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If you asked someone what exactly the word “schizophrenia” meant, they would most likely describe it as someone hearing voices inside their head and crazy moods. However, there is much more to schizophrenia than that. Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe brain disorder that can cause voices in your head, thoughts that everyone around you is conspiring against you, and they may not make sense when they speak or they might not even move or speak at all.
There are many factors that could cause this brain disorder including genes, environment, and also brain chemistry and structure. Scientists have known for years that this mental disorder could be hereditary. In the general population, schizophrenia occurs in 1%, but occurs in 10% of people who have a first-degree relative with this disorder such as a parent, brother or sister. Also, even those with a second-degree relative such as an aunt, uncle, cousin, or grandparent are at higher risk of developing schizophrenia than the general population. The percentage is even worse if there are a set of twins and one develops schizophrenia the other twin has a 45-60% chance of developing schizophrenia as well. Even though genes are something that helps develop this disorder, it does not do it alone. Scientists have seen that people with schizophrenia tend to have higher rates of rare genetic mutations. These differences in genetics involve hundreds of different genes and can most likely disrupt brain development. A different study suggests that schizophrenia can be caused by a malfunctioning gene that is the key to making an important brain chemical. Since research into this gene is still ongoing, we do not yet have information about who developed schizophrenia with this certain gene. Also, neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate and possibly others play a role in schizophrenia. Neurotransmitters are what allow brain cells to communicate with each other; this is why when someone has schizophrenia their brain can have more or less activity than normal. This brain disorder might not even show up until the person goes through puberty because of all the changes that happen in your brain may trigger psychotic symptoms.
There are four different types of schizophrenia and each has its own symptoms. The first type is paranoid schizophrenia. This type is characterized by delusions and auditory hallucinations, but relatively normal intellectual functioning and personality. They often believe that everyone around them is against them or they are being treated unfairly and are more likely to express anger, aloofness, anxiety, and can be argumentative. The second type of schizophrenia is disorganized schizophrenia. This type is characterized by disorganized speech and behavior or they are difficult to understand and also inappropriate emotions, such as laughing at a funeral. With this type, people have difficulty doing everyday things like dressing or showering. The third type is undifferentiated schizophrenia. This type of schizophrenia is characterized if you have mixed symptoms of the two different types above. The fourth type is residual schizophrenia. This type is characterized by having a history of having at least one schizophrenic episode, but the person does not have any “positive” symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech and behavior, or inappropriate emotions. This person may never have an episode again or it may happen at random.
There are also tests that can be bought without a prescription or a health professional’s advice telling you which specific diseases and disorders you are more likely to develop (including schizophrenia) because of the genes you have. To these tests there is a down side. The results from this test are not certain and people often worry about the results from their test too much and because there are many different genes that we still do not know about.
Fortunately, there are treatments for schizophrenia. Unfortunately, the first step into any treatment for this brain disorder is antipsychotic medication, which includes side effects. After the person has been stabilized and is taking their medication there are other treatments available. One is psychosocial treatment, which helps the person deal with every day things such as self-care, communication skills, work, and forming/keeping relationships. A second treatment is illness management skills. In this type of treatment, a therapist informs the person about their disorder and teaches them how to watch for signs of a relapse and how to cope with persistent symptoms. Rehabilitation is another form of treatment. Schizophrenia usually develops between important career-forming years and workers at rehabilitation centers can help schizophrenia patients learn how to manage their money, use public transportation, and give them opportunities to practice communication skills. For some victims of schizophrenia, medications do not work and that is when cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) comes in handy. CBT can help people who suffer from schizophrenia learn to test simply what is real and what is not and teach them not to listen to “the voices.” CBT can also help reduce the severity of symptoms. It also helps if the family of the schizophrenia patient learns everything there is to know about the disorder so they can understand better what is happening to their loved one and what exactly they are going through. It also helps because the family can encourage their loved one to stick with their treatment and why it is important. Another option is self-help groups. This is when the person with schizophrenia and their family go and speak with a group of people with the same disorder. A self-help group usually does not have a therapist involved because the people in the group are there to comfort each other and help them feel less isolated.
As you have read, schizophrenia is nowhere near simple but very complex. Doctors and scientists are still trying to figure it all out, but in the meantime, the things listed above are all ways that could help you or a loved one with this disorder.
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