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Schizophrenia - Symptom, Treatment And Causes

Last Updated: Jun 29, 2021

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental disease that generally appears in a person in early childhood or late adolescence. This mental disorder is characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and several other cognitive impairments. Schizophrenia can be a lifelong struggle for people affected with this disease. People suffering from this mental disorder may hear sounds and voices that are not there in reality.

Some patients suffering from schizophrenia can feel and even convince themselves that others are reading their minds, plotting against them or controlling how they are thinking. Schizophrenic patients often remain withdrawn and feel distressed or even act fanatically at times.

People living with schizophrenic patients often find hard to understand what the patient is talking about. In certain instances schizophrenic patient remains completely still, without taking for days.On other occasions, schizophrenic patients, when they seem to feel fine, may start explaining what they are truly thinking about.It is a very true fact that the effects of this mental disease reach far beyond the patients themselves.

It also affects their friends, families and the society. A sizable proportion of schizophrenic patients have to rely on others for their daily sustenance, since they often become unable to hold any job or take care of themselves. Many schizophrenia patients also resist their treatments as they feel that they are normal, and there is nothing wrong with them.

What are the stages of schizophrenia?

There are three stages of schizophrenia such as the Prodromal stage, psychotic or acute /active stage, and residual or chronic stage. This is a better prognosis for the patient within the first three to five years of this disease.

  • Prodromal Stage: The characteristics of the prodromal stage are a decline in functioning, socially withdrawn irritable, physical complaints, newfound interest in religion.
  • Psychotic or Acute /Active Stage: The characteristics of Psychotic or Acute /Active stage are positive symptoms (delusions, hallucinations, illusions), perceptual disturbances, disordered thought process, neurocognitive impairments are for the active stage. During the acute stage of schizophrenia, a shorter duration of psychosis interfering with ones life is treated with the use of medication.
  • Residual or chronic Stage: there is an episode of psychosis, odd thinking, and behavior, affective blunting or flattening like negative symptoms are observed.

What are the early signs of schizophrenia?

The brain disorder that is creating problems such as misunderstanding between real and unreal, handling emotions, functioning normally, etc, is known as schizophrenia. When a person is in a period of change in emotional, physical, social and behavioral levels, he or she is more susceptible to get affected with schizophrenia.

Social withdrawal, abnormal thinking, inappropriate emotions, hallucinations, delusion and old communications, lack of motivation, with poor eye contact, inability to cry or express joy and to sleep at night, blunted feelings, staying in bed to avoid people, and deterioration and abandonment of personal hygiene are considered as early signs of schizophrenia.

Other signs that also act as indicators for this disease are depression, forgetfulness, irrational statements, sensitivity and irritability when touched by others, dropping out of activities, a sudden shift in basic personality, etc.

What can trigger schizophrenia?

The root cause of Schizophrenia is still unknown by medical researchers. But they suggest that it can be triggered by the amalgamation of physical, genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. In some cases, it can be triggered by a stressful life event followed by a psychotic episode.

Some of the underlying reasons behind schizophrenia are:

  • Genetics:

    Schizophrenia is a mental illness that can run down to your offspring. One genetic, cannot trigger the illness, but a combination of different genetics might make a person more prone to it.

  • Brain abnormalities:

    Even though scientists are still digging to find the relation between brain and mind, some studies show that patients with schizophrenia have slight differences in the structure and functioning of the brain. However, one with brain abnormalities doesn't have to be vulnerable to the disorder.

    The unusual development in the structure of the brain can be developed in a human at the time of birth. Things like low birth weight, lack of oxygen during birth, or premature birth can also lead to rare brain abnormalities.

    Furthermore, patients suffering from schizophrenia often represent an imbalance of dopamine and serotonin in the brain which is also known as level two neurotransmitters.

  • Stressful lifestyle or traumatic events:

    One of the most common reasons associated with schizophrenia is stress. Stressful events like physical, or mental abuse, losing your job, home, or a close one, prolonged and constant depression can trigger or make a person more vulnerable to the development of the disease.

Is Schizophrenia the worst mental illness?

Yes, schizophrenia is known as one of the most critical or fighting mental illnesses seen in the human race. Depending upon the source of development, duration, emotional and hormonal imbalance. It can be categorized into mild to severe cases.

Even though the disorder is fearful, the right treatment and open communication will help a patient to overcome the disorder along with its underlying traumas.

What is the difference between schizophrenia and psychosis?

Psychosis can be described as a typical episode of hallucination and delusions triggered by stressful situations. Psychosis is one of few symptoms that can be seen in a schizophrenic patient. Although a schizophrenic doesn't have to reflect Psychosis.

In short, psychosis can only be seen as a symptom that may lead to schizophrenia, but schizophrenia doesn't need to always show signs of psychotic behavior.

How to diagnose schizophrenia?

A few strategies are utilized to decide the emotional health issue and separate it from the side effects happening because of substance misuse, drug or an ailment. A person first went to medical practitioner then he will conduct MRI or CT scan to diagnose any seizure disorder, metabolic disorder, thyroid dysfunction, brain tumor, etc. and if nothing found related to these all condition then he will refer patients to the specialist like psychiatrists.

The psychological evaluation and complete medical examination are the two common things performed by any psychiatrist to identify schizophrenia. In mental assessment, perception and questions are performed about the thoughts, moods, delusions, hallucinations, substance abuse, and appearance. An individual who is suffering from schizophrenia can be only confirmed when a person has two or more symptoms such as delusion, hallucinations, disorganized speech for at least one month.

Does schizophrenia ever go away?

Yes, with positive reinforcement and medication one can overcome schizophrenia. Since the core development of the illness is still a mystery, there is no specific cure developed to cure the disorder. Here are some of the tips that might help an individual in the healing process:

  • Early detection and treatment:

    Schizophrenia has multiple symptoms and levels. One may or may not notice any difference in themselves, although others may do. So it's important to seek help if any of the signs and symptoms start to show.

  • Communicate:

    Most mental illnesses are associated with pent-up emotions and suppressed feelings that lead to chronic stress and depression. It is important to communicate your feelings and socialize.

    If it's uncomfortable for you to confess in front of their natives, you can always join support groups and centers that not only promote positive reinforcements but also keep them confidential for your safety.

  • Self-care:

    Habits like taking mediation, self-love, and stress management can help the patient to cure schizophrenia. Keep a routine that includes stress-relieving activities, physical exercise, better food choices, and enough sleep.

    With the help of these techniques, one can enjoy life like an emotionally stable or a normal individual. Patients recovered from schizophrenia can also have a stable and healthy relationship, desirable career, and happy life.

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How to diagnose negative symptoms of schizophrenia?

The negative symptoms of schizophrenia generally appear before the confirming symptoms and it may be confused with behaviors of adolescences. A person shows the dull and flat tone of communication, impaired learning, trouble in understanding information, lack of interest in daily life, the appearance of depressed, sadness, tearfulness, etc. are described as negative signs of schizophrenia.

With the observation of these all negative signs, it is easy to differentiate that person is having a problem with his brain workings. Social isolation, lack of motivation and concentration, difficulties with expressing emotions, inability to enjoy pleasure, extreme tiredness, difficulty with abstract thinking, poverty in conversation especially speech (short a disconnected speech replies to questions, the monotone of speaking) are also negative signs that are absent in patients of schizophrenia. Affective Flattening, Alogia, Avolition, Anhendonia are chronic symptoms of schizophrenia.

What foods are good for schizophrenia?

Food as a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids (Salmon) and glycine (amino acid) are representing the boosting effect of antipsychotic drugs used in schizophrenia. It is advised to maintain blood sugar levels, availability of antioxidants, vitamin levels in the body in brain disorders like schizophrenia.

Fruits like raspberries, apples, pears, help control bad cholesterols that cause this disease, kidney beans, sweet potatoes, lima beans are rich in potassium and packed with fiber and important vitamins required for people with schizophrenia. On the other side, Chicken is considered a good source of niacin and oysters, crab, and lobsters as essential for maintaining zinc levels. Spinach (Folic acid) and Clams (Vitamin B12) are also suggested to fight against this disease.

What foods trigger schizophrenia?

Poor diet choices may not individually trigger schizophrenia, but they might wear off the overall health of the body which eventually makes the body more vulnerable to diseases and disorders. Here are some of the life choices that should be avoided as they can trigger the mental illness:

  • The unbalanced blood sugar level in the blood:

    Consumption of products like complex carbs, alcohol tobacco, stimulant drugs( amphetamines to cocaine), caffeine, refined sugar can affect one's blood sugar level. It has been seen that patients with schizophrenia often show signs of high blood sugar levels.

  • Insufficiency of essential fats and vitamins:

    Brain membranes are made of essential fats that may break due to prolonged stress or Insufficiency. People diagnosed with schizophrenia often show high levels of phospholipase A2 which is responsible for striping off the brain membranes.

    Not only the deficiency but excess of these essential fats can be destructive. Most of the time excess fats consume antioxidants of the body making it toxic and weak. Schizophrenics often show unhealthy levels of oxidation in their frontal cortex.

    Intake of vitamins A, E, and especially C is crucial to develop healthy mental health. Vitamin C helps in the production of adrenaline, which is known as a happy hormone and responsible for regulating balance in the brain.

What vitamins are good for schizophrenia?

The intake of certain vitamins can help in reducing the effect of schizophrenia. Many researchers had found the effectiveness of several forms of vitamin B in the treatment of schizophrenia as well as how the deficiency of vitamin C, E, and D affects this condition.

For example, Vitamin B6 –pyridoxine helps decrease extreme restlessness (akathisia) and involuntary movements in patients of this disease whereas vitamin B3 or niacin had shown a potential action in the management of schizophrenia symptoms. Folic acids or vitamin B9 play an important role in controlling metabolic syndrome along with the reduction of apathy, withdrawal, and inability to display emotions.

What are the home remedies for schizophrenia?

Nature is providing all types of remedies for every disease but the correct one needs to be directed properly. Green cardamom, Holy basil leaves, ginseng, ginko biloba, fish oil, Brahmi, ashwagandha, Chamomile, Indian Gooseberry Licorice powder, carrot, spinach, and kava kava are available natural ingredients that are useful in the treatment of schizophrenia without any side effect.

Other home remedies can include prior notes of when a person experience schizophrenic episodes, developing a routine for comforting mental health, having enough sleep without any stress, eating healthy food and balanced diet, meeting new people, making involvement in surrounding environment, limiting or avoiding drugs and alcohol use performing daily physical activities, etc.

What Doctors say about Schizophenria :

However, with proper treatments schizophrenic patients can also lead a productive life. But they are very few, since most of the schizophrenic patients have to cope with their symptoms throughout their lives.In many cases this mental disorder develops so slowly that the patient doesn’t even get the chance to know it, that they are schizophrenic for many years. Nevertheless, there are also many sufferers of this illness where they have schizophrenic all of a sudden.This disease affects approximately 1% of the global population. Experts on this disease say that this mental malady is probably several illnesses masquerading as one. Many others also say that schizophrenia may be the result of impaired neuronal development in the fetus brain, which later on in their lives emerges as full blown illness.

There are several evidences that suggests that environmental factors and genetic factors both acts together in bringing about this tragic and interminable disease. Which means, that the condition has and congenital inherited element, but it is also significantly triggered by environmental factors upon the patient.People who have no history of schizophrenia in their family, have less than 1% chance of getting affected by this illness, compared to people with a history of schizophrenia among their patients, where the risk is as high as 10%.

Some of the experts on this disease suggest that imbalance of a neurotransmitter known as dopamine, is involved in the onset of this mental disease. However, other neurotransmitters such as serotonin can also be involved in heralding this disease.

What should schizophrenics avoid?

Schizophrenics should avoid situations that are stressful or events that can trigger stress. Situations that develop a certain amount of paranoia into one’s mind should be avoided.

Other than that here are some of the situations that can be avoided or altered from the medication and psychological treatment.:

  • Acceptance:

    First thing is to develop an acceptance of the disorder. It can be hard for an individual to accept a mental illness but it's important for an effective treatment. Often a person living in denial can create situations that can be life-threatening to oneself or others.

  • Avoid isolation:

    It's not necessary that a patient suffering from Schizophrenia cannot be isolated. However, it is important to make the patient feel that their loved ones or their healthcare professionals are available to communicate and support.

  • Avoid degrading lifestyle choices:

    It has been proven that a healthy diet and active life can make a person heal faster. Avoid consumption of tobacco, alcohol, or any other substance which can heighten the symptoms. Also, indulge the patient in an enriched diet and physical exercise which will help your body to regain its hormonal balance.

Can overthinking cause schizophrenia?

In cases where a person is suffering from chronic depression and anxiety issues can result in schizophrenia. Not only the traumatic event but symptoms associated with PTSD post-traumatic stress disorder can also trigger the disorder. One of the main symptoms common between PTSD and schizophrenia is overthinking about the event or stressful situations.

Constant episodes of negative thoughts and memories can exhaust an individual hormonal and nervous system which can also trigger the illness. Apart from physical changes, emotional changes like isolation, apathy, lack of motivation, aggression can also be seen in a person who is overthinking a traumatic event.

For a healthy and happy lifestyle, it is important to avoid overthinking before, during, or after schizophrenia.

What are schizophrenics afraid of?

A patient suffering from schizophrenia doesn't have to develop a sensation of fear. In the case of Paranoid schizophrenia, patients preoccupy themselves with delusions and hallucinations which can be fearful.

Delusions can be defined as the false belief held on inadequate grounds. The delusions can be fearful, aggressive, or depressing depending on a traumatic event or the root cause which triggered the illness. The scientist has divided three types of delusions (which includes fear as a key symptom) into the following categories:

  • Delusion of persecution:

    Patients in this condition believe that they are being held against, threatened, spied on, attacked, deliberately victimized, or any other citation in which one feels tortured. Often delusions like that result in the development of fear or aggression.

  • Delusion of reference:

    Abnormal attachment to any situation or object can lead to the occurrence of delusion of reference. Often the patient reflects this suppressed attachment on another person or object which is further followed by the fear associated with the object or event.

  • Delusion of control:

    Due to prolonged trauma, the sufferer often develops a delusion of being constantly controlled or manipulated by others.

Furthermore, the second part of paranoia schizophrenia is hallucination. Hallucinations can be defined by the perceptions that occur in the absence of external environmental distress. As mentioned earlier, the type of hallucination and its fear is associated with its root cause of occurrence. Some of the examples are:

  • Auditory hallucination: Earshot of voices that are not present in the environment.
  • Tactile hallucination: Unexplainable sensation tingling and burning.
  • Somatic hallucination: Feeling of inheritance of external pathogens in the body.
  • Visual hallucination: Visual episodes of situations and events that are not relatable to the present environment.
  • Gustatory hallucination: Sensation of foul taste or smell coming from consumables.
  • Olfactory hallucination: Sensation of getting poised via smoke.

Delusions and hallucinations don't have to lead to fear, but it is one of the most common symptoms seen in schizophrenics.

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Written ByDr. Arun Sharma MBBS,MS - General Surgery,MCh - Neuro SurgeryNeurology
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