Introduction to Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder in which the individual loses touch with reality and demonstrates abnormal social behaviour.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder in which the individual loses touch with reality and demonstrates abnormal social behaviour. It is relatively common, affecting 1 in 100 people at some point during their lifetime. It is most commonly diagnosed in young adults and equally common in men and women. Schizophrenia can be confusing for the sufferer and those around them. Though there is no cure, there are treatments that can be effective in alleviating some of the symptoms. Therefore, if you think you may be experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, see a psychiatrist or GP as they will be able to support you.
What are the causes for Schizophrenia?
No single cause for schizophrenia has been identified. Instead, it seems likely that the development of the disorder is down to a combination of genetic vulnerability, life experiences and genetic factors.
Schizophrenia does appear to run in families, indicating a genetic association. Research has pointed to a number of genes that appear to increase risk, including those involved with brain development and chemical signalling. Environmental factors that may contribute to the development of schizophrenia include stressful life events such as homelessness, poverty and abuse. Furthermore, there is evidence implicating cannabis use and adverse experiences during childhood.
At level of the brain, there is a great deal of evidence implicating a chemical (neurotransmitter) called ‘dopamine’ in schizophrenia. Part of the evidence is that effective antipsychotics work by targeting dopamine signalling in the brain. However, since antipsychotics are not perfect, other factors are also likely to be involved.
What are the symptoms of Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia develops slowly and can be difficult to identify initially. It is characterised by a spectrum of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ symptoms. Positive symptoms include hallucinations (usually auditory), delusions and confused thought. Negative symptoms include lack of emotion, difficulty concentrating, losing interest in things and abnormal sleep. These symptoms can be frightening and frustrating for the individual and the quicker the disorder is diagnosed, the more successful treatment usually is.
How is Schizophrenia treated?
There are two main types of treatment used: talking treatments and medication. Different things work best for different people, so your doctor may discuss trying several different types of therapy to see which works best for you.
Talking therapies include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This treatment aims to connect your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It may help you develop strategies for dealing with symptoms such as hallucination, or avoiding certain triggers of acute schizophrenic episodes. Medication involves antipsychotic medication. These drugs can be really useful in many patients, but they are associated with several side effects.