Did you know that schizophrenia affects more than 1 percent of the world’s population?
Schizophrenia is a severe, chronic, and generally disabling brain and behavior disorder. It is most accurately described as a psychosis – a type of illness that causes severe mental disturbances that disrupt normal thoughts, speech, and behavior. Schizophrenia is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. If you think you or someone you know has symptoms of schizophrenia, you should contact us at our Temecula, CA office to schedule an appointment with one of our trained clinicians.
What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia can have very different symptoms in different people. The way the disease manifests itself and progresses in a person depends on the time of onset, severity and duration of symptoms, which are categorized as positive, negative and cognitive. All three kinds of symptoms reflect problems in brain function. Relapse and remission cycles often occur; a person can get better, worse and better again repeatedly over time. If you have any of the following symptoms, contact Aspire Wellness in Temecula, CA to discuss your symptoms with a trained clinician.
- Positive symptoms, which can be severe or mild, include delusions, hallucinations and thought disorders. Some psychiatrists also include psychomotor problems that affect movement in this category. Delusions, hallucinations and inner voices are collectively called psychosis, which also can be a hallmark of other serious mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder. Delusions lead people to believe others are monitoring or threatening them, or reading their thoughts. Hallucinations cause a patient to hear, see, feel or smell something that is not there. Thought disorders may involve difficulty putting cohesive thoughts together or making sense of speech. Psychomotor problems may appear as clumsiness, unusual mannerisms or repetitive actions, and in extreme cases, motionless rigidity held for extended periods of time.
- Negative symptoms reflect a loss of functioning in areas such as emotion or motivation. Negative symptoms include loss or reduction in the ability to initiate plans, speak, express emotion or find pleasure in life. They include emotional flatness or lack of expression, diminished ability to begin and sustain a planned activity, social withdrawal and apathy. These symptoms can be mistaken for laziness or depression.
- Cognitive symptoms involve problems with attention and memory, especially in planning and organizing to achieve a goal. Cognitive deficits are the most disabling for patients trying to lead a normal life.
What are the subtypes of schizophrenia?
- Paranoid schizophrenia — feelings of extreme suspicion, persecution or grandiosity, or a combination of these.
- Disorganized schizophrenia — incoherent thoughts, but not necessarily delusional.
- Catatonic schizophrenia — withdrawal, negative affect and isolation, and marked psychomotor disturbances.
- Residual schizophrenia — delusions or hallucinations may go away, but motivation or interest in life is gone.
- Schizoaffective disorder — symptoms of both schizophrenia and a major mood disorder, such as depression.
At what age do the symptoms of schizophrenia appear?
Schizophrenia affects men and women equally. It occurs at similar rates in all ethnic groups around the world. Symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions usually start between ages 16 and 30. Men tend to experience symptoms earlier than women. Most of the time, people do not get schizophrenia after age 45. Schizophrenia rarely occurs in children, but awareness of childhood onset schizophrenia is increasing. It can be difficult to diagnose schizophrenia in teens. This is because the first signs can include a change of friends, a drop in grades, sleep problems and irritability — behaviors that are common among teens.
How is schizophrenia diagnosed and treated?
A combination of factors can predict schizophrenia in up to 80 percent of youth who are at high risk of developing the illness. These factors include isolating oneself and withdrawing from others, an increase in unusual thoughts and suspicions, and a family history of psychosis. In young people who develop the disease, this stage of the disorder is called the “prodromal” period.
Currently, schizophrenia is diagnosed by the presence of symptoms or their precursors for a period of six months. Two or more symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech, and grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, must be significant and last for at least one month. Only one symptom is required for diagnosis if delusions are bizarre enough or if hallucinations consist either of a voice constantly commenting on the person’s behavior/thoughts, or two or more voices “conversing.” Social or occupational problems can also be part of the diagnosis during the six-month period.
Foundation-funded research to find markers, such as abnormal brain scans or blood chemicals that can help detect early disease and allow for quicker interventions is now being done. Scientists are also working to understand the genetic and environmental mechanisms that combine to cause schizophrenia. As more is discovered about chemical circuitry and structure of the brains of people with the disease, better diagnostic tools and early intervention techniques can be developed. This is crucial for schizophrenia as it is believed that with every psychotic episode, increased damage is done to the brain.
Is there a cure for schizophrenia?
While no cure exists for schizophrenia, it is treatable and manageable with medication and behavioral therapy, especially if diagnosed early and treated continuously. Those with acute symptoms, such as severe delusions or hallucinations, suicidal thoughts or the inability to care for oneself, may require hospitalization. Antipsychotic drugs are the primary medications to reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia. They relieve the positive symptoms through their impact on the brain’s neurotransmitter systems. Cognitive and behavioral therapy can then help “retrain” the brain once symptoms are reduced.
These approaches improve communication, motivation and self-care and teach coping mechanisms so that individuals with schizophrenia may attend school, go to work and socialize. Patients undergoing regular psychosocial treatment comply better with medication, and have fewer relapses and hospitalizations. At Aspire Wellness Clinic, we believe that a positive relationship with a therapist gives a patient a reliable source of information about schizophrenia, as well as empathy, encouragement and hope. Social networks and family member support are also helpful.
Schedule An Appointment
If you would like to meet or talk with one of our clinicians at our Temecula, CA offices about schizophrenia treatment call us at (951) 363-3150, or click below to fill out our secure online form.
In addition, sometimes the therapist and client will mutually agree that a consultation with our in-house psychiatrist, Dr. Baroya, would be beneficial for medication management.