If you know somebody who is acting irrationally, believes that they are hearing voices, or seems to see/feel things that nobody else can, they may be suffering from a mental disorder called schizophrenia. This is a serious disorder, as it has extreme symptoms. The affected person may experience irrational thoughts, delusions, auditory hallucinations, and feelings of fear/paranoia. Because of the severity of these symptoms, it makes it hard for the afflicted person to live a normal life without help.
Both men and women of different ages and ethnic groups can develop schizophrenia. The symptoms usually start to appear between the ages of 16 and 30. People usually do not develop the disorder after the age of 45. Currently, there is no completely agreed upon cause of the disorder, although the genetic factor is relevant. The symptoms of schizophrenia range from mild to severe, and there are three main types of symptoms: positive, negative, and cognitive. Positive symptoms refer to symptoms that result in a distortion of rational thought and behavior- this includes things such as hallucinations, delusions, and various thought/movement disorders. Negative symptoms refer to symptoms that make normal functioning and the showing of emotions difficult. Patients may talk very little, speak in a dull voice, and have trouble with facial expressions. Cognitive symptoms are disruptions in thought and decision-making, difficulty accessing information immediately and trouble paying attention.
Currently, schizophrenia has no cure, but with treatment, symptoms can be reduced. The most common form of treatment is through medication, but psychosocial treatments also do a lot to help. The medications have side effects, and often times a patient will have to try several types of medication in order to find which one works best for them. It can be problematic if a patient resists medication. In such a case moral support and keeping in touch with a doctor is very important. Psychosocial treatments are day to day interventions which include things such as support groups, therapy, family education, etc. Support groups for care-givers as well as the patient, are a means of developing coping strategies.
Adapted from: NIMH – Schizophrenia (Easy-to-Read)