Every year, Schizophrenia affects more than 2.2 million people in the United States alone. It is an extreme mental disorder which severely affects the way a person thinks, expresses or acts. Schizophrenia patients have serious difficulties in socializing, at work and in relationships. A common belief is that Schizophrenia is a split of multiple personality. However, there is no reality behind that as schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder in which a person cannot tell the different between the reality and imagination. Sadly, there is no full cure for this disorder but it can be controlled to a significant extent with treatments.
It is common to get curios to know the actual cause of schizophrenia, especially upon seeing or interacting with a schizophrenia patient. However, the doctors do not know the exact cause of Schizophrenia as of now. However, it is thought that Schizophrenia has something to do with genetic mutation. For example, if someone in their family has Schizophrenia, they have up to 40% more chances of having Schizophrenia as well.
Genes are not the only thing that are thought to cause Schizophrenia. Doctors believe that being exposed to specific kind of viral infections also increase the chances. Besides that, if pregnant mothers don’t get enough nutrition during the first 6 months, the baby will be at a higher risk of Schizophrenia. However, all of these are theories presented by the doctors and have not yet been conclusively proven by any one.
Schizophrenia acts differently on everyone and may show different symptoms as well. Furthermore, the symptoms may come and go without showing any pattern. Schizophrenia patients usually start to show the symptoms from the age of 16 to 30. They start gradually before reaching their peak when the disorder is at its strongest. Then the patient starts to show symptoms like they cannot even differentiate between imagination and reality. Moreover, the patients do not even know that they have a disorder until a doctor or a counselor tells them.
Being delusional is also a strong symptom of Schizophrenia. People with Schizophrenia think that someone is trying to manipulate their mind or that FBI is going to catch and such things. At a later stage of Schizophrenia, the patients might not even put the words together and lack the ability to pay attention to anything. They may also stop taking care of themselves and lost interest in personal hygiene and grooming etc. The patients usually stop showing any emotions when someone talks to them and lack the ability to organize things.
Anyone who has a relative or a sibling with Schizophrenia wants them to get better quickly. Know that medication is a key but it does not guarantee a full cure. There are other methods such as psychotherapy and social skills training to help them get back to normal life. However, since the Schizophrenia patients see hallucinations, they may not want to take the medicines. Therefore, it is the duty of their loved ones to keep an eye on them to ensure that the get their medicines on time.
As the word suggests, these are the kind of medicines that the doctors prescribe in most of the Schizophrenia cases. There are several chemicals in our brain and antipsychotics work on two of them: serotonin and dopamine, hence improving the delusions and similar symptoms. Sad but true, the schizophrenia patients usually have to take the medicines all their life. The antipsychotics are the kind of drugs which can be taken in the form of pills, injections and orally.
If you think that the patient is getting problems in taking their medicine regularly, you can talk to the doctor. The doctor may, if they seem fit, try long-acting injectable antipsychotic shot once a month of fortnightly. This is equivalent to taking a pill daily. However, it is up to the doctor to see which medication is best, depending upon the symptoms and condition of the patient.
Medication and support
Because of the severity and symptoms of Schizophrenia, sticking to a medication plan might be difficult. This is where the support plan steps in. Being their caretaker, you have to learn about this disorder as much as you can and keep their loved ones around them. Also, the patient may feel like getting better quickly right after taking the medicines but it may take up to 6 weeks before the symptoms get better.
There are several types of therapies that are known for making the Schizophrenia patients better. The first is individual psychotherapy in which the counseling specialist or therapist teaches the patient how to control their thoughts. As the therapist gets to know the patient and their symptoms more, he makes progress and teaches them in identifying the different between imagination and reality. Then there is Cognitive behavioral therapy in which the patient learns to change their thinking and behavior. The patient also learns to control the hallucinations and ‘voices’ in their head.
Then there therapies such as social skills training, family education and self-help groups. All of the therapies teach the patient to improve the communication with their loved ones and improve their relationships. Self-help groups are of great use in some cases where the patient participates in community care and outreach programs. Interaction with other people with Schizophrenia and attending sessions helps them greatly in getting better.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
This is an extreme measure which is only used by the doctors in critical conditions. Usually used to treat depression and relevant conditions, doctors may use it to treat Schizophrenia. It is one of the quickest and most effective ways to treat Schizophrenia patients. It involves the patient getting anesthesia and a drug to relax their muscles. Electrodes are placed on the head of the patients and currents are passed through it for a short period of time. This is done to give brief seizure in the brain and it ultimately improves the condition by effecting a syndrome called catatonia.