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Schizophrenia: Understanding and Recognizing The Signs

Every year, almost 1.5 million people worldwide are diagnosed with schizophreniaabout 1 in 4,000. Despite this frequency, the actual signs and symptoms of schizophrenia aren’t commonly known. That’s why many people go years without proper mental health care.

Unfortunately, the longer that somebody with schizophrenia goes without medical attention, the more likely they are to develop serious issues related to this mental health condition. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of schizophrenia and what signs you should be looking for.

What Are The Signs of Schizophrenia?

schizophrenia

You have probably heard reference to schizophrenia on TV, but those depictions may not have been accurate. While somebody hearing voices or acting paranoid could be signs of schizophrenia, popular depictions rarely have a lot of accuracy.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia has a broad range of symptoms. These include many from problems with reasoning skills to behavioral and emotional issues. Let’s take a look at the most common symptoms of schizophrenia and how they manifest:

  • Hallucinations: Hallucinations are things you see, hear, or feel that aren’t actually there. The most common hallucinations are visual (seeing something that’s not there) or auditory (hearing something that’s not there). But hallucinations can also affect senses like touch and taste. What’s important to remember, though, is that for the individual with schizophrenia, these hallucinations are usually indistinguishable from reality.
  • Delusions: Delusions are false beliefs: strong, unshakeable beliefs in things that aren’t true. Somebody who is deluded might think that their friends are poisoning them, or that there is a secret organization following them. Though they may seem trivial to other people, delusions seem all too real for those experiencing them. Delusions are the most common symptoms of schizophrenia.
  • Disorganized Thought: “Irregular” or “disorganized” thought is a term for one of the most prominent cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. This symptom causes difficulties with processing information, making it difficult to speak in a comprehensible manner or to hold a normal conversation with somebody that focuses on one subject. People exhibiting disorganized thought will often be hard to understand and impossible to keep onto a single subject, often wandering off into tangents that are hard for rational people to follow. 
  • Negative Symptoms: Negative symptoms are symptoms that involve a lack of response to certain stimuli, often relating to how people with schizophrenia interact with others. The most common example is negative affect, or a lack of emotion and intonation when speaking. Negative symptoms can also include failing to keep up with personal hygiene, not making eye contact, or losing interest in everyday activities you used to enjoy. 

There are many different ways that schizophrenia expresses itself in those who have it. Some people may experience all of these symptoms, while others may only experience one or two. These symptoms may appear and then diminish over time, or they may remain consistent or even worsen without medical treatment. 

Now that you know the symptoms of schizophrenia, let’s examine some of this mental disorder’s possible causes.

What Causes Schizophrenia?

The exact factors that cause an individual to develop schizophrenia are unknown, though new research is being done all the time. However, scientists have identified a number of genetic and environmental factors that increase the risk of developing schizophrenia.

New research suggests that low levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and glutamine in the brain may be one of the primary physical triggers of schizophrenia. This creates issues by impairing the brain’s ability to communicate with itself, causing unrealistic or illusory sensations or thoughts.

While researchers have been unable to find the exact cause of schizophrenia, certain risk factors have been correlated with your likelihood to develop it. These include:

  • A family history of schizophrenia
  • Complications during pregnancy or birth, including malnutrition or exposure to certain viruses in the womb
  • Taking psychoactive drugs such as marijuana during your adolescent years before your brain has fully formed

Use this information to help assess your or a loved one’s risk for schizophrenia. But regardless of how this mental disorder develops, it’s important to undergo treatment for schizophrenia as soon as possible.

How Can I Treat Schizophrenia?

cognitive behavioral therapy for schizophrenia

The American Psychiatric Association recommends two types of treatments for schizophrenia: therapy and antipsychotic medications.

Though professional help can assist people in managing the everyday symptoms of schizophrenia, it requires long-term treatment with a trusted medical professional. Oftentimes, people prefer to begin their recovery with inpatient mental health treatment. Because at this level of care, you get a safe, understanding environment where you can devote 100% of your energy to recovery.

Once enrolled in a mental health treatment program, you will first undergo an evaluation with a physician and other medical staff in order to determine what medications, if any, will work best for you. This can be a process of trial and error due to schizophrenia’s unpredictable presentation, so you should work with your care team to find the right medications and dosages for your unique situation. While it may feel tedious, staying patient during this time is important to starting on the path toward recession in your symptoms. 

While medication is an important part of treatment, it is not the only available path. Therapy-based mental health treatments can help teach you strategies to cope with the remaining symptoms not treated by medications. Combining antipsychotic medications with mental health therapy is often the most effective path towards learning how to manage psychotic symptoms and being able to lead a normal life.

Some of the most common therapy treatments for those with schizophrenia are:

  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is a form of one-on-one therapy with a mental health professional who helps to review your feelings and beliefs using their knowledge of psychology. It can help you learn new, healthier thought patterns that will make it easier for you to communicate and connect with others.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): In this subset of talk therapy, you and a mental health professional will work to help you unlearn destructive thought and behavioral patterns. For example, you’ll learn to change recurring thoughts like, “I don’t deserve to be happy.” And more importantly, you’ll learn healthy, constructive ways to view yourself and your actions, which will greatly help your recovery.
  • Family therapy: Schizophrenia affects more than the individual with the mental disorder. Family therapy focuses on helping those with schizophrenia connect with their family members and on helping the family understand the symptoms and experiences that they’re going through. These sessions can help repair relationships between family members and give support to family members who are affected by this mental illness.
  • Group therapy: Oftentimes, experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia can make you feel isolated and misunderstood. Discussing mental illness symptoms with people who can understand your situation will help you find a new sense of community and understanding.

There are many treatments for schizophrenia that can help you take back control of your life and establish a feeling of positive mental well-being. The sooner that you begin these evidence-based treatments, the sooner you can feel like yourself again.

Your Recovery Starts Now

Using this information, you can make an informed decision about mental health treatments for your schizophrenia. We understand that you might feel discouraged or nervous to seek treatment. But at Port St. Lucie Hospital, we’re dedicated to making that process as easy as possible.

Whether it’s inpatient treatment for schizophrenia, dual diagnosis programming for those looking to manage both their substance abuse and mental health issues, or crisis care for those in dire situations, our team of mental health care professionals are here to help. We work with you in order to design a care program that works for you.

If you have any questions about our programs or whether or not you should seek treatment, call our admissions specialists at (772) 238-7426, or fill out our digital contact form. We know that you are more than your mental illness. When you enroll in our treatment programs, our main priority is working with you to get you back in control of your life.

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