It’s not all in your head: Battling Schizophrenia | BY ELISHA PEJI

“There were some things in my past that I remember that turned out not to have been real, so it took a while to figure out what reality is. I would have sensory experiences that weren’t brought about by any stimuli. I would hear voices and people talking to me. I would see people, but they weren’t actually there. No one could corroborate my sensory experiences.” — RJ*, CNN Philippines interview

“Believing something existed and then finding out it didn’t was like reaching the top of the stairs and thinking there was one more step.” — Francesca Zappia, Made You Up

Over 40 per cent of Filipino patients who sought professional psychological help have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Still, despite being one of the most prevalent mental health disorders, little is known and understood about it as, like most mental health disorders, schizophrenia is hard to spot and, therefore, typically diagnosed a little too late.

Rarely ever a straightforward condition, schizophrenia has five main subtypes, all of which manifests through different symptoms that typically fall into three different categories.

WHAT IS SCHIZOPHRENIA?

Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects a person’s way of thinking, behaving and feeling. People who have this disorder may not be able to tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t, leaving them feeling like they have lost touch with reality. 

The disorder can manifest as early as 16 to 30 years old. Children can also have schizophrenia, though cases like this are rare.

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WHAT ARE THE FIVE SUBTYPES OF SCHIZOPHRENIA?

  • Catatonic schizophrenia involves having rigid, peculiar posture and speechlessness.
  • Paranoid schizophrenia involves having delusions and hallucinations that follow a certain theme. 
  • Disorganized schizophrenia involves disorganized speech and behavior. 
  • Undifferentiated schizophrenia is symptomatic, but it can’t be classified into the other subtypes. 
  • Residual schizophrenia involves the absence of positive symptoms; however, the negative symptoms are still present.

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WHAT ARE THE THREE CATEGORIES OF SCHIZOPHRENIA’S SYMPTOMS?

  • Positive symptoms are psychotic behaviors that are not normally seen in healthy people. People who experience this type of symptoms often feel like they have lost touch with reality. Positive symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, unusual and dysfunctional ways of thinking, and agitated body movements.
  • Negative symptoms are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. These include reduced facial expressions, reduced expression through voice tones, reduced feelings of pleasure, difficulty in starting and committing to activities and reduced speaking.
  • Cognitive symptoms are generally considered more subtle. These may include changes in memories, the inability to interpret new information, the inability to make decisions and trouble focusing.

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF SCHIZOPHRENIA?

Schizophrenia might be genetic, although not all people with schizophrenia have schizophrenic family members. The disorder may also come from environmental factors such as exposure to viruses, malnutrition before birth, problems during birth and psychosocial factors.

It can also be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. If one’s brain lacks or has too much of dopamine and glutamate, it may contribute to the manifestation of schizophrenia. 

Brain development before birth may also be a cause since the brain goes through various changes during puberty, which can trigger psychotic symptoms.

HOW CAN THIS BE TREATED?

Antipsychotics are medications that can help treat schizophrenia. They often come in pill or liquid form or taken through injections. Antipsychotic medications are usually taken daily. Common side effects, which typically go away after a few days, include dry mouth, weight gain and sleepiness. 

Schizophrenic patients may also undergo psychosocial treatment to supplement the medications. These treatment helps the patients face the challenges that come with schizophrenia, allowing them to go on with their daily life and pursue their life goals. Patients who go through these psychosocial treatments regularly are less likely to be hospitalized and rarely suffer relapses. 

Coordinated special care is a combination of medication, psychosocial therapies, case management, and family involvement. It also supports education and employment services. This aims to reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life of patients. 

SOMEONE I KNOW HAS SCHIZOPHRENIA. WHAT DO I DO TO HELP THEM?

All you have to do is love and care for this person. Having schizophrenia isn’t easy, and you should acknowledge that and be patient with them. Encourage them to get the treatment they need. Remember that the hallucinations of schizophrenic people feel real to them. Never ever tolerate dangerous and inappropriate behavior; having a mental disorder does not give them the excuse to do bad things. 

Always remember that these people are still human. When they ask for help, don’t turn your back on them. Love them for who they are.

*Name was not disclosed


References:

 

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