Schizophrenia is a very serious mental illness that can dramatically affect the way an individual interprets and interacts with the world around them. It can manifest as any combination of hallucinations, delusions, and vivid thoughts and feelings which have no apparent connection to reality.
If left unchecked, schizophrenia can prevent people from being able to live a functional life. Those diagnosed will need continued treatment throughout their lives. Early detection and intervention are associated with more favorable outcomes, and less severe complications developing.
The primary symptoms of schizophrenia can vary from person to person, but they all involve various issues with the regulation and control of thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Delusions are one of the more common cognitive problems associated with schizophrenia. These false beliefs can revolve around various topics, including being harmed or harassed, believing you’re incredibly important, having doomsday prophecies, and believing others are in love with you.
Hallucinations are another common symptom for those with schizophrenia. Patients may experience a genuine sensation of something happening to them, despite it not happening. While they can occur with any of the senses, audio hallucinations tend to be the most common.
Some living with schizophrenia will have trouble communicating because of disorganized thoughts and speech. While for others, their illness may exhibit itself with childlike or unpredictable behavior, an inability to perform basic hygiene, or an apparent lack of emotion.
Researchers don’t currently understand exactly what causes schizophrenia, but they believe it’s a combination of multiple factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, and even environment. One thing that’s been shown to be associated with schizophrenia is issues with neurotransmitters, including dopamine and glutamine.
The primary risk factors for schizophrenia are things that can’t be controlled, such as family history and certain birth complications. However, another factor researchers have shown may increase the risk of developing schizophrenia is taking powerful psychoactive drugs during adolescence and young adulthood.
Schizophrenia is a relatively uncommon condition, with estimates suggesting around 1.5 million people across the globe are diagnosed each year. This translates to about 100,000 Americans or about 14,000 in a city of two million. It’s rare for both young children and adults over 45 to develop schizophrenia, with most people diagnosed in their 20s.
Those living with schizophrenia will face a constant struggle, but the right combination of medication and therapy can make a world of difference. If you’re worried you or a loved one could be dealing with this, don’t hesitate to talk to a doctor. Only they can offer a full diagnosis, and get them on the path to a better life.
Be careful not to push too hard against someone unwilling to take help. That said, if you believe they could be a danger to themselves or someone else, you may need to call emergency responders to help get them evaluated by mental health professionals.