Do People With Schizophrenia Know They Have It
Schizophrenia is a serious psychiatric condition that causes people to lose their sense of reality usually through hallucinations, delusions, and distorted thinking. ¹ With that said, the question arises, do people with schizophrenia know they have it?
Simply put, most people with schizophrenia arent aware they have it until a doctor or counselor informs them. Furthermore, even after a medical professionals input, many people with schizophrenia will deny their illness.
Throughout this article, were going to explore why people with schizophrenia reject their condition. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
When Should I See My Healthcare Provider
You should see your healthcare provider as recommended. You should also see them if you notice a change in your symptoms, such as symptoms getting worse even if youre taking your medication. You can also see them if side effects of your medication are causing disruptions in your life. Your healthcare provider can sometimes recommend alternative medications or treatments that might better treat your condition without causing those same effects.
When should I go to ER?
You should go to the ER or call 911 if you have thoughts about harming yourself, including thoughts of suicide, or about harming others. If you have thoughts like this, you can call any of the following:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline . To call this line, dial 1.800.273.TALK .
- Local crisis lines. Mental health organizations and centers in your area may offer resources and help through crisis lines.
- 911 : You should call 911 if you feel like youre in immediate danger of harming yourself. Operators and dispatchers for 911 lines can often help people in immediate danger because of a severe mental crisis and send first responders to assist.
What Cognitive Schizophrenia Symptoms Are Like
Someone with these symptoms may have trouble concentrating, focusing, taking in new information, and using that information. Their brain processes information more slowly, their memory declines, and they often have trouble reading and understanding social cues, Weinstein says. Though these symptoms can be made even worse by the brain âtrafficâ from positive symptoms, cognitive decline is a symptom all on its own, Margolis says.
âEven getting dressed was a very complicated process for me,â Collins says. âItâs like a traffic jam of information going in and out of your brain, so itâs like everything is always new, you donât remember the process.â
Dickson describes feeling like his brain was under constant assault. âMy analogy is if youâre playing a game of tackle football with some friends and the ball is coming to you, can you really do algebra in your head at that moment? I was a fairly smart guy, but when youâre sick with what I had, you really canât do a lot of deep intellectual thinking.â
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How Schizophrenia Is Diagnosed
Often people with schizophrenia are diagnosed with other mental health issues first. Before making a diagnosis of schizophrenia, it is important to make sure the symptoms displayed are not developing due to medications, a substance use disorder, or another medical condition.
Below weve outlined the steps a medical team will take to diagnose schizophrenia. It may seem like a lot, but not every persons diagnosis will include all these steps.
What Is Schizophrenia Or Paranoid Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a challenging brain disorder that often makes it difficult to distinguish between what is real and unreal, to think clearly, manage emotions, relate to others, and function normally. It affects the way a person behaves, thinks, and sees the world.
The most common form is paranoid schizophrenia, or schizophrenia with paranoia as its often called. People with paranoid schizophrenia have an altered perception of reality. They may see or hear things that dont exist, speak in confusing ways, believe that others are trying to harm them, or feel like theyre being constantly watched. This can cause relationship problems, disrupt normal daily activities like bathing, eating, or running errands, and lead to alcohol and drug abuse in an attempt to self-medicate.
Many people with schizophrenia withdraw from the outside world, act out in confusion and fear, and are at an increased risk of attempting suicide, especially during psychotic episodes, periods of depression, and in the first six months after starting treatment.
Take any suicidal thoughts or talk very seriously
If you or someone you care about is suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. at 1-800-273-TALK, visit IASP or Suicide.org to find a helpline in your country, or read Suicide Prevention.
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Take Care Of Yourself Too
As a family member, its important to take care of yourself. Try to maintain your regular schedule and activities, such as your exercise routine and hobbies. Ask another family member or good friend to provide help with caregiving, especially in the early days of your loved ones illness. If you need help balancing time for self-care with caregiving duties, check out the BC Schizophrenia Societys Family Respite Program.
Diagnosing Schizophrenia Requires Special Testing
A conventional physician usually cant diagnose schizophrenia. However, a primary care doctor can perform tests to ensure that the symptoms arent caused by another medical condition. Once your doctor rules out other problems, they may refer the patient to a psychologist or psychiatrist.
The mental health professional will interview the patient and ask about their psychological and medical histories. Psychiatric care providers use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to evaluate a patients symptoms.
There are several criteria for diagnosing schizophrenia, including:
- A patient has at least two core symptoms, one of which must be disorganized speech, hallucinations, or delusions for a minimum of one month
- Self-care, personal relations, and motivation have diminished significantly since symptoms started
- Disturbances are not caused by a substance abuse disorder or physical illness, and
- Symptoms that indicate psychosis or loss of reality last for at least six months.
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Extremely Disorganized Or Catatonic Behavior
Disorganized behavior can include odd behaviors like smiling or laughing for no apparent reason, or talking to yourself. It can also include movements that seem to happen for no reason, or even being stressed or annoyed without a clear cause.
People with schizophrenia may have a childlike silliness about them. Or, they may be disheveled or oddly dressed. In some cases, they might also demonstrate inappropriate sexual behaviors, like public masturbation.
Catatonic behavior can include not moving much or at all, or refusing to do things or speak.
Someone might also do a lot of unusual movements that dont seem to have a purpose. You may find them purposely in strange positions or notice their unusual gestures or grimacing.
People with schizophrenia may also have echolalia or echopraxia .
What Tests Will Be Done To Diagnose This Condition
There arent any diagnostic tests for schizophrenia-spectrum conditions. But healthcare providers will likely run tests to rule out other conditions before diagnosing schizophrenia. The most likely types of tests include:
- Imaging tests. Healthcare providers will often use computerized tomography , magnetic resonance imaging and other imaging tests to rule out problems like stroke, brain injuries, tumors and other changes to your brain structure.
- Blood, urine and cerebrospinal fluid tests. These tests look for chemical changes in bodily fluids that might explain changes in your behavior. They can rule out heavy metal toxicity or other causes of poisoning, infections and more.
- Brain activity testing. An electroencephalogram detects and records the electrical activity in your brain. This test can help rule out conditions like epilepsy.
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Can You Have Both Schizophrenia And Schizoaffective Disorder
Can you have both schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder?
Can you have both types of schizoaffective disorder? There are two major types of schizoaffective disorder: bipolar type and depressive type.
What symptom is combined with schizophrenia to encompass a schizoaffective disorder? A note from Cleveland Clinic
Schizoaffective disorder is a serious mental health condition. It has features of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder. Schizoaffective symptoms may include symptoms of mania, depression and psychosis.
Are schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia the same thing? The key difference between schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia is the prominence of the mood disorder. With schizoaffective disorder, the mood disorder is front and center. With schizophrenia, its not a dominant part of the disorder. Another difference is the psychotic symptoms that people experience.
Is It Possible To Recover From Schizophrenia
Many people who live with schizophrenia have recovery journeys that lead them to live meaningful lives.
Recovery can be thought of in terms of:
- clinical recovery, and
- personal recovery.
What is clinical recovery?
Your doctor might have talked to you about recovery. Some doctors and health professionals think of recovery as:
- no longer having mental illness symptoms, or
- where your symptoms are controlled by treatment to such a degree that they are not significantly a problem.
Sometimes this is called clinical recovery.
Everyones experience of clinical recovery is different.
- Some people completely recover from schizophrenia and go on to be symptom free.
- Some who live with schizophrenia can improve a great deal with ongoing treatment.
- Some improve with treatment but need ongoing support from mental health and social services.
What is personal recovery?
Dealing with symptoms is important to a lot of people. But some people think that recovery is wider than this. We call this personal recovery.
Personal recovery means that you can live a meaningful life.
What you think of as being a meaningful life might be different to how other people see it. You can think about what you would like to do to live a meaningful life and work towards that goal.
Below are some ways you can think of recovery.
What can help me recover?
You may want to think about the following questions.
The following things can be important in recovery.
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Treating Schizophrenia Is A Lifelong Task
Schizophrenia can be managed with proper therapy. However, its not a one-and-done type of treatment. There is no cure for the disease, but medication and counseling can ease symptoms.
People with mild cases of the disease may not need medication. Those with severe schizophrenia can benefit from taking antipsychotic drugs. These pharmaceuticals help neurons communicate with each other properly and may relieve confused thinking, hallucinations, and delusions.
The goal of medication is to offer the lowest effective dose. Other medications, such as anti-anxiety pills and antidepressants, can help reduce symptoms.
People with schizophrenia must remain in treatment throughout their lives. Sometimes, the medication makes them feel better and they believe that they can stop taking it. No one should abandon or terminate their treatment plan without the advice of a medical professional.
Because some medications for schizophrenia can produce undesirable side effects, the patient should work with a team of health care professionals to ease those symptoms and manage the illness. Many people with this disease seek help and advice from people such as:
- Psychiatrists, psychologists or counselors
What Is The Difference Between Schizophrenia And Psychosis
Schizophrenia and psychosis are two strongly connected terms, but they also have significant differences.
- Psychosis: This is a grouping of symptoms that involve a disconnection from reality and the world around you . Psychosis can happen with other medical conditions and mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder.
- Schizophrenia: This is a spectrum of conditions that involve psychotic symptoms.
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How Does Schizophrenia Impact Everyday Life
For those living with the illness, life with schizophrenia is about managing symptoms when they flare up, maintaining medication needs and adjustments and staying aware of ones perceptions. People learning about this condition may wonder, how does schizophrenia affect social life? Those managing schizophrenia sometimes feel hesitant to engage socially and may restrict their connections to a few close, trusted friends and family. While this certainly isnt universally true, often people with schizophrenia are overwhelmed by too many people and prefer to keep stimulation to a minimum to avoid triggering symptoms.
Others with schizophrenia learn to mitigate symptoms and participate in social events with relative ease. Often ones ability to engage with family and friends depends on the severity of the disorder, the constellation of symptoms and ones ability to use available resources to manage them.
Working with schizophrenia can be managed when one has learned to identify the trends within their illness. Sometimes there are periods of relative calm when the symptoms are minimal and one can proceed with work and social plans uninterrupted. During difficult periods when symptoms are flaring up, people with schizophrenia can communicate their needs to an understanding employer who will work with them on taking time off and returning to work when they are able to.
What Risks And Complications Can Schizophrenia Cause
Research suggests that people with serious mental illness , such as schizophrenia, have a shorter life expectancy. People with mental illness may die 15 to 20 years earlier than the general population. This may because people who live with SMI are at higher risk of having a range of health issues. Such as being overweight, having heart disease, smoking and diabetes.
Because of these issues, NICE recommends that when you start taking antipsychotic medication, your doctor should do a full range of physical health checks. This should include weight, blood pressure and other blood tests. These checks should be repeated regularly.
Mental health professionals are responsible for doing these checks for the first year of treatment. Responsibility may then pass to your GP. Your doctor or mental health team should offer you a programme which combines healthy eating and physical health checks. You should be supported by a healthcare professional to help stop smoking.
The risk of suicide is increased for people with schizophrenia. Research indicates that around 513% of people who live with with schizophrenia die by suicide.
Research has found that the increased risk is not usually because of positive symptoms. The risk of suicide is associated more to affective symptoms, such as low mood.
Key risk factors for suicide include:
- previous suicide attempts,
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Can You Have Schizophrenia Without Hallucinations
Although many people living with schizophrenia will experience some type of hallucination at some point in life, you can have schizophrenia without ever hallucinating.
To receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia, you need to experience at least two of the five main symptoms on most days for at least 1 month.
These symptoms include:
- catatonia, or disorganized or unusual movements and gestures
- difficulty expressing emotion and experiencing enjoyment and interest in life
But at least one of the two symptoms you need for diagnosis must be hallucinations, delusions, or confused and disorganized speech.
In other words, if you dont experience hallucinations but you do experience delusions with other schizophrenia symptoms, you could have schizophrenia.
What Causes Schizophrenia
Nobody knows exactly what causes schizophrenia, it is likely to be the result of several factors. For example:
- Stress. Some people can develop the illness as a result of a stressful event, such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job.
- Genetics. You are more likely to develop schizophrenia if you have a close relation with the illness.
- Brain damage. This is usually damage that has stopped your brain from growing normally when your mother was pregnant. Or during birth.
- Drugs and alcohol. Research has shown that stronger forms of cannabis increase your risk of developing schizophrenia.
- A difficult childhood. If you were deprived, or abused, as a child this can increase your risk of developing a mental illness. Including schizophrenia.
There is research to suggest that may be an association between menopause and schizophrenia. This may be due to the hormonal changes during this stage of life for women.
You can find more information about:
- Does mental illness run in families? by clicking here.
- Drugs, alcohol and mental health by clicking here.
- Cannabis and mental health by clicking here.
If Your Siblings Have It
- If your full sibling has schizophrenia: a risk of 9 in 100
- If your identical twin has schizophrenia: a risk of 40 to 50 in 100
- If your non-identical twin has schizophrenia: a risk of 17 in 100
These figures arent fixed. They vary across the world, and science peeps have called for more studies looking at schizophrenia risk in people of African and Latinx ancestry.
What else stirs the pot of schizophrenia?
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How Can I Find Help
If youre not sure where to get help, your health care provider is a good place to start. Your health care provider can refer you to a qualified mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist who has experience treating schizophrenia. You can learn more about getting help on NIMHs Help for Mental Illness webpage.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator, an online tool to help you find mental health services in your area. You can find information about treatment facilities that offer coordinated specialty care by using SAMHSAs Early Serious Mental Illness Treatment Locator.
For tips on talking with your health care provider about your mental health and getting the most out of your visit, read NIMHs fact sheet, Taking Control of Your Mental Health: Tips for Talking With Your Health Care Provider.
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What About Side Effects
You may have side effects from some medications, so your healthcare provider may have you try several different medications before finding the one that works best
So if a side effect is bothering you, tell your healthcare provider. They may want to change your medication
Finding the right medication is important, and following your healthcare providers instructions can help you manage your schizophrenia