Schizophrenia is a brain condition that causes a person to lose touch with reality and because of this, they have abnormal thoughts and act abnormally. There are many different ways the condition can affect a person, including:
1. Delusions. People with schizophrenia often hold false beliefs that are not based in reality. Most people with schizophrenia experience delusions.
2. Hallucinations. People with schizophrenia often see or hear things that don't exist but fully believe they are real.
3. Trouble Thinking Clearly. People with schizophrenia often are forgetful and have trouble concentrating.
4. Other Negative Symptoms. People with schizophrenia may neglect personal hygiene or have a hard time expressing emotions, such as losing the ability to laugh or cry.
Sometimes a person with schizophrenia only experiences one of these issues, while other times several may occur at the same time.
People with schizophrenia usually are not able to understand on their own that they have a mental disorder, and family or friends are usually the first to recognize that there is a problem. The disease is rare, affecting less than 1% of people in the U.S.
No one knows exactly why schizophrenia occurs and there is no cure. However, researchers are gaining a better understanding of the causes of the disease by studying different factors such as genetics and the structure of the brain.
It’s important to be aware that there is widespread misinformation about the disease, and to know some facts about schizophrenia:
• Most people who have schizophrenia are not violent.
• Schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder are two different conditions. Most people who have schizophrenia do not have multiple personalities.
• Although there is no cure, people with schizophrenia who are treated properly can have an improved quality of life and meaningful relationships.
Early diagnosis is important in order to get schizophrenia symptoms under control before they become more serious. If you are noticing any of these problems in a child, family member or friend, they could have schizophrenia and should see a mental health specialist or medical professional as soon as possible:
• Abnormal body movements
• Believing certain gestures or comments are directed at them, even when they are not
• Believing they are famous
• Does not express normal emotional reactions, like laughing or crying
• Easily agitated
• Fear of being harmed by another person
• Fear that a catastrophe is going to happen
• Flat voice/monotone
• Hearing voices
• Incoherent/unable to communicate with others
• Insomnia or other sleep issues
• Inventing words that have no meaning, rhyming
• Memory loss
• No eye contact
• Seeing things that seem real but are not
• Stops tending to personal cleanliness
People with schizophrenia are usually prescribed medications as a first course of action in their treatment. In severe cases or during a crisis, a person with schizophrenia may need to be hospitalized for their own safety.
After they have stabilized and no longer have psychotic episodes, other types of treatments are added, such as psychotherapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Often they need social support and education as well, to help manage daily life and work, if they have a job. Support groups can also help people with schizophrenia improve things such as social and communication skills and problem-solving.
Although antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs may be used, antipsychotic medications are the most commonly prescribed drugs for schizophrenia.
New drugs known as second-generation antipsychotics are preferred because there are often fewer side effects. Examples of second-generation antipsychotics a doctor or mental health professional may prescribe include:
• Aripiprazole (Abilify)
• Asenapine (Saphris)
• Brexpiprazole (Rexulti)
• Cariprazine (Vraylar)
• Clozapine (Clozaril)
• Iloperidone (Fanapt)
• Lurasidone (Latuda)
• Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
• Paliperidone (Invega)
• Quetiapine (Seroquel)
• Risperidone (Risperdal)
• Ziprasidone (Geodon)
Not everyone reacts to medications in the same way, and finding the right medication to treat schizophrenia may take some trial and error. In fact, up to half of all patients do not respond as desired (and some even experience adverse reactions) to the first psychiatric medication they’re prescribed. This is due in part to their individual genetic makeup (their DNA).
In very recent years, however, scientists have identified innovative ways to use genetic testing to help personalize medicine, so it better meets the needs of individual patients—and helps get them the right medications in the right dosages more quickly. This science is now available to health care professionals to help them treat patients who have schizophrenia.
The information revealed by a patient’s DNA can also help a doctor better understand if a patient might experience negative side effects or adverse drug reactions, and avoid those options.
This remarkable science is already helping people suffering from schizophrenia, helping them better control of the lives, more quickly than ever before.
With good information, you can better understand how these conditions may affect you, your loved one or your patient. The better informed you are, the better you can advocate. Learn more by clicking the topics below: