Mental Disorder : Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder. It is a group of disorders with major disturbances in thoughts, emotions and behaviour. Schizophrenia is characterized by distorted thinking with logically unrelated ideas, fragmented perception, inappropriate emotions and reduced tolerance for stress of any kind. In schizophrenia patients become secluded and withdrawn from reality and go into a world delusions and hallucinations.

Schizophrenia affects men and women with equal frequency. Studies show that the onset of schizophrenia is earlier in men, usually during late adolescence or early adulthood. Women are generally affected in the twenties to early thirties. Schizophrenia is considered to be one of the most serious of all disorders. The incidence of this disorder is high during the most productive years of life. Moreover, it has the tendency to recur and become chronic.

Symptoms & Causes
Schizophrenia develops slowly. At an early stage daydreaming, seclusiveness, lack of interest in activities and sex and display of inappropriate emotions are noticeable.

Changes in personality are manifested. In schizophrenia an extrovert person may become withdrawn, quiet or moody. Their speech is greatly reduced. The person may display inappropriate emotions or may be unable to show any emotion at all.

Schizophrenics experience inability to integrate perception into a meaningful pattern. Their perceptions are different from the reality. They might become hypersensitive to sights, sounds and smell. And they are lost in their world of delusions and hallucinations.

Delusions are beliefs contrary to reality firmly held inspite of contradictory evidence. These are false personal beliefs and may take on different themes. A person might experience delusions of persecution that someone is conspiring against him to harm him.

Hallucinations are distorted perception where schizophrenics perceive objects and events in the absence of proper stimuli. Hallucinations can be auditory (sound), visual (sight), tactile (touch), gustatory (taste), and olfactory (smell). Schizophrenics may hear voices, which may carry on a conversation or even issue orders to the individual.

When a sensory stimulus is present but is incorrectly interpreted by the individual it is illusion.

Studies indicate that schizophrenia is caused by factors like changes in the chemistry of the brain, changes in the structure of the brain, and genetic factors.

Biochemical research indicates that two neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin have roles to play in schizophrenia. Moreover, brain abnormalities like enlarged ventricles are found in schizophrenic patients.

Acute Schizophrenia

The onset of acute schizophrenia is usually sudden in a person whose behaviour has been previously normal. Acute schizophrenia is characterized by confusion, emotional turmoil, depression and fear. Acute schizophrenics also experience delusions.

Paranoid Schizophrenia
In paranoid schizophrenia, the patient is dominated by symptoms of absurd, illogical and changeable delusions, frequently accompanied by vivid hallucinations. Paranoid schizophrenics also experience impairment of critical judgment and erratic, unpredictable and occasionally dangerous behavior. In chronic cases, there is usually less disorganization of behavior than in other types of schizophrenia, and less extreme withdrawal from social interaction.

Catatonic Schizophrenia
Catatonic schizophrenia is characterized by alternating periods of extreme withdrawal and extreme excitement. In the withdrawal reaction the patient experiences a sudden loss of all action and a tendency to remain motionless for hours or even days in a single position. Whereas in case of extreme excitement, the individual may talk or shout incoherently, pace rapidly and engage in uninhibited and impulsive behavior. The individual may be dangerous in this condition. In some cases, one or the other reaction predominates.

Schizophrenia is not yet a curable disease but it is treatable. Most patients with schizophrenia have to take some medication regularly to keep the disorder under control. But some medications have unpleasant side effects like dry mouth, drowsiness, stiffness and restlessness.

Along with the medication, it is important that the patients and their caretakers learn all they can about schizophrenia. This will facilitate the patient and the family to accept the fact of the illness and learn how best to manage it. The patient and the family are usually under enormous emotional strain. So counseling from a professional may be advantageous to them.

In acute cases, schizophrenic patients may require hospitalization. The purpose of hospitalization is proper medical care and protection. Hospitalization allows the patient to be observed, assessed, diagnosed and started on medication under the supervision of trained staff. Once the illness is stabilized, the patient can be discharged from the hospital. But regular follow-up care is essential, as it will reduce the chances of relapse of the disorder.

Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) is used for schizophrenic patients only if they are suffering from extreme depression, are suicidal for long periods and do not respond to medication or other treatments.
Recovery from schizophrenia, like any other illness, requires patience. Balanced diet, adequate sleep and regular exercise help the patient in speedy recovery. However, the illness and the side effects of medication can interfere with proper eating, sleeping and exercise habits. Schizophrenic patients need supervision of their daily routines.


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