Schizophrenia 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.
The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.
“Positive” symptoms are psychotic behaviors not generally seen in healthy people. People with positive symptoms may “lose touch” with some aspects of reality. Symptoms include:
- Thought disorders (unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking)
- Movement disorders (agitated body movements)
“Negative” symptoms are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. Symptoms include:
- “Flat affect” (reduced expression of emotions via facial expression or voice tone)
- Reduced feelings of pleasure in everyday life
- Difficulty beginning and sustaining activities
- Reduced speaking
For some patients, the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are subtle, but for others, they are more severe. Patients may notice changes in their memory or other aspects of thinking. Symptoms include:
- Poor “executive functioning” (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions)
- Trouble focusing or paying attention
- Problems with “working memory” (the ability to use information immediately after learning it
Prevalence and Age of Onset
Symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30. In rare cases, children have schizophrenia, too.
There are several genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the risk of developing schizophrenia.
Scientists have long known that schizophrenia sometimes runs in families. However, there are many people with schizophrenia who’s family members have no history of the disorder and conversely, many people with one or more family members with the disorder who do not develop it themselves. Scientists believe many different genes may increase the risk of schizophrenia, but no one single gene causes the disorder by itself. It is not yet possible to use genetic information to predict who will develop schizophrenia.
Scientists also think that interactions between genes and aspects of the individual’s environment are necessary for schizophrenia to develop. Environmental factors may involve:
- Exposure to viruses
- Malnutrition before birth
- Problems during birth
- Psychosocial factors
- Different brain chemistry and structure: scientists think that an imbalance in the complex, interrelated chemical reactions of the brain involving the neurotransmitters (substances that brain cells use to communicate with each other) dopamine and glutamate, and possibly others, plays a role in schizophrenia.
Some experts also think problems during brain development before birth may lead to faulty connections. The brain also undergoes major changes during puberty, and these changes could trigger psychotic symptoms in people who are vulnerable due to genetics or brain differences.
Treatments & Support
Because the causes of schizophrenia are still unknown, treatments focus on eliminating the symptoms of the disease. Treatments include:
Antipsychotic medications are usually taken daily in pill or liquid form. Some antipsychotics are injections that are given once or twice a month. Some people have side effects when they start taking medications, but most side effects go away after a few days. Doctors and patients can work together to find the best medication or medication combination, and the right dose.
These treatments are helpful after patients and their doctor find a medication that works. Learning and using coping skills to address the everyday challenges of schizophrenia helps people to pursue their life goals, such as attending school or work. Individuals who participate in regular psychosocial treatment are less likely to have relapses or be hospitalized.
COORDINATED SPECIALTY CARE (CSC)
This treatment model integrates medication, psychosocial therapies, case management, family involvement, and supported education and employment services, all aimed at reducing symptoms and improving quality of life.
A Spiritual Perspective
To a Christian, faith in God’s love and infinite goodness is the foundation of their beliefs and practices and it is this strength of faith that is the key to recovery in schizophrenia.
Since the Garden of Eden, with the knowledge of good and evil, every man has had the potential for evil. The purpose in life is for us to conquer that evil human nature within us, Genesis 4:7, Romans 7:14-25, 8:7. We cannot be servants of two masters, Romans 6:11-18. In Ephesians 4:22-24 we are told to put off the “old man” which is deceitfully corrupted by lust, and instead put on the “new man” which is Christ in us, the hope of glory.