by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Schizophrenia is a term used for a group of severe brain disorders. People affected with a schizophrenic disorder are unable to distinguish whats real from whats not real. Schizophrenia is not split or multiple personality disorder, it is one of the psychotic disorders. Though the word schizophrenia is defined as a “split mind” it is in reference to an imbalance between emotions and the thought process. Schizophrenia affects over two million people in the US and over 24 million worldwide. Men are affected more often than women and the average age of onset is usually between 20 and 30 years of age. It can occur in children or older adults but it is very rares.
The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown, however scientists believe that both genetic and environmental factors play a role in the development of the disorder. People with a family history of schizophrenia have a greater chance of developing the disorder than those that don’t. Infants that have been exposed to certain viruses, toxins or poor nutrition while in utero also have a greater risk of developing schizophrenia in early adulthood. Scientists have also linked the use of psychotropic drugs like LSD during adolescence to developing schizophrenia.
There are five diffedrent types of schizophrenia currently listed in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
1. Paranoid Schizophrenia is characterized by a preoccupation with delusion and/or auditory hallucinations, however there are no symptoms of disorganized schizophrenia.
2. Disorganized Schizophrenia is characterized by speech and behavior that is disorganized and usually with a flat or inappropriate affect.
3. Catatonic Schizophrenia is characterized by problems with movement. People suffering with this type will exhibit at least 2 symptoms related to movement, ie. difficulty moving, excessive movement, resistance to movement, and abnormal movements. they will sometimes repeat what others say and do also.
4. Undifferentiated Schizophrenia is characterized be episodes involving 2 or more positive and/or negative symptoms. However, the person does not meet the criteria for any of the other types of schizophrenia.
5. Residual schizophrenia is a less severe form of schizophrenia. A person with this type doesn’t exhibit the positive symptoms only the negative symptoms.
The symptoms of schizophrenia are divided into three categories;
1. Positive symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, thought disorder and disorganized behavior.
2. Negative symptoms are those that show either a diminished or absence of interest in activities of daily living including inability to perform normal activities, neglect personal hygiene, social withdrawal and lack of motivation.
3. Cognitive symptoms are characterized by problems with the thought processes. These tend to be the most disabling. They include difficulty understanding and processing information, as well as difficulty with memory and paying attention.
In order for a diagnosis of schizophrenia to be made the person has to meet the criteria that is listed in the DSM. That would include ruling out other medical condition. Then the person must also be experience at least 2 symptoms of the disorder and have had them for at least 6 months. The person must also be experiencing significant difficulty working or attending school.
Schizophrenia is a long term chronic illness requiring lifelong treatment. The problem with many schizophrenics is they stop taking their medications when the symptoms go away and the the symptoms return and they frequently end up in crisis and require hospitalization. Treatment of schizophrenia usually combines medications and psychotherapy to achieve optimal effectiveness. There are a variety of medications available today, many of the newer medications have less side effects than in the past which helps with compliance.
Today with the improved medications improving compliance with taking them and a good support system people suffering from schizophrenia have a better quality of life.