Taking care of our mental health is key to overall well-being, and remaining aware of the signs of any disorders is incredibly important. One such condition that benefits from early recognition is schizophrenia.
We can think of this illness as a puzzle, with the pieces affecting thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Detecting it early is similar to solving that puzzle faster, paving the way for personalised treatment plans, a brighter future, and promoting positive outcomes for individuals affected by this condition.
What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a severe and chronic mental health disorder characterised by disturbances in thoughts, perceptions, emotions, language, and behaviours. It affects a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions, and relate to others. Its chronic nature often poses significant challenges to the affected individual’s ability to lead a fulfilling and functional life.
What Is The Cause Of Schizophrenia?
According to the NHS, the exact cause of schizophrenia is not fully known, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors.
While some individuals may have a predisposition to schizophrenia due to its familial tendencies, it’s crucial to note that no single gene is believed to bear full responsibility for this disorder. Instead, the likelihood of vulnerability seems to be linked to diverse combinations of genes. However, having them does not automatically mean one will develop schizophrenia.
Neurotransmitters, the messengers between brain cells, are another potential puzzle. In the context of schizophrenia, there’s a belief that individuals with this condition may have varying levels of specific neurotransmitters in their brains. Medications that assist in reducing the levels of certain neurotransmitters, like dopamine, have shown to be beneficial in managing schizophrenia symptoms for some individuals.
This suggests that neurotransmitters probably play a role in the complex processes linked to the development of schizophrenia.
Scientists have noticed differences in how the brains of individuals with schizophrenia develop, pointing to subtle structural variations. It’s worth mentioning that not everyone with schizophrenia shows these changes, and they can also be found in people without a mental illness. Nonetheless, these discoveries suggest that there might be some level of irregularities in the structure of the brain associated with schizophrenia.
The use of certain substances, such as cannabis or cocaine may heighten the risk of developing conditions like schizophrenia. However, it’s uncertain whether drug use directly triggers the symptoms or if individuals predisposed to the condition are more likely to engage in substance use. Notably, for those who have experienced previous episodes of psychosis or schizophrenia, drug use can potentially lead to relapses or hinder symptom improvement.
Recent studies suggest that people who develop schizophrenia may have encountered challenges before and during their birth, including factors like low birth weight, premature labour, and insufficient oxygen during delivery. These experiences could potentially exert a subtle influence on brain development. Exploring these connections opens up intriguing avenues for understanding the complex interplay between early life events and the onset of schizophrenia.
Stress stands out as a significant psychological trigger, with life events like job loss, housing changes or divorce being notable contributors. It’s important to clarify that while these experiences, albeit stressful, don’t directly cause schizophrenia – they can act as triggers for its development in individuals already predisposed to the condition.
Common Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Positive and negative symptoms are the two main categories used to understand the manifestations of schizophrenia.
Positive symptoms encompass noticeable changes in behaviour or thoughts, such as experiencing hallucinations or delusions. These aspects highlight distinct alterations from a person’s usual patterns of functioning.
These involve perceiving things that are not actually present. Auditory hallucinations (hearing voices) are the most common, but visual hallucinations can also occur.
Example: Emily hears voices in her head, commenting on her actions and criticising her every move. These voices are not external; they are not coming from any actual person in her environment. Despite knowing that others don’t hear these voices, she cannot make them stop, and they persist throughout her day.
These are false beliefs that are resistant to reasoning or contrary evidence. Delusions can take various forms, such as paranoid delusions (believing others are plotting against the person), grandiose delusions (having an exaggerated sense of self-importance), or bizarre delusions (holding beliefs that are highly implausible).
Example: Adam is convinced that he has a microchip implanted in his brain that allows others to control his thoughts. Despite the implausibility of this belief, he is completely convinced that it is true.
This refers to thought processes that are disjointed or illogical. People with schizophrenia may have difficulty organising their thoughts, and their speech may be incoherent or difficult to follow.
Example: During a conversation, Alex jumps from topic to topic without any clear connection between ideas. His speech may be difficult for others to follow as he rapidly moves from one unrelated thought to another.
This can manifest in various ways, including agitation, unpredictable movements, or catatonia (lack of movement or response to the environment). Individuals with schizophrenia may also exhibit increased motor activity, restlessness, or nervous energy.
Example: Michael constantly fidgets, taps his feet, and has a strong urge to keep moving. Even in situations where it would be appropriate to stay still, he finds it difficult to control this restlessness.
Negative symptoms involve individuals seeming to withdraw from the world around them. This may manifest as a lack of interest in everyday social interactions, coupled with an appearance of emotional flatness and disengagement.
It involves a decreased ability to experience pleasure or interest in activities that were previously enjoyable. Individuals may lose interest in hobbies, social interactions, or other once-enjoyable experiences.
Example: Sarah used to love playing the piano, spending hours lost in the joy of creating music. However, since the onset of her schizophrenia, she has lost interest in playing and no longer finds pleasure in the activity.
This symptom refers to a lack of motivation to initiate and sustain purposeful activities. This can lead to neglect of personal hygiene, difficulty completing tasks, and a general withdrawal from daily responsibilities.
Example: John used to be a meticulous planner, always setting goals and working toward them. However, he has become increasingly unmotivated. His once-ambitious plans to pursue a career have been abandoned, and he struggles to initiate even basic daily tasks.
Individuals may isolate themselves from social interactions and relationships. They may find it challenging to engage in and maintain friendships or participate in social activities.
Example: Emily was once the life of the party, always surrounded by friends and actively participating in social events. However, she has gradually withdrawn from social interactions. She now prefers to spend most of her time alone, avoiding gatherings and isolating herself from friends and family. Phone calls and messages go unanswered as she struggles to engage in conversations.
Cognitive deficits in schizophrenia can include difficulties with memory, problem-solving, and executive functions. This can affect a person’s ability to plan and organise daily activities.
Example: Mark, who was once known for his sharp memory and problem-solving skills, now faces cognitive challenges due to schizophrenia. He frequently forgets appointments and important dates, has difficulty concentrating on tasks, and struggles with simple problem-solving situations.
It’s crucial to approach those experiencing these symptoms with empathy and to encourage seeking professional help. A compassionate and understanding attitude can contribute significantly to their well-being.
Getting Tested For Schizophrenia
If you or someone you know is struggling with symptoms of schizophrenia, seeking the guidance of mental health professionals is important for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Qualified people like psychiatrists or psychologists are able to conduct thorough assessments, ensuring an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. That said, it’s essential to understand that self-diagnosis or relying on online tests is not a substitute for professional assessment. Mental health conditions can be complex, and accurate diagnosis requires a thorough evaluation by a qualified healthcare provider.
If You Need Help
At Manor House, we prioritise your wellbeing and strive to create a supportive environment for individuals seeking help. Whether you’re exploring options for short- or long-term care within a nursing home, our team is committed to delivering high-quality, personalised services to help individual’s living with schizophrenia.
Contact us today to discuss how we can assist you or your loved one in achieving the best possible quality of life.