While it is a relief that our society has evolved from the demystification of mental illnesses rooting from various mythologies, it is still not very uncommon to note a stigmatization of mental illnesses till date. And therefore, in order to overcome hesitation in reaching out for help it is important to increase our knowledge about this prevalent psychiatric condition in order to ensure a more sensitized approach towards mental health in the future.
Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder in which the individual seems to be behaving in a manner that is difficult to comprehend within the real world. Further, such an individual is typically not aware of his or her own unusual behavior. It is a condition that marks the diagnostic category of psychosis, in which the symptoms typically lead to a significant interference in the person?s ability to comprehend and respond to the world in a normal or expected manner.
Schizophrenia and the psychotic spectrum of disorders is characterized by the presence of hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking (which is manifested in the individual?s speech), grossly disorganized or abnormal motor behavior, and other negative symptoms like a lack of motivation or reduced emotional expressions. Hallucinations are the person?s sensations which are very vivid, but without the actual presence of a stimulus. They are most commonly auditory or visual, but can also be olfactory, tactile and even gustatory at times. A delusion is an individual?s false belief, which is firmly held and persist despite the presence of any contradictory evidence. Such delusions could be believing that others are conspiring or plotting against the individual, a belief that external events or phenomena are being targeted at the individual, or believing that the person is a superior power, etc.
Individuals with schizophrenia typically speak incoherently, and they might not be able to recognize the fact that others around them cannot comprehend what they are saying. Such a disorganized speech could manifest itself in various forms of formal thought disorders, including rapidly shifting from one idea to another, random stream of seemingly unconnected words, making up new words, etc. Finally, disorganized behavior is behavior which is so unfocused and disconnected from a goal that the person cannot successfully accomplish a basic task, or the behavior which is inappropriate in a particular situation. It could include laughing inappropriately to a relatively serious matter, or sexually inappropriate behavior being exhibited in front of others, or being unable to dress oneself appropriately. Negative symptoms include a lack of or diminished emotional expression, often robotically, responding slowly or minimally to questions, and difficulty in initiating or following through with activities.
Identifying Signs and Symptoms
In consideration of mental health being shrouded in myths, it is important for us to be able to recognize some of the identifying signs of schizophrenia:
- Sudden suspiciousness or mistrust
- Bizarre or inappropriate behaviour
- Irrational angry or aggressive behavior
- Hearing or seeing something that isn?t there
- A constant feeling of being watched
- Lack of motivation
- Unusual body positioning
- Preference to stay aloof
- Change in personality
- Decline in academic or work performance
- Significant interference in social and occupational functioning
- Neglect of self-care
Treatment and Seeking Help
The role of professional help for the management of schizophrenia is irreplaceable. Pharmacological approaches to treatment are the evidence-based treatment paradigms which regulate the levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain. In addition, psychological support can be beneficial in helping not just the individual to lead a meaningful life, but can also help the family members and caregivers to learn to manage and cope with the condition better. Moreover, in some cases, especially those with a poor prognosis, psychosocial rehabilitation is very beneficial, as it can help the person build on skills necessary for employment, socializing, problem solving and stress management.