Understanding Schizophrenia: An in-depth look at a misunderstood disease

Understanding Schizophrenia: An in-depth look at a misunderstood disease

Schizophrenia is a complex, chronic brain disorder that affects the lives of many people around the world. It is characterized by a wide range of symptoms that can severely alter a person's thoughts, emotions, and general sense of reality.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

The symptoms of schizophrenia can be classified as positive, negative, or cognitive. 

Positive symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations: often auditory, consisting of hearing voices or sounds that are not real.
  • Delusions: ingrained false beliefs that are not based on reality.
  • Disorganized speech or behavior and abnormal movements: involve incoherent or confused speech patterns. Disorganized behavior refers to unpredictable or inappropriate actions.

Negative symptoms are characterized by a lack of motivation, social withdrawal, reduced emotional expression, and impaired self-care. 

Cognitive symptoms include difficulties with attention, memory, and problem-solving.

Causes and Risk Factors

There are many theories about the possible causes of schizophrenia. To date, no specific cause has been identified. However, several risk factors have been identified that predispose some people more than others to developing the disease.

In descending order of importance, these factors include:

  • Genetic components
  • Birth complications
  • Biological factors
  • Psychological factors

The genetic component is certainly the most recognized factor in the etiopathogenesis of schizophrenia. Family members of schizophrenic patients have a higher risk of developing the disease than others.

Some of the precursors in childhood and adolescence are: delayed psychomotor development, language problems (in the first 5 years), social anxiety, and social withdrawal.

Schizophrenia and Suicide Risk

People with schizophrenia are at increased risk for suicide. In fact, about 20% of them attempt suicide, and many suffer from severe suicidal ideation.

Risk factors for suicide in schizophrenia include substance abuse and depressive symptoms. In addition, the period following the psychotic episode or discharge from the hospital are an important risk factor for suicide.

In addition, young men seem to be more vulnerable to suicide than women of the same age.

Treatment of schizophrenia

Treatment for schizophrenia often involves a combination of antipsychotic medications, psychosocial interventions, and supportive therapies.

Antipsychotic medications

Antipsychotic medications, such as risperidone and clozapine, are often prescribed to reduce the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. These medications work by targeting dopamine receptors in the brain.

However, antipsychotics can have side effects, such as tardive dyskinesia, which is characterized by involuntary movements.

Regular monitoring by a healthcare professional is necessary to ensure effectiveness and minimize side effects.

Psychosocial Interventions

Psychosocial approaches are essential in the treatment of schizophrenia. They aim to optimize coping skills, promote improved social functioning, and create a supportive environment. For example, psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help people manage their symptoms, improve their thinking, and develop effective problem-solving strategies.

Supportive therapy

Family-supportive therapy can also be beneficial. It aims to educate and assist loved ones in understanding schizophrenia and building a strong support network.

 It's important to emphasize that schizophrenia is a chronic illness. However, with the right treatment and support, people can experience a reduction in symptoms and lead full lives.

It is important to note, however, that relapses can occur, and ongoing symptom management is necessary for optimal functioning.


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