Schizophrenia is serious mental illness mainly affecting individuals between the ages of 15 and 35. It is a fairly common illness suffered by up to 1% of the population. This illness affects men and women, though in men it develops a few years earlier. Schizophrenia significantly affects patients' lives and undermines their ability to behave properly, communicate with others and support oneself in everyday life. Schizophrenia damages patients' relationships with reality and result in changes in personality.
Causes of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness for which an exact cause is not known. It is thought that there are several of factors present, including genetic predisposition. The combination of this predisposition and stressful situations can lead to the development of schizophrenia. The development of this illness is also linked to the impairment of the dopamine system in the brain, where its increase or decrease in activity has an effect on the development of certain clinical manifestations.
Forms and Manifestations of Schizophrenia
Symptoms or manifestations of schizophrenia are non-specific, meaning that they are common symptoms present in many different diseases, and are not specific to schizophrenia. There are several forms of schizophrenia that differ in their clinical manifestations.
Schizophrenia simplex is one of the rarer forms of schizophrenia, with a poor prognosis. It is manifested by behavior changes, loss of will, apathy and loss of interest. Emotions tend to be inappropriate with regards to the situation present.
Paranoid schizophrenia is a common form of schizophrenia for which delusion and hallucinations are typical. Delusions are misconceptions that do not reflect reality, but the patient is completely convinced of their reality. Delusions have an influence on patients' behavior. Typically, patients with schizophrenia are affected by the persecutory delusion where he is convinced that someone is constantly watching or otherwise monitoring him. There are also grandeur delusions, where the patient is convinced that he is more important and significant, or special, than he really is. Hallucinations are false perceptions that occur without any obvious reason, but the patient is convinced of them. Auditory hallucinations are common in schizophrenics, where patients say they hear voices, as well as intrapsychic hallucinations, where the patient is convinced that foreign thoughts are inserted into his head, or that his thoughts are being taken out and made public on television or the radio. Though less common, patients with schizophrenia can also experience visual, olfactory, gustatory or tactile hallucinations.
Hebephrenic schizophrenia is characterized by capriciousness, untargeted and inappropriate activity. Such patients are unpredictable, behave inappropriately, speak in monotone, and expresses exaggerated manifestations of immaturity.
Catatonic schizophrenia is manifested by psychomotor disorders, when the patient can be restless and jittery or on the contrary, extremely calm; the patient is able to sit in one position for hours. Command automatism is also typical, where the patient does not initiate any activity himself, but will react to commands. Imitation and negativity are also common.
A diagnosis of schizophrenia is determined after carefully monitoring the patient and symptoms and manifestations that the patient describes himself are analyzed in detail. Symptoms that are especially important for diagnosing schizophrenia are auditory hallucinations or hearing voices, or the perception of insertion or removal of thoughts. Hallucinated voices commenting on the patient's behavior and the aforementioned delusions are extremely important as well. Patients also tend to present unrelated, trailing thoughts or invent new words.
The treatment for schizophrenia is primarily pharmacological, where antipsychotics are prescribed. In the early 90's, 2nd generation antipsychotics were included in schizophrenia treatment, which have fewer side effects that the medications prescribed in the past. 2nd generation antipsychotics include risperidon, olanzapine, setindol, amisulpride or clozapine. Patients with acute symptoms can manage this condition with a combination of 2nd generation antipsychotics containing benzodiazepine, such as lorazepam or clonazepam. Patients with catatonic schizophrenia, or patients that do not react to pharmacotherapy, are recommended for electroconvulsive therapy, where a brief electrical impulse is sent to the patient's brain, resulting in an epileptic seizure. This procedure has a therapeutic effect on the patient. It is important to begin treatment as soon as possible as it can seriously influence the patient's prognosis. However, it is important for the patient to be aware of the nature of his or her problems and understand what is going on with him. Cooperation with a doctor is also essential.
Schizophrenia cannot really be prevented. Some studies have found that smoking marihuana can trigger schizophrenia, primarily in individuals with a predisposition for the condition. Some other drugs are suspected of triggering schizophrenia as well, therefore it is important to avoid the use of addictive drugs. Genetics also prays a large role in this disease. Schizophrenia is hereditary and thus in most cases, the diagnosis accumulates in families. Close relatives of a schizophrenic have a greater all-time risk of developing the disease. There is a 13% risk of developing the disease in children of schizophrenics. In the event that an individual is suffering from schizophrenia, it is essential that he or she adheres to pharmacological treatment. Otherwise they are at risk of relapsing.