Schizophrenia is a disease of the brain that interferes with normal brain and mental function. This disease affects not only the patient, but the patients’ family as well. Learning that a person is schizophrenic is
frightening and possibly devastating. Living with schizophrenia is possible with treatment and medication. Schizophrenia is characterized by the belief that the patient hears or sees thing that are truly not there. Hallucinations are only one of the many symptoms a schizophrenic person and their family has to endure.
The brain is the major factor in schizophrenia. It triggers hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and lack of motivation. Schizophrenia has three phases of progression: Prodromal, Active, and Residual. The major characteristics of the prodromal phase are depression and unreasonable fear of something or someone. During the active phase the patient suffers from hallucinations and confused thinking and speaking. The residual phase is when the disease becomes easier to manage and live with. The patient may even be able to regain social and job skills.
More then two million Americans suffer from schizophrenia. Schizophrenia affects men, women, the old, the young, and people of all races. Symptoms in men appear earlier then they do in women. Males may develop symptoms in their late teens or early twenties, whereas, symptoms in women surface generally in their late twenties to early thirties. Schizophrenic symptoms either appear suddenly or they may be gradual. Because of the delay in symptoms many people go without treatment until the disease is in its advanced stages. Thus, making it harder to treat and control.
Schizophrenia has no proven cause. It may be a genetic disorder, but may also be related to problems that occur during pregnancy. Research has revealed that schizophrenia may be the result of the interaction of certain genes, or due to damaged portions of genes. There is also contradictory research suggesting the disease may not be genetic because most people with a schizophrenic relative will not develop symptoms. Malnutrition or viral infections during pregnancy may be a cause of schizophrenia because of the negative affect on the growing fetus’s developing nervous system.
What increases your risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia? The greatest risk factor is having genetic disposition, meaning you are related to someone already diagnosed. If you have suffered a brain injury during fetal development, or had complications during birth, a lack of oxygen to the brain during birth may increase your risk. Ongoing research shows that if a father is over 50 years of age at conception the child is at greater risk. Although research is not directly correlative to the disease, having a substance abuse problem may increase your risk. But research shows that a schizophrenic person may also be at a greater risk to have a substance abuse problem.
Schizophrenia is diagnosed with the use of medical history, physical exam, and a mental health assessment. To rule out diseases with similar symptoms, blood tests, CT scans, or an MRI may be performed. In order to be accurately diagnosed, the patient must experience at least two symptoms for at least 1 month, and not have any other mental health problems.
People with schizophrenia often suffer terrifying symptoms such as hearing internal voices, believing that people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. These symptoms may leave them fearful and withdrawn. Their speech and behavior can be so disorganized that they may be frightening to others. People with schizophrenia often have difficulty interacting with people on a social level. They also have difficulty adjusting to new situations, professionally and personally. Many people whom life with Schizophrenia lose their jobs, and are never able to work again.