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Schizophrenia

Updated: July 23, 2022

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that is often misunderstood.  It impacts the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves.  Fortunately, with treatment, people with schizophrenia can enjoy a productive and fulfilling life.

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What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that is often diagnosed between ages 16-30, rarely in younger children.  Schizophrenia is a ‘break with reality’ and so to an observer, a person with schizophrenia can seem as if they have lost touch with reality.  Indeed, people who experience schizophrenia may experience visual and/or auditory hallucinations and believe they see or hear things that are not there.  And due to these difficulties, it can be challenging to carry out everyday tasks.
Individuals may also hold delusional and unusual beliefs, and experience confusion.  This can make it very distressing for those who suffer with schizophrenia, as well as for their loved ones.  It is thought that even before the first episode of psychosis, subtle changes in thought, behaviour, and mood begin to appear.  Although the symptoms vary between people, they generally fall between cognitive, negative, and psychotic categories.  Schizophrenia is usually treated with a combination of medication and talking therapies.  The sooner help is sought, the better the prognosis.

 

What Are The Symptoms?

Cognitive Symptoms 

These include problems with concentration, attention, and memory and make it difficult for individuals to learn things, remember appointments, or follow a conversation.  Cognitive functioning is a good predictor of day-to-day functioning and is assessed via tests. Symptoms include:

 

  • Being unable to process information which impacts the ability to make decisions
  • Finding it difficult to use newly learned information
  • Difficulties in concentration which make it difficult to focus and pay attention

Negative Symptoms

Negative symptoms can be confused with depression or other mental health symptoms because there is an overlap.  For example, individuals can experience apathy, anhedonia, loss of motivation, withdrawal and isolation, detachment and difficulties in normal functioning. Negative symptoms include:

 

  • Finding it difficult to make or stick to  plans, like food shopping
  • Difficulties feeling everyday pleasure
  • Changes in affect, for example speaking in a monotone way and minimal facial expression
  • Being socially awkward or avoiding social interaction
  • Low energy and passivity. In rare extreme cases, a person might become catatonic and stop talking or moving for extended periods

Psychotic Symptoms

These relate to how a person thinks, the way they experience the world, and their behaviour.  People with psychotic symptoms seem to experience a distorted reality, that is different to others’ experience. Psychotic symptoms can occur intermittently, or they may be present all the time.  The way they manifest varies between individuals and includes:

 

  • Hallucinations: When a person experiences things that are not there.  Hallucinations can occur through any of their senses (e.g., sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste).  Many experience hearing voices.
  • Delusions: Some people believe things that can seem unusual, and irrational to others.  They are delusions because they are not true.  A common belief might relate to being watched by a public figure or body.
  • Thought disorder: This relates to illogical or irrational thinking and can impact speech and thought organisation.  For example, an individual may suddenly stop speaking mid-sentence, talk about random topics, and jump between them, or make up words.
  • Movement disorder: This is when individuals display abnormal bodily motions, and may repeat them.

What Causes Schizophrenia?

Genetics: There is no one gene that causes schizophrenia, however it can run in families.  This is possibly due in part to the sharing of a combination of many different genes that may increase the likelihood of its development.

Environment: In combination with genetics, the environmental factors that a person experiences as they grow is thought to play a role in the development of schizophrenia.  For example, experiencing poverty, danger, stressful surroundings, and prenatal illness, and malnutrition.

Brain structure and function: The size of certain brain areas, as well as the connection between parts of the brain differ when comparing people with schizophrenia and those without.  Some of this occurs before birth so may predispose an individual to schizophrenia.

How Phinity Can Help

Often individuals are prescribed antipsychotic medication and it is shown that those who also have talking therapies are more likely to manage their symptoms and therefore not require hospitalisation.  At Phinity we will work with you (and your family) to understand your situation and your needs.

For example you may require managing your symptoms, improving daily functioning, working toward specific life goals, such as attaining a qualification, a job, or enjoying fulfilling relationships.

You may benefit from something like cognitive behavioural therapy, life coaching, behavioural skills training, or an integrative approach.  After assessing your needs with you, we can work together to create an effective treatment plan that will benefit you and your goals.

You may wish to include your family in your support, and we can work with them as well.  For example, they may wish to understand the symptoms of schizophrenia better, or how they can better support you and your treatment.  By working together we can also offer loved ones a place to manage their difficulties and stress, and improve coping skills, and the ability to support you.

What Causes Schizophrenia?How Phinity Can Help

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