Schizophrenia

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Schizophrenia
Definition
Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizophrenia


Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that affects about 1.1 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. It is not the same as “split personality”. People with Schizophrenia sometimes hear voices others don’t hear, believe that others are broadcasting their thoughts to the world, or become convinced that others are plotting to harm them. These experiences can make them fearful and withdrawn, and cause difficulties when they try to have relationships with others.

Scientists are unsure exactly what causes Schizophrenia but have found that genetic differences, environmental influences, and differences in brain structure and function are factors. Treatment can help relieve many symptoms of Schizophrenia. While most people who have the illness cope with symptoms throughout their lives, many are able to lead rewarding and meaningful lives in their communities. Researchers are developing more effective medications and using new research tools to understand the causes of Schizophrenia. In the years to come, this work may help prevent and better treat the illness.

People with Schizophrenia tend to experience:

  • Hallucinations: Seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling things that no one else is experiencing. Voices are the most common type of hallucination in Schizophrenia;
  • A decline in social functioning and an increase in isolating themselves;
  • Delusions, such as believing they have super-natural powers, they are being sent messages through the television or other outlets, or they are someone else, such as a famous historical figure;
  • Talking in a garbled way that is hard to understand, or stopping abruptly in the middle of a thought;
  • Agitated body movements, repetition of certain body movements over and over, or going into a catatonic state;
  • Trouble understanding information and using it to make decisions;
  • Trouble executing everyday tasks, such as personal hygiene.

Definition


Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality. Although schizophrenia is not as common as other mental disorders, the symptoms can be very disabling.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30. In rare cases, children have schizophrenia too.

The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.

Positive symptoms: “Positive” symptoms are psychotic behaviors not generally seen in healthy people. People with positive symptoms may “lose touch” with some aspects of reality. Symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Thought disorders (unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking)
  • Movement disorders (agitated body movements)

Negative symptoms: “Negative” symptoms are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. Symptoms include:

  • “Flat affect” (reduced expression of emotions via facial expression or voice tone)
  • Reduced feelings of pleasure in everyday life
  • Difficulty beginning and sustaining activities
  • Reduced speaking

Cognitive symptoms: For some patients, the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are subtle, but for others, they are more severe and patients may notice changes in their memory or other aspects of thinking. Symptoms include:

  • Poor “executive functioning” (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions)
  • Trouble focusing or paying attention
  • Problems with “working memory” (the ability to use information immediately after learning it)

Risk Factors

There are several factors that contribute to the risk of developing schizophrenia.

Genes and environment: Scientists have long known that schizophrenia sometimes runs in families. However, there are many people who have schizophrenia who don’t have a family member with the disorder and conversely, many people with one or more family members with the disorder who do not develop it themselves.

Scientists believe that many different genes may increase the risk of schizophrenia, but that no single gene causes the disorder by itself. It is not yet possible to use genetic information to predict who will develop schizophrenia.

Scientists also think that interactions between genes and aspects of the individual’s environment are necessary for schizophrenia to develop. Environmental factors may involve:

  • Exposure to viruses
  • Malnutrition before birth
  • Problems during birth
  • Psychosocial factors

Different brain chemistry and structure: Scientists think that an imbalance in the complex, interrelated chemical reactions of the brain involving the neurotransmitters (substances that brain cells use to communicate with each other) dopamine and glutamate, and possibly others, plays a role in schizophrenia.

Some experts also think problems during brain development before birth may lead to faulty connections. The brain also undergoes major changes during puberty, and these changes could trigger psychotic symptoms in people who are vulnerable due to genetics or brain differences.

Treatments and Therapies

Because the causes of schizophrenia are still unknown, treatments focus on eliminating the symptoms of the disease. Treatments include:

Antipsychotics

Antipsychotic medications are usually taken daily in pill or liquid form. Some antipsychotics are injections that are given once or twice a month. Some people have side effects when they start taking medications, but most side effects go away after a few days. Doctors and patients can work together to find the best medication or medication combination, and the right dose. Check the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website: (http://www.fda.gov/ ), for the latest information on warnings, patient medication guides, or newly approved medications.

Psychosocial Treatments

These treatments are helpful after patients and their doctor find a medication that works. Learning and using coping skills to address the everyday challenges of schizophrenia helps people to pursue their life goals, such as attending school or work. Individuals who participate in regular psychosocial treatment are less likely to have relapses or be hospitalized.

How can I help someone I know with schizophrenia?

Caring for and supporting a loved one with schizophrenia can be hard. It can be difficult to know how to respond to someone who makes strange or clearly false statements. It is important to understand that schizophrenia is a biological illness.

Here are some things you can do to help your loved one:

  • Get them treatment and encourage them to stay in treatment
  • Remember that their beliefs or hallucinations seem very real to them
  • Tell them that you acknowledge that everyone has the right to see things their own way
  • Be respectful, supportive, and kind without tolerating dangerous or inappropriate behavior
  • Check to see if there are any support groups in your area

Source: projectsemicolon.com/schizophrenia/

Schizoaffective Disorder


Schizoaffective Disorder is a psychiatric condition which shares elements with both Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia. Patients suffering from Schizoaffective Disorder typically experience a course of mood instability which can be reminiscent of Bipolar Illness with swings into mania and depression, as well as recurrent Unipolar depressive episodes. However, these individuals also suffer from ongoing psychotic symptoms which can include delusions and hallucinosis, and which may persist in between major episodes of mood instability. Patients with Schizoaffective Disorder are generally thought to have a better prognosis than patients with Schizophrenia, but not as favorable as patients with fully remitting Bipolar Disorder, or Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder.

 

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