04 Sep Treating Schizophrenia
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impairs daily functioning, and can be disabling. It is a chronic brain disorder that affects about one percent of the population.
What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?
Positive Symptoms: “Positive” symptoms are psychotic behaviors wherein People they may “lose touch” with some aspects of reality:
- 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:
- “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: These may be subtle or severe and there may be changes in their memory or other aspects of thinking:
- 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).
What are the causes of schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia tends to run in families, different combinations of genes are responsible. If someone in your family has schizophrenia your chances are 10%. If both your parents have it, you have a 40% chance. Your chances are greatest, 50% if you have an identical twin with the disorder.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry messages between brain cells. Schizophrenia may be caused by an imbalance in the level of two neurotransmitters: dopamine and serotonin.
Pregnancy and birth complications
People who develop schizophrenia are more likely to have experienced complications before and during their birth, such as, a low birth weight, premature labour, or lack of oxygen (asphyxia) during birth.
Bereavement, losing your job or home, divorce, the end of a relationship, or physical, sexual or emotional abuse, these kinds of experiences, can trigger the development schizophrenia in someone already vulnerable to it.
Drugs don’t directly cause schizophrenia, but drug misuse increases the risk of developing schizophrenia or a similar illness. Certain drugs, particularly cannabis, cocaine, LSD or amphetamines, may trigger symptoms of schizophrenia. Amphetamines or cocaine can lead to psychosis, and can cause a relapse in people recovering from an earlier episode.
How can schizophrenia be treated?
Schizophrenia requires lifelong treatment, even when symptoms have subsided.
Medication is pivotal in treating schizophrenia, antipsychotic medications are the most commonly prescribed drugs. They’re thought to control symptoms by affecting the brain neurotransmitter dopamine.
Prescribing antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs may help. It takes several weeks for the medicines to do their work. Some patients who are reluctant to consume medication may have to be given long standing injections.
Once psychosis recedes, in addition to continuing on medication, psychological and social (psychosocial) interventions are important. These may include, helping the patient in correcting thought patterns, cope with stress, improving communication, ability to function in daily life, psycho-educating families and vocational guidance.
During crisis periods or times of severe symptoms, hospitalization may be necessary to ensure safety, proper nutrition, adequate sleep and basic hygiene.
For adults with schizophrenia who do not respond to drug therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be considered.