Frequently Asked Questions About Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality. Although schizophrenia is not as common as other mental disorders, the symptoms can be very disabling.
Schizophrenia is a severe and debilitating brain and behavior disorder affecting how one thinks, feels and acts. People with schizophrenia can have trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy, expressing and managing normal emotions and making decisions. Thought processes may also be disorganized and the motivation to engage in lifes activities may be blunted. Those with the condition may hear imaginary voices and believe others are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts or plotting to harm them.
While schizophrenia is a chronic disorder, it can be treated with medication, psychological and social treatments, substantially improving the lives of people with the condition.
A moving presentation by Dr. Kafui Dzirasa on Schizophrenia
View Webinar on Identifying Risk Factors and Protective Pathways for Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia affects men and women equally. It occurs at similar rates in all ethnic groups around the world. Symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions usually start between ages 16 and 30.
Learn more about childhood-onset schizophrenia from this expert researcher:
Find answers to more questions about Schizophrenia in our Ask the Expert section.
What Is The Difference Between Schizophrenia And Schizoaffective Disorder
Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder can be difficult to distinguish because many of the symptoms overlap. The important distinction is that individuals with schizoaffective disorder will typically also experience symptoms of a mood disorder, such as mania or depression, in addition to symptoms of schizophrenia. Because the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder are the same as those of other illnesses, it can be difficult to diagnose. Each person may experience different symptoms, but some of the common symptoms of schizoaffective disorder include:
- Hallucinations: seeing or hearing things that arent there
- Delusions: false, fixed beliefs that are held regardless of contradictory evidence
- Disorganized thinking: a person may switch very quickly from one topic to another or provide answers that are completely unrelated
- Depressed mood: feelings of sadness, emptiness, and worthlessness
- Manic episode: feelings of euphoria, racing thoughts, increased risky behavior, and other symptoms of mania
Schizophrenia: The 7 Keys To Self
Seek social support. Friends and family vital to helping you get the right treatment and keeping your symptoms under control. Regularly connecting with others face-to-face is also the most effective way to calm your nervous system and relieve stress. Stay involved with others by continuing your work or education. If thats not possible, consider volunteering, joining a schizophrenia support group, or taking a class or joining a club to spend time with people who have common interests. As well as keeping you socially connected, it can help you feel good about yourself.
Manage stress. High levels of stress are believed to trigger schizophrenic episodes by increasing the bodys production of the hormone cortisol. As well as staying socially connected, there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce your stress levels. Try adopting a regular relaxation practice such as yoga, deep breathing, or meditation.
Get regular exercise. As well as all the emotional and physical benefits, exercise may help reduce symptoms of schizophrenia, improve your focus and energy, and help you feel calmer. Aim for 30 minutes of activity on most days, or if its easier, three 10-minute sessions. Try rhythmic exercise that engages both your arms and legs, such as walking, running, swimming, or dancing.
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Everyday Examples Of Schizophrenia In Teens
Reading a list of symptoms can be one thing, but sometimes it can help to see real-life examples.
Summer R. Thompson, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner with Community Psychiatry and MindPath Care Centers in Napa, California, shared some real-life experiences of how schizophrenia developed in a few teen patients.
Positive Symptoms Of Schizophrenia: Things That Might Start Happening
Positive symptoms are highly exaggerated ideas, perceptions, or actions that show the person canât tell whatâs real from what isnât. Here the word “positive” means the presence of symptoms. They can include:
- Hallucinations. People with schizophrenia might hear, see, smell, or feel things no one else does. The types of hallucinations in schizophrenia include:
- Auditory. The person most often hears voices in their head. They might be angry or urgent and demand that they do things. It can sound like one voice or many. They might whisper, murmur, or be angry and demanding.
- Visual. Someone might see lights, objects, people, or patterns. Often itâs loved ones or friends who are no longer alive. They may also have trouble with depth perception and distance.
- Olfactory and gustatory. This can include good and bad smells and tastes. Someone might believe theyâre being poisoned and refuse to eat.
- Tactile. This creates a feeling of things moving on your body, like hands or insects.
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Charles Buddy Bolden 1877
Jazz Music Pioneer
Age of Diagnosis: 30
Individual History: One of the most historic cases of famous schizophrenic people is Buddy Bolden. While there is a great deal of first hand oral history about Bolden, facts about his life continue to be lost amongst colorful myth. There have been stories saying that he was a barber by trade or that he published a scandal-sheet called the Cricket. However, much of this has been refuted. What is known about him is that he is regarded by music contemporaries as a key figure in the development of a New Orleans style of rag-time music, or Jass, which later came to be known as jazz. He was referred to as King Bolden and a king of Jazz. His band was a top draw in New Orleans from about 1900 until 1907. He left no known recordings, but he was known for his very loud sound and constant improvisation. Bolden suffered an episode of acute alcoholic psychosis in 1907 at the age of 30. Upon further investigation of this diagnosis he was given the full diagnosis of dementia praecox . He was admitted to the Louisiana State Insane Asylum at Jackson, where he spent the rest of his life.
Signs That Immediate Medical Attention Is Needed
If the patient is a danger to himself or others and is unwilling to seek treatment, they can be involuntarily committed to a hospital and held for a period of evaluation usually lasting three to seven days. A court order is required for involuntary commitment to be extended.11
Film and news media have characterized schizophrenia as a violent condition, however, the majority of people with schizophrenia are not violent. The majority of violent crime is committed by individuals who do not suffer from this disorder. The risk of violence in schizophrenia drops dramatically when treatment is in place.12
Schizophrenia is associated with a higher risk of suicide. If the patient is suicidal contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK or call 911 immediately.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms
This disease can be difficult to diagnose, especially in teens. In general, symptoms will begin between ages 15 and 25 for men, and between ages 25 and 35 for women. For many people, the early stages of schizophrenia are characterized by disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors, which can be referred to as negative symptoms.
The symptoms of schizophrenia can affect a persons career, academic performance, interpersonal relationships, and social activities. One of the most common early indicators is social withdrawal and isolation. Other initial signs can include changes in friends, sleep problems, and irritability. Other symptoms include:
Cognitive Development Is Affected Early In Persons Who Develop Schizophrenia
For some illnesses, pathological changes begin years before symptoms appear. Alzheimers disease is a prime example. Although symptoms of dementia often are not apparent until persons reach their 70s or 80s, measurable changes in their brains start 20 or more years earlier. The possibility of detecting Alzheimers disease prior to the manifestation of clinical symptoms and initiating treatment in order to delay symptom onset may be achievable. Furthermore, for individuals who are at high risk to develop this disorder, it may be possible that treatments initiated prior to the beginning of the disease process may actually prevent the illness.
What about other brain disorders in particular schizophrenia? Schizophrenia is a chronic disorder associated with positive symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions, negative symptoms such as social withdrawal and decreased motivation, and cognitive symptoms such as poor working memory and problems with attention. Positive symptoms usually become clinically evident during adolescence or early adulthood and are often the symptoms that trigger psychiatric evaluation and treatment. Can changes in brain function be detected prior to the appearance of overt psychotic symptoms? If so, this might provide an opportunity to initiate potentially preventative treatments.
This post was written by Eugene Rubin MD, PhD and Charles Zorumski MD
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Famous People With Schizophrenia
20 Famous People with Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a severe, chronic mental health disorder that affects the brain and behavior in about 1 percent of the general population. The diagnosis is a heritable trait that is passed down through DNA. Throughout history, this seriously debilitating disease has affected people of all walks of life. People with schizophrenia often report hearing voices, seeing things that are not really there and having delusional thoughts. They may believe other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them or someone they love. Schizophrenics that do not receive treatment can become withdrawn or agitated as a result of their disease. In some cases, people with schizophrenia may not make sense and in some cases may even sit for hours without moving or talking . At other times people with schizophrenia may appear to be perfectly normal until they express their delusional thoughts.
Risk Factors For Schizophrenia
Different factors combine to heighten the risk of schizophrenia, says Dr. Bowers:
- Genetics: Having a relative with schizophrenia or one who displays schizophrenic behaviors increases risk.
- Life stressors: Extreme poverty homelessness traumatic events early in life early isolation or deprivation or a constant fight for survival heighten risk.
- Hallucinogens: The use of crystal meth, LSD, PCP or psilocybin mushrooms increases risk in the vulnerable.
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How You Get A Diagnosis
If you or someone you love shows any of these signs, see a doctor right away. The symptoms of prodrome are subtle and easy to miss. Many also overlap with other mental health issues, like depression and substance misuse.
To rule out other health problems, your doctor may order lab tests and imaging tests. You’ll also be asked to answer detailed questions about your health, feelings, thoughts, and daily habits. How you respond will help your doctor decide if you are in a schizophrenia prodrome and if so, what kind.
To reach the right diagnosis, your family doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist who treats schizophrenia.
Informed Consent And Decisional Capacity
Patients with schizophrenia are routinely asked to provide informed consent for their antipsychotic medication treatment. However, because of the cognitive deficits, as well as insight, deficits, which are sometimes present among those with schizophrenia,, some schizophrenia patients may lack the capacity to provide independent consent for treatment. On the other hand, empirical data document considerable heterogeneity among older as well as younger schizophrenia patients in terms of the level of decisional capacity,- and age is not itself a strong predictor of the level of decisional capacity among such patients.- Nonetheless, due to the increased likelihood of medical comorbidity and polypharmacy present, in the older population,, together with the increased physical frailty of some elderly persons, and the still relatively limited empirical database on the safety and efficacy of antipsychotic medications for use with realworld elderly patients, the very nature of treatment decisions and consent may be particularly complex in the context of treating older patients with schizophrenia, and thus consent, issues are particularly salient.
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What The Warning Signs Look Like
You may notice changes in yourself before your friends and family do. Once your loved ones do become aware, they might try to explain these changes as “just a phase” you’re going through or due to something stressful in your life. Because of that, many people don’t seek help until later on, when more severe symptoms start to emerge.
Signs that you may be in a prodrome include trouble with your memory or problems with paying attention and staying focused.
You might lose interest in things you once cared about and back away from socializing with family and friends. There could be a drop-off in your level of achievements at work or school.
Your friends may notice changes in how you look. You might not be keeping up with hygiene like you used to.
Some other things that you or others might become aware of:
- Hearing or seeing something that’s not there
- A strange way of writing or talking
- An angry, scared, or bizarre response to loved ones
- Extreme interest in religion or the occult
What Causes Schizophrenia
It is not exactly known how or why schizophrenia develops, but it is generally accepted that a combination of factors plays a role. Some people may be more vulnerable than others. Things that may increase the risk of developing or triggering schizophrenia include the following:
- Genetics relatives of a person who suffers from schizophrenia may be slightly more vulnerable than others. However, most people who have a relative with schizophrenia do not develop the condition themselves.
- Life events your childhood experience, including abuse and trauma, can be an important factor.
- Stress it is most often during big life changes or after serious events that people experience the first signs of schizophrenia.
- Drug abuse certain drugs, particularly cannabis, cocaine, LSD or amphetamines, may trigger symptoms of schizophrenia in some people.
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Causes & Risk Factors
It is not known for certain what causes schizophrenia, but like most other mental health problems, researchers believe that a combination of biological and environmental factors contribute to its development. Research has shown that:
- The risk is higher when a close family member has the illness.
- Schizophrenia may be influenced by brain development factors before and around the time of birth, and during childhood and adolescence.
- People who have experienced social hardship or trauma, particularly during childhood, have a higher risk.
- Cannabis use increases the risk of developing schizophrenia in youth and of triggering an earlier onset of the illness in people who are genetically vulnerable.
- Being born or spending ones childhood in an urban environment, rather than a rural one, increases the risk.
- Particular immigrant and refugee groups in Ontario may have a higher risk of developing psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.
Exactly how these risk factors interact to cause schizophrenia is not yet fully understood.
Treatment Of Schizoaffective Disorder
- Medication: What you take depends on whether you have symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder, along with symptoms that suggest schizophrenia. The main medications that doctors prescribe for psychotic symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, and disordered thinking are called antipsychotics. All these drugs can probably help with schizoaffective disorder, but paliperidone extended release is the only drug that the FDA has approved to treat it. For mood-related symptoms, you might take an antidepressant medication or a mood stabilizer.
- Psychotherapy: The goal of this type of counseling is to help you learn about your illness, set goals, and manage everyday problems related to the disorder. Family therapy can help families get better at relating to and helping a loved one who has schizoaffective disorder.
- Skills training: This generally focuses on work and social skills, grooming and self-care, and other day-to-day activities, including money and home management.
- Hospitalization: Psychotic episodes may require a hospital stay, especially if youâre suicidal or threaten to hurt others.
- Electroconvulsive therapy: This treatment may be an option for adults who donât respond to psychotherapy or medications. It involves sending a quick electric current through your brain. It causes a brief seizure. Doctors use it because they think it changes your brain chemistry and may reverse some conditions.
This condition may raise your risk of:
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Gene Tierney 1920 1991
Age of Diagnosis: Unknown
Individual History: Gene Eliza Tierney was an American film and stage actress. She was acclaimed as a great beauty and became established as a leading lady in a short period of time. Tierney was best known for her portrayal of the title character in the film Laura . She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Ellen Berent Harland in Leave Her to Heaven . There were several difficult events in her personal life, and she struggled for years with episodes of what was thought to be manic depression or schizophrenia. In 1943, she gave birth to a daughter who was deaf and mentally disabled, the result of a fan breaking out of rubella quarantine and infecting the pregnant Tierney while she volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen. In 1953, she suffered problems with concentration, which affected her film appearances. She consulted a psychiatrist and was admitted to Harkness Pavilion in New York. Later, she went to The Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut. After some 27 shock treatments, intended to alleviate severe depression, Tierney fled the facility, but was caught and returned. She later became an outspoken opponent of shock treatment therapy, claiming it had destroyed significant portions of her memory. Tierney died of emphysema in 1991 in Houston.