Schizophrenia is a kind of mental illness that affects how the brain works. People with schizophrenia experience psychosis, which means that they can have serious problems regarding thinking clearly, emotions, and knowing what is real and what is not.
This can involve hearing or seeing things that are not there (hallucinations), and having very strange beliefs that are abnormal or not true (delusions).
Suffering from psychosis often makes a person want to stay away from other people. They may have problems regarding the understanding of other people’s emotions, and may feel depressed or irritable.
Other illnesses similar to schizophrenia involve schizoaffective disorder and schizophreniform disorder. While there is still no cure for schizophrenia, it can be treated effectively with medication and psychological treatment.
Suicide is one of the major causes of death for people with schizophrenia. This is mainly because they can experience severe depression, especially in the early stages of the illness. Treatment focusses to overcome depression and keep the person safe.
Causes of Schizophrenia
The causes of schizophrenia are not yet fully understood.
Some things that make it more likely to occur are:
- having particular genes
- physical injuries to the brain
- traumatic experiences
- Using drugs such as cannabis
People with a parent, brother or sister who has schizophrenia have a higher chance of developing schizophrenia. However, most people who have a family member with schizophrenia will not develop the illness themselves.
Diagnosis of Schizophrenia
Psychiatrists diagnose schizophrenia based on a person’s symptoms and behavior. They will only make a diagnosis after they have spent time with the person, carefully collected information and considered other possible causes.
Getting the correct diagnosis can be difficult and take time. Having hallucinations or delusions does not mean a person definitely has schizophrenia. Some of the different medical conditions and mental illnesses can cause similar symptoms.
There is no test for schizophrenia and no special sign that proves someone has it. Tests such as brain scans are sometimes needed, to make sure the symptoms are not caused by other brain problems or medical conditions.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Symptoms are different for different people and commonly include:
- seeing or hearing things that are not real (hallucinations)
- having very strange beliefs (delusions)
- abnormal thinking and speech
- having problems thinking clearly
- unable to make decisions and having trouble making plans
- having trouble interpreting other people’s emotions and motives
- Suicidal thoughts
Treatment of Schizophrenia
One of the best treatments available for schizophrenia is a combination of medication, psychological treatment and community support.