Schizophrenia, as defined by the National Institute of Mental Health, is “a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality. Although schizophrenia is not as common as other mental disorders, the symptoms can be very disabling.”
A person with schizophrenia can show a wide arrange of symptoms such as:
- Thought disorders (unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking)
- Movement disorders
- Flat affect
- Reduced feelings of pleasure in everyday life
- An inability to understand information and use it to make decisions
- Trouble focusing or paying attention
The cause for schizophrenia is highly debated and still much is unclear about the mental illness. However, research has shown that schizophrenia is highly hereditary. Meaning that having a close family member with schizophrenia can put you at a higher risk of developing the mental illness. Even though, this is not always the case, it is important to screen for symptoms as soon as possible. Another possible cause for schizophrenia is a chemical imbalance in the brain. The chemical imbalance can cause in how stimuli is registered and can lead to an intolerance of certain lights, sounds and atmosphere; which ultimately can cause hallucinations and delusions.
Early warning signs of schizophrenia, as provided by Mental Health America, include, but are not limited to:
- Hearing or seeing something that isn’t there
- A constant feeling of being watched
- Peculiar or nonsensical way of speaking or writing
- Strange body positioning
- Feeling indifferent to very important situations
- Deterioration of academic or work performance
- A change in personal hygiene and appearance
- A change in personality
- Increasing withdrawal from social situations
- Irrational, angry or fearful response to loved ones
- Inability to sleep or concentrate
- Inappropriate or bizarre behavior
- Extreme preoccupation with religion or the occult
One of the most prevalent symptoms of schizophrenia is psychosis which involves losing touch with reality. Mental Health America offers a screening tool that may help pinpoint early signs of psychosis. This screening tool is no way a diagnostic test and does not serve to diagnose anyone with schizophrenia, psychosis or any other mental disorder.
Schizophrenia can be a severe and debilitating disorder. However, there are always options for treatment and recovery. I invite you to visit Mental Health America for more information on treatment, causes and symptoms. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) also offers great information regarding support and recovery.
Remember that there is always hope. There is always support.
P.S. I offer you an extensive narrative about what it is like to have Schizophrenia titled Runs in the Family by Siddhartha Mukherjee.