Red River Hospital helps individuals struggling with schizophrenia build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Wichita Falls, TX, Red River is the leading provider of schizophrenia treatment.
Learn about schizophrenia
One of the most disabling, chronic mental health disorders known is schizophrenia. Causing significant impairment in daily functioning if the sufferer goes untreated, schizophrenia prevents an individual from thinking clearly, expressing feelings appropriately, and distinguishing between real and imagined stimuli. Symptoms associated with schizophrenia can often times be so severe that a person with the disorder may withdraw from society so as to avoid the distress and turmoil that could come from interacting in the outside world. Medications to alleviate unpleasant symptoms are available, however, it is crucial that a person diagnosed with schizophrenia remain medication compliant and have a good support system in place to assist in maintaining healthy functioning.
With initial onset occurring in a person’s late teens to mid-thirties, it is estimated that 1% of the population is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Men and women are reported as being equally diagnosed with the disorder. In terms of onset, it is uncommon to experience the initial onset over the age of forty-five.
Causes and risk factors for schizophrenia
There is not any one simple factor that directly causes an individual to develop schizophrenia, but rather it is believed to be a number of complex factors that contribute to the onset of the illness. Below are some of the most commonly cited factors that could lead to the development of schizophrenia:
Genetic: Many experts believe that schizophrenia has strong genetic ties and that it is a disorder that can run in families. Those with an immediate family member suffering from the disorder represent 10% of people with a schizophrenia diagnosis.
Physical: Increased or decreased amounts dopamine and serotonin, which are two of the chemicals in the brain that are responsible for managing one’s mood, can bring about the symptoms associated with schizophrenia.
Environmental: Exposure to environmental influences while in utero is believed to be a major factor in determining whether or not a person will develop schizophrenia. Scientists have found that malnutrition and exposure to viruses before birth could render a person more susceptible to developing the disease. Research has also shown that complications during birth could also lead to the onset of schizophrenia later in life.
- Family history of schizophrenia
- Family history of other mental health disorders
- Having a father who is of advanced age
- Prenatal malnutrition
- Prenatal exposure to viruses
- Taking mood-altering substances
- Having a pre-existing autoimmune disease
- Having a pre-existing mental disorder(s)
Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia
Sometimes appearing suddenly and without warning, a person’s initial schizophrenic episode typically presents with subtle warning signs before becoming severe. The symptoms of the disorder vary and are broken into three subsets:
Positive symptoms: Positive symptoms are symptoms that add to a person’s behavior, meaning that they are things that an individual who is not suffering from schizophrenia would not normally exhibit. Examples of positive symptoms include:
- Disorganized behaviors
- Disorganized speech
Negative symptoms: Negative symptoms are symptoms that take away from a person’s behavior, and are actions that a person without schizophrenia would not normally exhibit. These symptoms include:
- Flat affect
- Loss of interest or enthusiasm
- Diminished personal hygiene
- Inability to speak
- Inability to concentrate
Cognitive symptoms: There are a number of cognitive deficits that can occur as a result of having schizophrenia. These symptoms include:
- Inability to focus attention
- Problems with memory
- Impaired executive functioning
Effects of schizophrenia
Should a person with schizophrenia go without treatment, several areas of his or her life can be adversely impacted. Depending on the severity of the symptoms experienced, the following outcomes could occur:
- Decrease in number and quality of interpersonal relationships
- Lack of employment
- Substance abuse problems
- Increased paranoia
- Extreme phobias
- High levels of anxiety
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
Schizophrenia and co-occurring disorders
Substance abuse disorders are some of the most common co-occurring disorders for someone that has a schizophrenia diagnosis. Especially in those who are without treatment for their symptoms, drugs and alcohol are often used as a way to improve mood so as to escape from the negative side effects of schizophrenia. In addition to substance abuse disorders, the following are some other co-occurring disorders that can be present alongside schizophrenia:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Paranoid personality disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Schizotypal disorder