Schizophrenia is a mental disorder in which people have trouble interpreting reality. People with schizophrenia require lifelong treatment, but early treatment may help control symptoms before serious complications develop and may help improve the long-term outlook. Symptoms can vary in type and severity over time, with periods of worsening and remission of symptoms, but some symptoms may always remain present. Typically, symptoms fall under five categories which include, delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking, abnormal motor behavior, and negative symptoms. In depth explanations of these symptoms include:
- Delusions are false beliefs that are not reality. For example, one may believe they are being harmed or harassed, certain gestures or comments are being directed at them, or they have exceptional ability or fame. Delusions occur in most people with schizophrenia.
- Hallucinations usually involve seeing or hearing things that don’t exist. Yet for the person with schizophrenia, they have the full force and impact of an actual experience. Hallucinations involve any of the senses, but hearing voices is the most common hallucination.
- Disorganized thinking is inferred from disorganized speech. Effective communication can be impaired, and answers to questions are completely unrelated.
- Abnormal motor behavior may show up in a number of ways, from childlike silliness to unpredictable agitation. Behaviors can include resistance to instructions, inappropriate or bizarre posture, a complete lack of response, or useless and excessive movement.
- Negative symptoms refers to reduced or lack of ability to function normally. For example, the person may neglect personal hygiene or appear to lack emotion (doesn’t make eye contact, doesn’t change facial expressions or speaks in a monotone). Also, the person may have lose interest in everyday activities, or withdraw socially.
At IDCC, we have worked with many cases of schizophrenia and have found that with special attentive care, this disorder can be treated. While schizophrenia is considered a lifelong process, science is working rapidly to find new treatments, a development which IDCC’s clinicians are constantly monitoring. There are many cases where those who have schizophrenia, received treatment and are now highly functioning members of society.
Psychosocial therapy is often used to treat schizophrenia and addresses the behavioral, psychological, and social aspects of living with schizophrenia. One psychosocial therapy used is Assertive Community Treatment (ACT), which is a way of organizing psychosocial services to help integrate a person with schizophrenia into the community. When a good ACT team which may include a social worker, a psychiatric nurse, and other counselors, is in place, the likelihood of recurring symptoms and hospital admissions is reduced, and medication compliance is improved.
Antipsychotic drugs have proven to be crucial in relieving the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. They are thought to control symptoms by affecting the brain neurotransmitter dopamine. Though the psychiatrist may try different drugs, antidepressants or antipsychotic medications are most popular drugs. It can take several weeks to notice an improvement in symptoms.