Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by continuous or relapsing episodes of psychosis. Major symptoms include hallucinations(typically hearing voices), delusion and disorganized thinking. About 0.3 to 0.7% of people are diagnosed with schizophrenia during their lifetime. In 2017, there were estimated 1.1 million new cases and in 2019 a total of 20 million cases globally. Males are more often affected and on average have an earlier onset, although some large reviews have not found gender differences in the prevalence of the disorder. The likely causes of Schizophrenia include genetic and environmental factors. Genetic factors include a variety of common and rare genetic variants. Possible environmental factors include being raised in a city, cannabis use during adolescence, poor nutrition during pregnancy etc.
Schizophrenia involves a range of problems with thinking(cognition), behavior and emotions. Signs and symptoms may vary, but usually involve delusions, hallucinations or disorganized speech and reflect an impaired ability to function. Symptoms may include:-
- Delusion- these are false believes that are not based in reality. For example, thinking that the person is harmed or harassed, certain gestures are towards them, have an exceptional ability or fame.
- Hallucination- these usually involve seeing or hearing things that don’t exist. Yet for the person with Schizophrenia, they have the full force and impact of a normal experience.
- Disorganized thinking(speech)- disorganized thinking is inferred from disorganized speech. Effective communication can be impaired, and answers to questions may be partially or completely unrelated.
- Extremely disorganized or abnormal motor behavior- this may show in a number of ways from childlike silliness to unpredictable agitation. Behavior isn’t focused on a goal, so it’s hard to do tasks.
- Negative symptoms- this refers to reduced or lack of ability to function normally. The person may neglect personal hygiene or appear to lack emotion. Also, the person may begin to lose interest in every day activities, socially withdraw themselves, don’t get the feeling of happiness and pleasure.
- suicide, suicide attempts and thoughts of suicide.
- anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder(OCD).
- abuse of alcohol or other drugs, including nicotine.
- inability to work or attend school.
- financial problems and feeling of homelessness.
- social isolation.
- health and medical problems.
- being victimized.
- aggressive behavior(uncommon).
Problems with certain naturally occurring brain chemicals, including neurotransmitters called Dopamine and Glutamate, may contribute to schizophrenia. Neuroimaging studies show differences in the brain structure and central nervous system of people with schizophrenia. While researchers aren’t certain about the significance of these changes, they indicate that schizophrenia is a brain disease.
People with schizophrenia often lack awareness that their difficulties stem from a mental disorder that requires medical attention. So it often falls to the family or the friends to get them help by visiting a good doctor and giving proper medications on time.