At San Jose Behavioral Health, we believe education is an important first step in the effort to manage schizophrenia. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of schizophrenia can help you get the right type and level of care for yourself or a loved one.
Learn About Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that is characterized by symptoms such as delusions, disruptions in thinking, and hallucinations. This mental illness is an incapacitating condition that can greatly affect an individual and the people around him or her. Regular tasks and making future plans may become a challenge, or even impossible, for a person with schizophrenia.
Often beginning in early adulthood, schizophrenia disrupts an individual’s concentration and thoughts. He or she may feel that current events are not real, or he or she may feel disconnected from his or her own body. This can negatively affect an individual’s daily routine, social life, and career goals.
This is not a simple condition that can be waited out in the hopes that it will go away. Schizophrenia is a complex mental illness that requires intense therapy and treatment, thus the majority of the cases are a good fit for an inpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment is a good venue for the individual to fully recover because of easy access to immediate medical attention, a team to monitor and help with progress, and support from family and friends. With new treatments, an individual can recover faster and return to his/her normal life.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, men are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than women. Women, however, are more likely to develop schizophrenia later in life than men. In the United States, about 0.3% to 0.7% of the population has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Suicide is a serious issue among individuals with schizophrenia. About 5-6% of people with schizophrenia have ended their lives in suicide. Furthermore, about 20% of the total population of people with schizophrenia have attempted suicide. This statistic indicates the importance of immediate and serious treatment to manage the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Causes and Risk Factors of Schizophrenia
Research suggests that both genetics and environment play important roles in determining an individual’s risk of schizophrenia. Consider the following:
Genetic: Heredity contributes strongly to the development of schizophrenia. However, some individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia have little or no history of schizophrenia spectrum disorders in the family. One hypothesis suggests that schizophrenia is tied to recessive genes that may be linked to other mental disorders as well.
Environmental: Heredity and genetics are seen to be main players of schizophrenia development. On the other hand, environmental influences also affect one’s risk of developing this disorder. For instance, studies show that individuals who lived most of their lives in urban areas are slightly more likely to develop schizophrenia, although researchers are not sure why. More research needs to be conducted to find a clear cause and effect link between schizophrenia and life experiences.
- A history of mental illness in the family, especially immediate family
- Distress during birth (for example, lack of oxygen at childbirth)
- Individuals with older fathers
- Mother experiencing stress, diabetes or infections during pregnancy
- Individuals who were undernourished when in the womb
- A history of other personality disorders such as schizotypal or paranoid personality disorders
Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia
An individual with schizophrenia may have varying symptoms. As with other mental illnesses, symptoms can be different and unique with each individual. Generally, schizophrenia symptoms are categorized into three categories:
Positive symptoms: An individual develops a behavior that is in excess of what is considered normal, including:
- Irrational methods of talking or speech
- Unusual behaviors
- Having delusions or improbable beliefs
- Having hallucinations, or feeling, hearing, seeing, or smelling things that are not real
Negative symptoms: An individual generally stops regular behaviors or no longer shows certain normal behaviors. This includes:
- No expression of emotions, or no emotions at all
- Incapable of experiencing or feeling pleasure
- Lack of movements and/or being immobile
- Foregoing hygiene and cleanliness
- Lack of communication or inability to form speech
- Ignoring regular tasks and activities
Cognitive symptoms: Cognitive symptoms are those that affect one’s ability to think, plan, and make decisions, such as:
- Having difficulty making decisions and planning
- Having difficulty concentrating, or being unable to concentrate at all
- Problems with memory, being forgetful
- Inability to remember common tasks and items
Effects of Schizophrenia
If an individual does not receive immediate help, it can lead to detrimental results that affect the individual and those around that person. Some of the possible effects of untreated schizophrenia include:
- Failure to maintain work or look for work
- Loss of income
- Inability to handle and control finances
- Loss of home and basic necessities
- Depression, fear, and anxiety
- Substance use or substance abuse
- Dangerous behavior that can harm either the individual or others
- Inability to socialize
- Disregard for family and friends
- Disregard for medical needs
- Conflict in personal relationships with others
- Suicidal tendencies
A person suffering from schizophrenia can still develop other mental health disorders, as stated in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Some mental conditions may already be present during the development of schizophrenia, while others may develop while a person suffers from schizophrenia. Substance abuse, for instance, is a common condition that begins when an individual tries to self-medicate. Other mental health disorders that co-occur include:
- Substance use disorder
- Schizotypal disorder
- Paranoid personality disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Anxiety disorders that may include panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobias