Updated: 2019, Jul 29

Schizophrenia: Symptoms, Causes and Coping Tips

Learn how to spot the early signs, understand the causes, and manage the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a disorder that affects a person's ability to think, feel, and behave clearly. Shutterstock Images

About Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, acts, feels, behaves and sees the world.

People who have this condition have a different perception of reality often having a considerable loss of contact with reality.

They usually see or hear things that don’t really exist, speak differently from normal and believe that there are people trying to harm them.

They also have a constant feeling of being watched.

People with the condition have a blurry line between what is real and what they imagine so it is difficult or even scary for them to perform even the simplest daily activities like buying grocery.

For such reason, people with schizophrenia usually withdraw from the outside world.

Types of Schizophrenia

  • Paranoid-Type: This is characterized by delusions and having auditory hallucinations or hearing voices which actually do not exist[1]. Affected individuals still have normal intellectual function and can express emotions. The delusions are often about being persecuted by an individual or group. People with this type of schizophrenia typically exhibit anger, anxiety, aloofness and aggressiveness[2].
  • Disorganized-Type: People with this type often make illogical statements or laugh for no actual reason. Their behaviour can disrupt normal daily activities like cooking food, changing clothes and taking a bath[3].
  • Undifferentiated-Type: It is characterized by certain symptoms seen in the previously mentioned types but there is no actual definition that it is another type of schizophrenia.
  • Residual-Type: This is characterized by having a history of at least one schizophrenia episode but the person has no positive symptoms at present. It can be a transition from a full-blown episode and remission or it may continue for years without any psychotic episodes.

Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Symptoms Of Schizophrenia

Illogical thinking, disorganized behavior is the initial signs of Schizophrenia. Venngage Images

Here are the common early warning signs of schizophrenia:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Being overly suspicious
  • Worsening of personal hygiene[4]
  • Inability to express emotions
  • Inappropriate crying or laughing
  • Depression
  • Sleeping too much or insomnia
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Strange way of speaking

Causes and Risk Factors of Schizophrenia

The actual cause of schizophrenia is still unclear but experts believe it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors[5].

Here are the risk factors for developing mental disorder:

  • Family history of schizophrenia.
  • Exposure to toxins and viruses while still in the womb.
  • Increased activation of the immune system.
  • Older age of the father.
  • The use of mind-altering drugs especially during teen and young adult years.

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Tests and Diagnosis For Schizophrenia

When a person is suspected to have schizophrenia, a thorough medical and psychiatric history is obtained followed by physical examination.

Then, medical and psychological tests like any of the following will be conducted:

  • Tests And Screenings: complete blood count (CBC) or other blood tests may be used in order to rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms. Screening for drugs and alcohol may also be done and in some cases, imaging studies like an MRI or CTI scan may be needed.
  • Psychological Evaluation: A specialist or mental health provider will determine the mental status of the patient through observation and a thorough interview.

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Treatments and Medications for Schizophrenia

Treating schizophrenia is complicated and requires lifelong treatment even when the symptoms disappear.

The common treatment is a combination of antipsychotic medication/s and psychological therapy[6].

During severe symptoms, hospitalization is needed to ensure the safety and health of the patient.

An experienced psychiatrist usually guides treatment but a psychologist, psychiatric nurse, social worker, and case manager may also be needed.

Medications

Medications are vital in schizophrenia treatment.

However, patients can be reluctant to take them because of serious side effects.

Antipsychotics are commonly used which work by affecting the neurotransmitters in the brain specifically serotonin and dopamine.

The common atypical antipsychotics include aripiprazole, asenapine, clozapine[7], lurasidone, iloperidone[8], olanzapine, risperidone[9] and quetiapine.

The common typical antipsychotics include fluphenazine, chlorpromazine[10], perphenazine and haloperidol.

Psychological Interventions

Once psychosis decreases, psychological and psychosocial interventions are needed in addition to the intake of medication.

These include any of the following:

  • Individual Therapy: It helps cope with stress and identify early warning signs of a relapse.
  • Social Skills Training: This is primarily for improving communication and ability to interact socially[11].
  • Family Therapy: It is for providing support and education to family members of the patient.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Support: This is for helping people with schizophrenia prepare for, find and keep a means for supporting themselves financially[12].
Self Care

Family therapy can be a valuable experience for people with schizophrenia as well as those who assist them. Shutterstock Images

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Precautions and Self Care

Even people with schizophrenia need continued treatment since it will relapse.

Again, treating mental disorder is a lifelong process that requires a combination of medications and psychological interventions.

There are support groups for people with schizophrenia and family members affected by the condition[13].

Take note that stress management is important since stress is the top trigger for the different symptoms of schizophrenia.

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