The Reality Behind Schizophrenia

By: Emma Okie

Schizophrenia is a very complex condition and symptoms are not the same for everyone. Sufferers of this psychological disorder tend to have hallucinations and delusions of hearing voices, have an overwhelming sense of paranoia as if someone is constantly watching them, strange body positioning, or even changes in personality.

Symptoms associated with schizophrenia can be positive, negative, or cognitive. “Positive” symptoms are necessarily good but are psychotic behaviors that are “added” to someone’s way of living. This is where one may lose touch with reality through delusions, hallucinations, unusual and dysfunctional ways of thinking, along with agitated body movements.

Negative symptoms are those that disrupt normal emotions and behaviors such as a decrease in expression or a decrease in beginning or sustaining activities. Cognitive symptoms are subtle for some and severe for others. Here, a patient has poor ability to understand information and make decisions based on that information, trouble focusing and paying attention, and the inability to use information right after learning it.

There are several subtypes of schizophrenia. Disorganized schizophrenia results in bizarre, child-like behavior associated with incoherent language, inappropriate emotions, disorganized motor behavior, and hallucinations/delusions.

Catatonic schizophrenia causes an individual to become motionless for a long period of time and there is usually a severe disturbance in motor activity. There are three extremes that are associated with this version of schizophrenia: extreme one causes the individual to become immobile, mute, and impassive; extreme two causes excessive excitement along with talking and/or shouting constantly; extreme three is where one will act in a robot-like fashion to the point where they do not even seem human anymore.

A third type of schizophrenia is paranoid which results in complex delusions and an individual seeming to be normal but easily becomes aggressive. The last type of schizophrenia is undifferentiated, which is the hardest type to diagnose. An individual will show the negative symptoms of schizophrenia without having any history of hallucinations, delusions, psychotic episodes, etc.

Exact causes of schizophrenia are still unknown, but could be genetic, a chemical imbalance in the brain’s chemistry, or due to environmental factors such as exposure to viruses, malnutrition before birth, problems during birth, or early psychological factors. There is also not a cure for this disorder, but long-term therapy and hospitalization have helped.

Antipsychotic medications are a popular treatment to suppress symptoms of schizophrenia, but do not always work. Typical antipsychotics are first generation medications that can cause significant neurological side effects. These types of medications include chlorpromazine, fluphenazine, haloperidol, and perphenazine. Medications like these are cheaper and the better option when looking into long-term treatment. Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications such as tranquilizers are also prescribed to schizophrenic patients to suppress some symptoms.

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