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Schizophrenia: It's Cause and Consequences


Schizophrenia: What is it, what do we do?

Schizophrenia: What is it?

schizophreniaSchizophrenia is a disabling and emotionally devastating illness of the mind. Like many other illnesses such as cancer and diabetes, it appears to have primarily of a biological basis. It is not caused by poor parenting or personal weakness as some have suggested. It is a relatively common disease with an estimated prevalence of approximately 1 1/2 % of the U.S. population being diagnosed with schizophrenia over the course of their lives. There is no known cure for schizophrenia, although it is very treatable. Most individuals afflicted with schizophrenia respond relatively well to medication therapy, with many leading totally productive and fulfilling lives. Schizophrenia is not a split personality as the lay public generally believe. Split and multiple personalities are very rare and are actually diagnosed as multiple personality disorder.


Who and when do you get schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia may affect anyone at any point in their life, but is somewhat more common in those who are genetically predisposed to the disease. The first psychotic episodes generally occur in a person’s late adolescence to early adulthood. Three-quarters of the individuals with schizophrenia, develop the disease between the ages 16 and 25. It is relatively uncommon after the age of 30, and rare to develop after the age of 40. In the 16-25 year-old age group, schizophrenia affects more men then women. In the 25-30 year-old age group, the incidence is actually higher among women than men. The probability of developing schizophrenia if neither parent have the disease is approximately 1%. If one parent is schizophrenic, the probability of developing the disease is approximately 13 %, and approximately 35% if both parents have the disease.

Schizophrenia: What are the symptoms?

Schizophrenic symptoms may be divided into two types including positive and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms denote the presence of grossly abnormal behavior such as thought disorders, delusions and/or hallucinations. Thought disorders are when an individual has a greatly diminished ability to think clearly and logically. Frequently it is manifested by disconnected, nonsensical language which makes it difficult for an individual to participate in conversation, and contribute to family relationships, friendships and to society in general. Delusions are also common among individuals with schizophrenia, with the “paranoid type” being the most common. Paranoid individuals believe others are conspiring against and mean to harm them. The “broadcasting” type includes the delusional thinking of when an individual believes their thoughts can be heard by others. Hallucinations may be auditory, visual or tactile. Auditory hallucinations are when a person hears things such as voices which are not there. Visual hallucinations obviously are images that are seen which do not exist in reality.

Schizophrenia Treatment:

As mentioned previously, schizophrenia is usually effectively treated with medications. Studies have shown that many individuals with schizophrenia recover completely or improve to the point that they may live independently with the maintenance of drug therapy. Fortunately, this accounts for the majority of cases of schizophrenia. However, approximately 15 % of schizophrenics only respond moderately to medication and require extensive support services throughout their entire lives. Approximately another 15 % simply do not respond to the existing treatments.

Antipsychotic medications are used to effectively treat schizophrenics. Antipsychoticotic medications (also called neuroleptics), have been available since the 1950’s and have helped to dramatically improve the functioning of people with schizophrenia. Some of the common current medications include Zyprexa, Risperidol, and occasionally Haldol. Various other antipsychotic medications are used for specific individuals and specific types of symptoms. While hospitalization is often necessary in cases of acute schizophrenia, many individuals are treated effectively on an outpatient basis and are able to be productive members of society. Supportive counseling or psychotherapy may be appropriate for some individuals as a source of advice, support, and in the development of socials skills. Compliance with medications is always the main focus in assisting an individual with schizophrenia. Because individuals with schizophrenia may not be aware that they are ill, it is often necessary for friends or relatives to make certain that proper treatment is sought.

By Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist 

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