interest in many aspects of life, such as sexual activity or engaging in conversation, declines.
- Feeling confused: difficulty concentrating, drifting in and out of thought patterns, and feeling that speech is jumbled.
- Delusions: believing something with complete conviction, even if it is not true or unrealistic.
Prevention of schizophrenia
Schizophrenia cannot be prevented.
Schizophrenia is generally treated through a combination of therapy and medication. Those with schizophrenia are usually treated through community health teams, and a multidisciplinary team is involved in the treatment, including social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, therapists, and mental health nurses. This team aims to provide the support necessary for the individual.