What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic disorder of the brain that affects the way a person sees the world, and even how they think, and behave towards other people. Schizophrenic persons find it difficult to function normally, and often have serious challenges relating with others, managing emotions, thinking clearly, making conversations, and distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined (Helpguide, 2014; NIMH, 2014). This blurred perception of reality drives such persons to hear or see things that other people cannot see, causing them to retreat from the rest of the world in fear that someone is constantly watching them and is out to harm them (Helpguide, 2014). Well, schizophrenia is widely perceived as a rare condition; however, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) places its prevalence rate at 1 out of every 100 Americans, with men and young adults between the ages of 16 and 30 being more prone to the same compared to the rest of the population (NIMH, 2014).
Early Indicators of Schizophrenia
Although schizophrenia may sometimes appear without warning, most of those affected have reported that it develops gradually and often presents a series of warning signs long before the severe symptoms begin to play. The patient may withdraw from the rest of society, become more reclusive, emotionless, or indifferent about life, abandon some of the activities that they initially found quite interesting, and become increasingly less concerned about their appearance (Helpguide, 2014). Dr. Segal of Helpguide.org (2014) summarizes these early warning signs as follows:
Strange way of speaking -- the patient may not make sense when they speak
Negative and at times extreme reaction to criticism
Forgetfulness and inability to concentrate
Insomnia or oversleeping
Extreme emotions; inappropriate crying or laughter
Expressionless, flat gaze
Suspiciousness or hostility
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The severity of symptoms will depend on both the pattern of symptoms, and the duration for which the condition remained untreated (Helpguide, 2014). These symptoms can be categorized into three -- cognitive symptoms, negative symptoms, and positive symptoms.
This category covers the psychotic behaviors of schizophrenic persons that are non-existent in otherwise healthy persons (NIMH, 2014). These symptoms cause patients to develop wrong perceptions of reality, such that they are unable to distinguish between what is real and what is unreal. They include:
Hallucinations: things a person feels, smells, hears, sees, or experiences as real, but which are only in their minds and cannot be experienced, seen, heard, smelt, or felt by other people (Helpguide, 2014; NIMH, 2014). The type of hallucinations experienced could differ from patient to patient; nonetheless, 'voices' have been found to the most common type of schizophrenic hallucinations (Helpguide, 2014; NIMH, 2014; Geekie, 2009). In this case, the subject hears voices (often times voices of people they know) warning them of danger, ordering them to do things, or talking to them about their behavior and past actions. At times, the voices talk to each other, and are mostly abusive or vulgar (Helpguide, 2014).
Delusions: false beliefs that a person holds on to, even though there is adequate evidence to prove that they are not true (Helpguide, 2014; NIMH, 2014). More than 90% percent of schizophrenic patients experience delusions, some of which may be quite bizarre (Helpguide, 2014). The NIMH (2014) identifies several examples of these bizarre delusions -- beliefs that people on TV are either directing messages specifically to them or publicizing their thoughts to others; beliefs that people are trying to harm them; beliefs that they are some prominent, historical figure, and so on. Dr. Segal of Helpguide (2014) categorizes these schizophrenic delusions into four:
Delusions of persecution: vague beliefs that someone is either trying to harm them or is plotting against the people that they care so much about. Some of these beliefs are bizarre, for instance, 'so and so is trying to poison me by delivering harmful radioactive substances through my drinking water'.
Delusions of Reference: false beliefs that they are the specific target of some event that to other people may seem neutral; for instance the vague belief that a character…
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