Schizophrenia is characterized by distortions in thinking, perception, emotions, language, sense of self and behaviour. Some common experiences include hallucinations – hearing voices or seeing things that are not there and delusions – fixed, false beliefs. Worldwide, schizophrenia is associated with considerable disability and may affect educational and occupational performance. People suffering from schizophrenia often have additional mental disorders like depression, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders.
The factors that are responsible for this mental illness are environmental and genetic factors. Some environmental factors may include certain infections and lack of nutrition during pregnancy. Genetic factors include a variety of rare and common genetic variants. Experts say that schizophrenia is also a result of chemical imbalances in the brain. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is involved in the onset of schizophrenia. Imbalance of some other neurotransmitters such as serotonin can also lead to schizophrenia.
The way to diagnose a schizophrenia patient is through its symptoms. If you suspect a loved one may have the illness, there are some signs to watch out for. The symptoms can be of three types: Positive (unusual psychotic behaviour), Negative (abnormal behaviour) and Cognitive (changes in memory and thinking).
Hallucination: Hearing, seeing or feeling things that are not present in reality.
Delusion: Fixed false beliefs or suspicions, not shared by others in the person’s culture and is firmly held even when there is evidence to the contrary.
Abnormal Behaviour: Disorganised behavior such as wandering aimlessly, mumbling or laughing to self, strange appearance, self-neglect.
Disorganised speech; Incoherent or irrelevant speech.
Disturbances of emotions: A disconnect between reported emotion and what is observed such as facial expression or body language. Lack of desire to socialize or interact with others, even with friends and relatives
Early recognition of symptoms and intervention are the key to manage schizophrenia.
Currently, we have a wide range of effective medicines (ANTIPSYCHOTICS) to treat this disorder. But patients should adhere to drugs even after they get well or feel better as skipping doses or suddenly discontinuing medication could lead to a relapse.
Certain atypical antipsychotic drugs now come in the form of injections, which are given once in a fortnight or a month. These injections also have fewer side effects.
Enhancing independent living skills through recovery-oriented psychosocial interventions (e.g., life skills training, social skills training) for people with schizophrenia.
Educating the public to decrease stigma and discrimination
The author is DR. PRITAM CHANDAK, Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, MBBS M.D (Psychiatry) MAPA ( USA) MIPS