Schizophrenia Symptoms And Diagnosis
It is not possible to live a normal life if schizophrenic symptoms go ignored, undiagnosed, and untreated. The signs of schizophrenia include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thoughts, confusing speech, unusual behaviors and movements, agitation or aggression, flat or inappropriate emotional affect, and in some cases catatonia or extreme lethargy.
It is crucial to be evaluated if any of these signs develop. A mental health professional can use a medical examination, medical history, observations, and interviewing to determine if a persons symptoms are caused by schizophrenia or another condition. It is only with this accurate diagnosis that a patient can then get the treatment necessary to manage symptoms and go back to enjoying a more normal life.
When To Seek Other Housing Options
In some situations, living with family may be problematic. Examples include:
- The main caregiver is single, ill, or elderly.
- The person with schizophrenia is so ill that there is little chance of leading a normal family life.
- The situation causes stress in the marriage or leaves children in the home feeling afraid and resentful.
- Most family events revolve around the person with schizophrenia.
- Support services are unavailable.
Residential options can help your whole family, and it doesnt have to be a permanent thing either. A lot of guilt can come with sending a family member to a facility to treat schizophrenia.
Try to remember that these facilities exist because of the challenges you and your household are facing. Using these services doesnt mean youre casting away your family member or that youve given up.
Spotting The Signs Of An Acute Schizophrenic Episode
Learning to recognise the signs that you’re becoming unwell can help you manage your illness. Signs can include losing your appetite, feeling anxious or stressed, or having disturbed sleep.
You may also notice some milder symptoms developing, such as:
- feeling suspicious or fearful
- hearing quiet voices now and again
- finding it difficult to concentrate
You may also want to ask someone you trust to tell you if they notice your behaviour changing.
Recognising the initial signs of an acute schizophrenic episode can be useful, as it may be prevented through the use of antipsychotic medicines and extra support.
If you have another acute episode of schizophrenia, your written care plan should be followed, particularly any advance statement or crisis plan.
Your care plan will include the likely signs of a developing relapse and the steps to take, including emergency contact numbers.
Read about treating schizophrenia for information about advance statements.
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What Are The First Symptoms Someone Would Notice If They Had Schizophrenia
The earliest signs and symptoms come before a diagnosis can be certain. There is now a growing emphasis on identifying young people at high risk for a psychotic disorder and offering treatment and services in advance of a full psychotic experience. At this stage symptoms and signs include problems with personal relationships and school or work performance, experiencing odd phenomena such as hearing a voice or noise but being uncertain if it was really heard, or becoming excessively suspicious. Also, some people may develop a loner lifestyle, a sense that something is wrong and that ones mind is playing tricks, and other things that mark a change in life course. These are not always early schizophrenia symptoms, but it is a good time for clinical assessment and care in hopes of preventing a progression to a full first episode of psychosis.
At first episode of schizophrenia, common symptoms include paranoia, hearing voices or seeing visions, disorganization of thoughts and behaviors, low motivation and reduced experience of pleasure, anxiety, fear, depression, sleep disturbance, social withdrawal and sometimes poor emotional control seen as anger and hostility.
All the signs and symptoms can occur at a mild level in people who are not ill. A diagnosis must look at the severity of the symptoms, their impact on function and resulting distress. It is critical to rule out other possible causes of these symptoms before a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
What Negative Schizophrenia Symptoms Are Like
While the positive symptoms may come to mind when you think of schizophrenia, the negative symptoms are often the most debilitating, leading people to drop out of work, school, and everything that matters to them in life, Weinstein points out.
âNegative symptoms are the absence of a certain oomph in life, the absence of normal interest and drive and motivations,â Margolis says. âAt its most extreme, that can be someone who barely talks, who just sits in home doing little or nothing.â
âWhen I looked at the world around me, it was like I was watching TV,â Dickson says. âIt feels like youâre totally cut off.â He remembers reading a description of the 2001 movie A Beautiful Mind, about the mathematician John Nash, who battled schizophrenia for decades: âIt said that Nash lived a âghostlike existence,â and I definitely can associate with that. You feel helpless, you lose your sense of self.â
For Collins, her inability to interact with the world was linked with her perception issues. âIf I tried to walk across the room, it would feel like my feet were falling through the floor,â she says. âThe boundaries keep shifting and dissolving so your ability to function physically, cognitively, and emotionally is totally gone. I couldnât even speak for years. It was like my voice got swallowed up deep down inside. I called it being in the black box: I wanted to get out, but I couldnât get out of the traffic jam that was in my head.â
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Positive And Negative Symptoms
The symptoms of schizophrenia are broadly divided up into two categories: positive and negative. However, this doesnt mean that some symptoms are good and others are bad.
Rather, this means that some symptoms are new behaviors that develop with the condition, while others are simply modified or changed behaviors.
Positive symptoms of schizophrenia are behaviors that werent there before, such as delusions and hallucinations. Negative symptoms are preexisting behaviors that have become diminished, like a lack of affect, motivation, or speech.
How Does Schizophrenia Affect Your Life
Give time to loved ones going through schizophrenia and focus on small but realistic steps. Express and communicate in a simple manner: proper wording of a message is important.
Everyone who has schizophrenia will experience it differently. Presentation and severity of symptoms can vary, however they are likely to affect the personal life of the person with schizophrenia as well as their family and friends. For people with schizophrenia it is not always easy to maintain strong relationships. If someone close to you has schizophrenia there is information available for you to learn what you can do to help. Remember, support is very important for helping a person experiencing schizophrenia to stay well. Be prepared by learning more about how schizophrenia may impact someones personal life below.
If someone close to you has schizophrenia or if you have schizophrenia yourself, it is important to learn the facts about. Remember to read reliable resources and separate the myths from the truths. Find out more about signs and symptoms of schizophrenia to look out for and how you can help others who are experiencing schizophrenia.
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Helping A Suicidal Friend Or Relative
If you see any of these warning signs:
- get professional help for the person, such as from a crisis resolution team or the duty psychiatrist at your local A& E department
- let them know they’re not alone and you care about them
- offer your support in finding other solutions to their problems
If you feel there’s an immediate danger of the person attempting to end their life , stay with them or have someone else stay with them. Remove all available means of suicide, such as sharp objects and medication.
What It’s Like To Live Well With Schizophrenia
âI like the fact that, through my work, Iâve been able to really break down the stigma,â says Lisa Guardiola, vice president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness affiliate in the south suburbs of Chicago. Guardiola, along with 20 million people worldwide, has schizophrenia. Through her recovery and volunteer work, sheâs been able to inspire herself and others. âEven though I have a debilitating mental illness, I can live a productive life — a fulfilling and happy life.â
But her road to recovery took time. From a young age, Guardiola remembers showing signs of schizophrenia. She heard voices, or auditory hallucinations. It was hard for her to socialize and form relationships.
When her symptoms peaked after high school, Guardiolaâs family checked her into a hospital. It was there, in 2004, that doctors diagnosed Guardiola with paranoid schizophrenia.
Since then, Guardiola has been able to lead a successful life helping others manage symptoms of schizophrenia. âI derive a sense of pride from what I do. It gives me an opportunity to meet a lot of wonderful people in the community,â she says. âIt has also provided me the opportunity to share my story.â
Talking About Your Diagnosis
People with schizophrenia may feel reluctant to talk about it with people they dont know well. Sharing ones mental health condition may feel risky, particularly if the response of the other person is in question. Those who are managing this disorder may wonder how to tell someone you have schizophrenia. While there is no predetermined way to do this, it can be helpful to gauge their understanding of the condition. Often when people have knowledge about a condition, they are better able to respond to it appropriately and with compassion.
Teach people how to help you when you are experiencing a flare-up with your symptoms. Most people want to help and may simply need to be educated about how to do that. Whom you share your personal information with is entirely your decision. You can share or withhold your medical and mental health information with whomever you would like.
It can also be helpful to enlist the assistance of someone you trust to help you share information about your diagnosis with others. Schizophrenia support groups can be a great way to do this. Meeting up with others who manage a similar condition can help in identifying coping strategies and methods of communicating about it with others.
The Importance Of Residential Treatment For Schizophrenia
Symptoms of schizophrenia can be very troubling and disruptive. They can also be severe and cause significant impairment in a persons life. In some cases an episode of symptoms may even be severe enough to require temporary hospitalization. For anyone diagnosed with this mental health condition, residential treatment is strongly recommended.
Residential care gives patients the opportunity to focus on and engage with treatment without worrying about home, family, work, and other responsibilities. Inpatient care is also more intensive and helps patients jump-start recovery, guiding them through strategies and exercises that will help them manage their illness once back at home. Treatment in a residential facility gives patients all the tools they need to be successful once they leave, while also providing a safe environment in which to go through therapy.
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Caring For Someone With Schizophrenia
Caring for someone with schizophrenia can be extremely difficult without the right types of support systems in place for everyone involved. People with schizophrenia can absolutely find relief from symptoms and get better. However, staying the course of lifelong illness treatment is challenging for most, let alone someone with a mental disorder.
Verywell / Joules Garcia
The Breaking Point That Turned Into A Blessing
When I got out of jail, the judge said I had to go to a state psychiatric hospital. I was really nervous, but I talked to a psychiatrist there who made me feel comfortable. For the first time, I opened up about what I was experiencingthe voices, the paranoia. She said, You are battling schizophrenia. I didnt even know what that meant.
She suggested that when I got out of the hospital and off the treatments I was taking there, I try a new treatment for schizophrenia.After weighing the risks and benefits, we both agreed the treatment, given through monthly injections, might help control my symptoms.
Meanwhile, I was doing better at the hospital. I made friends, and gained insight into my illness. During the week, there were movies, cooking classes and education sessions about my diseasebasically, activities to help people like me get back into society. I learned about schizophrenia and what some of my triggers were.
All told, I stayed there for three months. It was hard, especially when my birthday passed, but I tried to have a little faith, and when doctors told me they were going to send me home in November 2011, that felt like a big triumph. There was light at the end of the tunnel.
I will never forget what I went through, or what it took for me to get here. I dont take any of it for granted. I consider myself an advocate for people who dont have a voice.
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A Journey To Recovery
After her first hospitalization, Guardiola attended different programs for support as she worked toward her goals. Here, she strengthened her coping skills, ability to form relationships, and medication routine. She learned to use her favorite hobbies, like drawing, journaling, and pottery, as ways to manage her symptoms.
This prepared Guardiola to go back to school and graduate with a bachelorâs degree in psychology and another in studio art.
Since then, Guardiola has had other hospitalizations, but notes that theyâre unlike her first. âThe difference between my first hospitalization and my other hospitalizations is that Iâm self-aware,â she says. âI know when Iâm struggling, and it gives me the ability to know when to ask for help.â
As with many other conditions, recovery from schizophrenia isnât linear. Even though you may be improving, you may still have moments where your symptoms get worse. Guardiola reminds herself and others to be patient as they heal. âIt didnât happen overnight. It takes practice and time,â she says. âBe forgiving of yourself.â
Concerns You May Have About Medication
Medication is an important component of treating schizophrenia, but its common to have reservations or questions about taking psychiatric medications. Its your psychiatrists job to help you find the best medication that works for you and also has the fewest side effects.
Atypical antipsychotics are the most commonly prescribed medications for schizophrenia, and they have a much lower risk of serious side effects than previous generations of antipsychotic medications.3
Your treatment team can also help you manage your medication and is available to listen to the feedback you have about side effects. Dont be discouraged if it takes several tries before you find the right combination of medications to effectively treat symptoms as it can be different for everyone living with schizophrenia.
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Someone I Love Has Been Diagnosed With Schizophrenia How Can I Help
We naturally want to help a loved one who isnt feeling well. How we can or should help may seem fairly obvious when a loved one experiences a physical health problem, but many people say theyre not sure how to best help when a loved one experiences a mental illness like schizophrenia. Here are some tips:
Therapy Helps Me Cope Even After Residential Care
One of the most important things I learned about schizophrenia is that it isnt ever going to go away. There is no cure, but instead of letting that fact overwhelm me, I just need to accept that I have a chronic illness. Like someone with high blood pressure or diabetes, I need to keep treatment going.
This means I check in with my therapist at least once a week. We talk about how things are going I tell her about any struggles I have, and my successes too and she helps me regroup and use the strategies I learned in treatment to manage stress and cope with bad feelings and moods. Even when Im feeling good, I dont skip these sessions. I know that its easy to slip back into an episode of symptoms, and therapy helps me maintain a handle on my illness.
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The Warning Signs Of Suicide
The warning signs that people with depression and schizophrenia may be considering suicide include:
- making final arrangements such as giving away possessions, making a will or saying goodbye to friends
- talking about death or suicide this may be a direct statement such as, “I wish I was dead”, or indirect phrases such as, “I think that dead people must be happier than us”, or “Wouldn’t it be nice to go to sleep and never wake up?”
- self-harm such as cutting their arms or legs, or burning themselves with cigarettes
- a sudden lifting of mood this could mean a person has decided to try to end their life and feels better because of their decision
A Propensity For Violence
Theres a cultural perception that people living with schizophrenia tend to be dangerous and volatile, always balancing on the edge of committing a violent act. This belief is supported by the medias focus on crimes committed by people with mental health challenges, as well as a pattern of fiction that pushes this notion. Just look at the movie The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arcthe lead character shows symptoms of schizophrenia, and the narrative follows her as she leads an entire war using her hallucinations as motivation. Yet data suggests that people living with schizophrenia are more often the victims of violence, rather than the perpetrators, with one study finding that they are at least 14 times more likely to be victims of a violent crime than to be arrested for one.
The reality is there are numerous factors that can contribute to violent behavior in any person, schizophrenic or not, including substance abuse, childhood trauma, and a lack of support networks. In fact, one of the major risk factors for aggressive behavior in people with serious mental illness in general is a lack of proper treatment, with one study concluding that community violence is inversely related to treatment adherence, perceived treatment need and perceived treatment effectiveness. This supports the necessity of people with schizophrenia not only receiving treatment, but wanting it and feeling that it truly is helping them.
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