In India, mental illness is either termed as madness or is ignored. Many people who suffer from mental illness themselves are unaware of the fact that they have a certain type of illness. They just ignore the symptoms considering ‘what other people will think of me.’ In fact, we all individually make things even worse for them by labelling them ‘mad’. The surveys done on mental health shows that 1 per cent of the total population has Schizophrenia. To raise awareness, 24th May is marked as World Schizophrenia Day.
So, what is Schizophrenia? What brings on Schizophrenia? What are its symptoms? And what is the treatment? Let us look into it in detail.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder. It can significantly impact how someone acts, thinks, and feels. It interferes with logic and acts in a way which might seem strange to other people. It is a syndrome which means it includes multiple disorders that may have similar symptoms. It is a pause from reality.
Most people confuse it with multiple personality disorder but we must know that it is not.
There are two broad categories by which we can understand the symptoms of schizophrenia:
Positive symptoms: This includes psychotic disorders like delusions and hallucinations.
1) Delusions are the strong beliefs of a person which are not true. These might be the belief that some person or group want to harm you and/or is either controlling you or your thoughts.
The types of delusion are:
a) The delusion of persecution: In this type of delusion, people have false doubts about other people. For example, the patient has a false doubt that his/her relatives want to kill them and take their property. Some patients have false doubt that their family members have mixed poison in my food and want to kill them.
b) The delusion of reference: In this type of delusion, a person, has mistaken thoughts that other people are talking about him. For example, when they are coming out or going somewhere and there are a group of people who are talking among themselves and laughing. While crossing them he/she has negative thoughts and thinks that they are making fun of them.
2) Hallucination is a kind of sensation which is in the mind and not really there in reality. That is when your senses perceive something that isn’t really happening. This includes both auditory and visual sensation. For example, when you and a person experiencing hallucinations are sitting in the same room then he or she may hear some voices which you may not be able to. You must have seen some people talking to themselves, this is mostly because they feel and hear voices talking. Some hear voices from a painting hung on the wall and they start talking to it.
3) Disorganized thinking: In this, there is an impact on the ability to think clearly. It can be seen in the way a person talks.
4) Disorganized behaviour: In this, a person starts acting in an unpredictable way like getting agitated frequently.
5) Disorganised speech: In this, they speak things that are just random jumbling of words and is not understandable. For example, when you talk to them then they will speak things which are not relevant to the conversation.
Negative symptoms: These are the symptoms that are not visible. There is a loss of motivation and difficulty finding pleasure in fun activities. There is a decrease or removal of normal processes. We can see a decrease in emotion or loss of interest in things which they earlier found interesting. For example, the patient will speak very less; they will stop laughing or crying and will stop stepping out of the house. The types of negative symptoms are:
1) Avolition: In this, they lack motivation and stop doing the tasks which have an end goal task. For example, a student who used to study well does not study now.
2) Anhedonia: Lack of experiencing emotions. For example, the patient does not enjoy things which they used to enjoy earlier. They just stay at home and continue lying on the bed.
3) Flat affect: In this, the patient does not feel conventional emotions and have inappropriate responses to situations.
Delusion and hallucination are the most common symptoms found in people with Schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is the cause of chemical imbalance of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. These two chemicals increase in a neuron, which causes schizophrenia. Other factors which cause schizophrenia are:
1) Genetic factor: The genes play a role in developing schizophrenia. If any of the parents have Schizophrenia then there is a 12 per cent chance that it will show some symptoms in child. If one of the twins has schizophrenia then there is a high possibility that other one will also show symptoms.
2) Environmental factors: Environmental factors like stress caused due to death of a family member, financial issues, relationship issues and much more lead to schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is found in people between the ages of 15 to 25 years. But we can also find these symptoms at an early age when the child remains quiet all day long, doesn't interact in school, and does not talk to anyone. They lack emotions.
Whenever you see a person diagnosed with schizophrenia, make sure to take them to a psychiatrist for the treatment that includes:
1)Therapies or counselling: Psychotherapies like cognitive therapy, behavioural therapy, and many more therapies are conducted that teach the patient to manage. It also develops social skills and helps them live a normal life.
2) Medications: Antipsychotic medication is given. It reduces dopamine level in the neuron.
3)The treatment takes time, have patience.
Thus, schizophrenia might stay with a person for the long term. But with the help of medication and therapies, they will learn to live with the diagnosis. In this disorder, self-acceptance is very important. They may feel lazy and may not want to take medications too. But they have to believe in themselves. They have to treat themselves with compassion and understand that they are not alone. And it is you, who need to be beside them to love and listen to them. Help them take their medications on time. They may feel like not putting their burden on others and might push you away but remember to be there for them. It is hard but not impossible to help them lead a meaningful and productive life.
As human beings, we must pay attention to their problems and not be afraid of them. They are not possessed or crazy. We must help them and provide them with the environment where they can grow and live a healthy and happy life.