The first signs of schizophrenia
Signs are often categorized into positive, negative, and cognitive deficits. If you suffer from schizophrenia and are undergoing treatment, you may have noticed that medications are quite good at reducing positive signs. Negative signs are more persistent and do not respond to drug intervention as easily as positive signs. Cognitive deficit is the first serious indicator of the impact of the disease on the quality of life of an individual. If you suffer from multiple cognitive deficits, your functioning in society as an adult will be reduced to a minimum, your behavior will degrade, and sustainable recovery will be more difficult to achieve.
Positive signs include:
Delusions are false beliefs that remain stable even when the patient is presented with facts that contradict these beliefs.
Hallucinations (tactile, auditory, olfactory and gustatory). The first signs are voices. Visual hallucinations are extremely rare in schizophrenia.
Thinking disorders ( dysfunctional thinking)
Movement disorders (excited body movements, or, conversely, stupor)
Negative signs include:
Flattening of emotions, emotions cease to vary, and come to some one constant level
Boring, monotonous speech out of touch with reality
Inability to start any activity
Poverty of speech (i.e., the patient speaks very little)
Little or no interest in life or relationships
Cognitive signs include:
Inability to understand information and use it to make decisions
Trouble focusing or concentrating
Disorganized thinking, thoughts and speech
Difficulty remembering things, working memory problems
The lack of insight is the so-called ” anosognosia “, when the affected person is not aware that his behavior, and the first signs are abnormal.
Cause of schizophrenia
Researchers have not yet determined the exact cause, but common genetic and environmental factors are the leading causes of non-standard behavior. It’s no secret that the disease is hereditary. Studies have shown that while schizophrenia occurs in less than 1% of the general population, if you have a first-degree relative with the disease, your chances of developing it increase to 10%. In twins, this risk is significantly increased, and the probability of developing an undiagnosed identical twin is 50%. But this does not mean that if your mother is sick, then you will automatically suffer. Although genes increase the risk of disease, they only lay the foundation. To develop a complete picture, apparently, the “correct” combination of environmental factors and with a genetic predisposition is needed.
Research has shown that some of the most significant environmental factors contributing to the inclusion of hereditary factors are problems during childbirth, fetal starvation, exposure to certain viruses, and psychosocial factors.
The composition of the brain is also considered the first leading feature. Imbalances between neurotransmitters , in particular problems with dopamine, appear to be responsible for the higher incidence of schizophrenia in the general population. Similarly, disruption of brain development during the gestational phase of development can lead to the first imbalanced connections between brain chemistry and brain structure (especially white matter), in addition to the first hormonal changes/imbalances that occur during puberty.
There is some evidence that substance abuse may also predispose to the development of the disease. Use of mind-altering drugs during adolescence and early adulthood may increase the risk of developing behavioral changes, including with marijuana use.
Complications of schizophrenia
As already mentioned, suicide rates are abnormally higher in people with schizophrenia than in people with other mental disorders. Thus, according to various estimates, between 20% and 40% of people diagnosed will attempt suicide at some point in their lives. It is likely that up to 13% will successfully complete this act, and most of them are men. Suicide is a serious complication of schizophrenia because many people with the condition don’t even know they have it and, tempted to kill themselves, don’t know they can get help.
Substance abuse is another common behavioral complication. Nicotine dependence is the most common substance abuse among schizophrenics, with patients suffering from nicotine dependence three times more often than the general population. If you suffer from schizophrenia, you have an increased tendency to abuse heavier substances, including marijuana, alcohol, and cocaine. Of course, drugs have a devastating effect on a person’s overall health, but the simultaneous use of drugs and schizophrenia drugs makes them (the drugs) less effective and potentially dangerous. In addition, amphetamines (stimulants) significantly worsen behavior and symptom severity.
Diagnosis and testing for schizophrenia
Diagnosis is based on the presence of the first symptoms and their duration. Generally speaking, the presence of two or more psychotic features (eg, delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, catatonic behavior) must be significant and occur for at least one month. In more severe cases, the presence of significant hallucinations and delusions may be sufficient for a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Prior to making an initial diagnosis, the physician must rule out any other possible causes of inappropriate behavior, including medical interventions, other mental illnesses, and brain tumors.
Treatment and care of patients with schizophrenia
There are several therapies and therapies available to address the symptoms. If you suffer from this condition, you can take antipsychotics, undergo psychosocial methods. Antipsychotics are the most common form of treatment for people with schizophrenia. They significantly reduce positive signs by acting on the neurotransmitter systems of the brain.
The second level of treatment involves cognitive and behavioral therapy to “retrain” the brain after antipsychotics reduce positive symptoms. In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy improves self-care skills and teaches coping mechanisms for emotions and behaviors so that schizophrenics can lead near-normal lives—go to work, college, and maintain close relationships.
Coordinated specialized care includes a full course of treatment, including medication, psychosocial therapy, family involvement, and employment services, to help the patient complete their plans and return to a normal life. The SSP project aims to change the normal course of illness for people with schizophrenia and orient them towards a productive, independent life.
Living and managing life with schizophrenia
This requires a significant number of caring involved people. The involvement of the family, the help of peers, as well as the care and support of a loved one, and for all these people is no small feat. How would you react if someone claims they are being hunted by aliens? Or that the government has installed spyware in their home and relays orders directly to their brains? When you have to care for a loved one who is suffering from behavior change, it is helpful to keep in mind that it is a biological disease. Express your concerns and motivate them to see a doctor. Once they receive treatment, encourage them to stick with it. Do not ridicule their delusions, do not downplay their impact on the loved one, and do not attach importance to any hallucinations that he may have. In the end, for a person suffering from schizophrenia, all this is quite real.
Support and Resources
If you suffer from schizophrenia, continue treatment and find and join a support group. Find out about the possibility of participating in clinical trials of the latest treatments. Do not abruptly stop taking medication, do not skip appointments, and do not change the dosage of medications on your own. Keep in mind that while there is no magic pill for this disorder, there are thousands of people who experience the same condition. You are not alone. And schizophrenia is curable, especially if diagnosed early. You can still enjoy life while living with schizophrenia.