Get Help With the Schizophrenia Hotline
Mental illness remains a major problem in the United States, with statistics showing that as many as 19% of Americans actively suffer from a mental illness. Among one of the more debilitating mental illnesses is schizophrenia, in which sufferers endure hallucinations, disorientation, cognitive difficulties, and more. Thankfully, the past few decades have seen an array of new treatments evolve to help people who suffer from schizophrenia, including medication-based treatments, therapeutic options, and outreach programs. Some of these outreach options include free phone lines, such as the National Mental Health Hotline.
What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a series mental illness. Individuals who suffer from it often become disconnected from reality in some way and have an extremely difficult time functioning in society. They can require lifelong treatment. Fortunately, individuals with schizophrenia can often manage the condition and lead a healthy and productive life.
According to available statistics, 20 million people across the world suffer from this disorder. New cases tend to grow at a rate of 1.5 new cases per 10,000 people.
Unfortunately, suicide numbers among schizophrenics are very high: 5% of people who suffer from the disorder die by suicide, and another 20% attempt it at least once.
It is important to note that the stigma which surrounds schizophrenia – that patients are violent – is often not true. While some schizophrenics can be violent, they are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it. As such, treatment for these individuals must focus on helping them manage the condition so that they can protect themselves.
There is no question that schizophrenia is among one of the more serious mental illnesses that an individual can suffer from, but there is ample hope for people who suffer from it. With proper treatment, individuals who have schizophrenia can often lead happy lives.
What Are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?
The disorder displays itself in a variety of symptoms. According to the DSM-V, the following symptoms are necessary to meet the formal criteria of the disease.
First, at least two or more of the following five symptoms must have been present for at least a month:
• Disorganized or catatonic behavior
• Disorganized speech
• Negative symptoms, meaning a lack of certain emotional expression
There must also be an impairment in major areas for a “significant” time period: Work, self-care, or interpersonal relations.
While the major symptoms above must have been present for only a month, some symptoms of the disorder must have been present for at least the past six months.
Other disorders or intellectual disability disorders – such as autism – must have been ruled out.
A variety of other symptoms may also be present, including but not limited to:
• Inappropriate emotional affect or expression (laughing for no reason, displaying an emotion that is out of sync with whatever is happening)
• Disrupted sleeping patterns
• Hostility or aggressive behavior
• Cognitive defects that impact a variety of intellectual processing
Unfortunately, individuals who suffer from schizophrenia often also suffer from anosognosia. Meaning they are unable to see that they are suffering from a mental illness and need medical treatment. Anosognosia is relatively common among individuals with mental illness, but even more so among schizophrenics. This can make getting a person who suffers from schizophrenia assistance even more difficult.
Causes of Schizophrenia
Like most mental illnesses, there is no set cause of schizophrenia. Instead, there are a series of causes. These include:
There is no question that there is a genetic component to schizophrenia. Having a close family member who suffers from the disorder makes it more likely that a person will suffer from the disease. Specifics into the genes that impact schizophrenia are still relatively limited, but it is now widely understood that a relatively small amount of genetic variance can be responsible for a schizophrenia diagnosis.
Furthermore, some genetic changes and mutations have been found to be responsible for the expression of certain schizophrenia symptoms, including delusions and hallucinations.
It also seems clear that certain environmental causes can be responsible for a schizophrenic diagnosis. These include:
• Pregnancy or birth issues, such as a failure of a pregnant woman to properly care for her child, exposure to certain toxins, or acquiring certain viruses when pregnant.
• Abusing drugs such as marijuana or LSD.
• Traumatic experiences and adverse childhood experiences, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, death of a loved one, or more.
• Social isolation, meaning a lack of exposure to other individuals, including family members.
• Migrating from one country to another.
• Growing up in an urban environment, as opposed to a rural or suburban one.
There is also a connection between certain developmental delays and the diagnosis of schizophrenia, although this obviously may have a genetic component as well.
Like most mental illnesses, it seems clear that it is impossible to determine if the causes of a schizophrenia diagnosis are purely genetic or environmental in nature. The most common understanding is that a combination of genetics and environmental causes will lead someone to develop the disorder.
Co-Occurring Disorders and Schizophrenia
According to available research, a schizophrenia diagnosis is very likely to occur in combination with other mental illnesses. The most common co-occurring disorder is a substance abuse disorder, as the information indicates that as many as 50% of schizophrenics may also have some sort of substance abuse disorder. This can make treatment more compilated, as individuals who are schizophrenic must simultaneously have both disorders treated. It also seems apparent that there is a relationship between the two disorders, meaning that the disorders influence each other.
Unsurprisingly, schizophrenics are also more likely to develop a slew of other mental illnesses. For example, people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia are also more likely to be diagnosed with depression.
At one time, schizophrenia was considered one of the most difficult mental illnesses to treat. Thankfully, times have changed. The disorder can still be a painful one and can be tough for people to find relief, but a slew of new treatments have enabled individuals who suffer from schizophrenia to find relief. These include:
Medication is one of the most common ways of treating schizophrenia. A variety of medications, including antipsychotics, are available to treat individuals who suffer from schizophrenia. The specific of each drug can vary, but most of the drugs that are prescribed for schizophrenia are believed to impact the levels of dopamine – a key neurotransmitter – in the brain.
Finding the right drug, and finding the right dosage, can be a challenge. This is the case for virtually all mental illnesses, but even more so with schizophrenia. A patient will need to stick with their medication and take it on a regular basis in order to determine which one is most effective, but this can be a challenge for someone who may have a hard time remaining connected to reality or who suffers from paranormal delusion. Thus, community support or outside assistance is often necessary for someone who is schizophrenic.
In addition to pills that can be taken, there are now a variety of long-lasting injectable medications. These medications can be given over an extended time period and do not come with the same challenges as taking a pill every day. Examples include Aripiprazole or Risperidone.
Therapy, in combination with medication, can be key in helping a schizophrenic person recognize their symptoms and find new ways of coping with them. This therapy can take many forms, including individualized therapy of a variety of modalities. It can often be supplemented with specific forms of therapy, such as social skills building, that can help a schizophrenic person develop the social skills that can help them thrive in society.
Depending on the specific individual situation, a schizophrenic person may also require family therapy or vocational therapy. Either of these can be excellent supplements and help an individual who is schizophrenic develop the support systems necessary to thrive in society. Finding these therapies can be a challenge, but there are a variety of resources available to help an individual find the therapy they need, including the National Mental Health Hotline at 866-903-3787.
Complementary or Alternative Therapies
While medication and therapy remain the most research-supported ways of treating schizophrenia, a variety of other tools have been developed that may be able to have a positive treatment on this disorder. These include:
• Deep Brain Stimulation, which is similar to electro-convulsive therapy but operates in a more targeted way.
• B Vitamin or Omega-3 Fatty acids, as some research has found that both of these nutritional components may help to reduce the expression of schizophrenic symptoms.
• CBD, a cannabinoid. Smaller studies have found that CBD may be able to help reduce schizophrenic symptoms.
More research is unquestionably needed in this area and many others, but it does appear likely that additional information will demonstrate the ability of other treatments to help people who suffer from schizophrenia.
As you can see, a schizophrenia diagnosis is no reason to despair, and individuals who have this diagnosis can lead happy lives. Furthermore, there are many free resources that can help people find the assistance that they need. Among them is the National Mental Health Hotline, which can be reached at 866-903-3787. This number can be used to help individuals who suffer from any number of mental health disorders – including schizophrenia – find relief from their illness. If you or a loved one is suffering from schizophrenia, you don’t have to wait to lead a better life.