A diagnosis of schizophrenia typically comes after the first episode of psychosis is displayed while in mid-adolescence for most. It is one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses and affects approximately 1% of adults in the U.S. While that number is nothing to sneeze at, most people know little to nothing about it. Schizophrenia has a stereotype in most minds of violence, severely disabled, and powder keg personalities. These kinds of stigmas are one of the main reasons it can sometimes take decades for a diagnosis. Only when we stop trying to keep mental illnesses like schizophrenia hidden can we begin to look inside the lives of those living with it.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that causes those diagnosed to interpret reality abnormally. It involves a range of problems in 3 areas. They are thinking, behavior, and emotions, and the severity at which each area is affected varies significantly from one person to another. Signs and symptoms typically fall into these three main categories consist of:
- Psychotic Symptoms– Altered perceptions (changes in vision, hearing, smell, touch, and taste)
- Thought disorder
- Negative Symptoms– Loss of motivation and lack of enjoyment in daily activities.
- Challenges in planning, beginning and sustaining activities
- Loss of satisfaction in everyday life
- Reduced expression of emotions in your facial expressions and voice tone.
- Reduced speaking
- Cognitive Symptoms– Attention, concentration, and memory.
- Inability to process information to make decisions
- Loss of being able to use the information after learning it
- Issues focusing and paying attention
“Everything was getting bigger, smaller, louder, quieter; my ability to process information coming in through my senses started breaking down.”- Tina Collins, 53, of Baltimore.
While untreated, the effects can be devastating. However, with treatment, you may never know the person has it. We don’t know what causes schizophrenia, but researchers believe that a combination of risk factors contribute to developing it. Family history, taking mind-altering drugs, pregnancy and birth complications, and exposure to toxins or viruses all increase your risk. Extreme emotional stress, the loss of a loved one, and physical or sexual abuse can trigger schizophrenia in those already at risk.
Treating Schizophrenia Now and Beyond
Schizophrenia requires lifelong treatment once diagnosed. The hitch is, there is no test for schizophrenia, so providers usually start by eliminating other conditions with similar symptoms. Schizophrenia’s symptoms differ because they interfere with daily life. It is managed with medications and psychosocial therapy. In times of severe symptoms or crisis, hospitalization may be needed.
Antipsychotic medications are the most commonly prescribed type. The goal is to manage systems at the lowest possible dose because they can cause serious side effects. Most patients will need to try different therapies and combinations of them to find an effective plan.
Symptom relief continues to remain out of reach for approximately 15% of schizophrenia patients. Research studies are needed now more than ever, so we can establish improved ways to manage this devastating condition. To learn more about the currently enrolling schizophrenia studies here at Core Clinical Research, LLC, call (425) 443-9551, or visit our website for details.