By Sidra Maroof
Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that is characterized by a wide range of unusual behaviors: hearing voices (hallucinations) and distorted or false perception, often bizarre beliefs. They are unable to distinguish between reality and imaginative events. These unusual experiences seem real to the person whereas others assume that the person is lost in their own world. Owing to the signs of schizophrenia, a person with the illness is likely to interpret reality in a way that seems abnormal to others.
They may believe that others are trying to control them or harm them and may feel compelled to act in ways to protect themselves that appear inexplicable to others – for instance, keeping all doors and windows closed to protect the family from the neighbors’ attempts to kill or harm them. Persons with schizophrenia are not aware of the changes in their behavior. They may not accept that they are behaving differently. This is because for them, the lines between external and internal reality are blurred and they are unable to differentiate between the two. This lack of insight makes them withdraw from family and friends and refuse medical support.
Symptoms of schizophrenia: A person with schizophrenia is not likely to behave strangely all the time. The symptoms can be unpredictable in when they appear and disappear, and the intensity of the unusual experience fluctuates. The most common symptoms are: Hallucinations: Seeing or hearing people or things that do not exist. The person may also have the experience of tasting, touching, or smelling something that isn’t there. Most people also report they hear voices speaking to them, commanding, or abusing them. Delusions: These are beliefs that can persist even after they have been proved to be false or unreasonable. Some people believe that someone they know is trying to control them or poison them; some may believe that someone is communicating with them through a secret code on television.
The person may feel everyone is talking about him/her and maybe very suspicious all the time. In rare cases, the person may believe that he or she is a celebrity or a historical figure. Disorganized thinking: Sometimes, the person is unable to think clearly. Their talk appears illogical, irrelevant, or disconnected and this makes no logical sense to people around them. The person may stop abruptly before finishing a sentence, give irrelevant answers to questions, or occasionally they make up their own nonsensical words. The symptoms listed so far are referred to as ‘positive symptoms. ‘Cognitive problems: The person’s impaired thinking makes it difficult for them to focus on simple tasks for longer durations. They have trouble paying attention to what other people are saying and may forget even to do simple routine tasks which most people take for granted.
This usually results in their poor performance at studies or at work. This problem is seen in the early stages of illness, but family and friends may fail to identify the problem due to lack of awareness about the illness. Disruption of normal behavior: The person may tend to avoid spending time with others, instead they prefer being alone. They speak in a flat monotonous tone, often in monosyllables, and their facial expressions are mask-like, displaying little or no emotion. Several types of schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenia. Hebephrenic schizophrenia. Catatonic schizophrenia. Undifferentiated schizophrenia. Residual schizophrenia. Simple schizophrenia.
Unspecified schizophrenia. Treatment – Schizophrenia . Schizophrenia is usually treated with an individually tailored combination of talking therapy and medicine. Most people with schizophrenia are treated by community mental health teams (CMHTs).The goal of the CMHT is to provide day-to-day support and treatment while ensuring you have as much independence as possible. A CMHT can be made up of and provide access to: social workers community mental health nurses – who have specialist training in mental health conditions occupational therapists pharmacists counselors and psychotherapists psychologists and psychiatrists – the psychiatrist is usually the senior clinician in the team.