Today’s article will focus on schizophrenia, which is classified as a chronic brain disorder, where those affected by it tend to interpret life differently from normal people, i.e., they think, feel and behave differently, and ultimately lose touch with the real world.
One schizophrenic described the disorder as having 5 tv sets turned on simultaneously at full volume, tuned into 5 different channels and trying to follow the story of just one show.
The distress and anguish caused by this mental disease does not only affect the individual, but the whole family and people who are close to the individual, as schizophrenics may suffer from a combination of hallucinations and extremely disordered thinking and exhibit unusual behaviour that can disrupt daily life around themselves and those close to them.
An article which appeared in the Malaysian Health Ministry website in 2012 by Dr Nasir Abd Kadir, states that schizophrenia usually starts when youths enter adulthood. The disorder affects roughly 1 per cent of the population per country.
What causes schizophrenia?
Researches are unable to pinpoint the exact cause of schizophrenia, but they believe a combination of brain chemistry, genetics (family history of schizophrenia) and environmental issues contribute to this disorder.
Common symptoms of Schizophrenia:
Schizophrenia is a cognitive (thinking) disorder involving behaviour and emotions. Symptoms will vary from each individual, but the main symptoms found are hallucinations, delusions and disorganized speech which are signs of an impaired ability to function as a normal person.
- Hallucinations – seeing or hearing things that don’t exist, e.g., hearing voices that nobody else can hear.
- Delusions – beliefs that are not based on reality, e.g., a schizophrenic may think a certain person is in love with him/her, or a bad incident is going to happen.
- Abnormal behaviour – unfocused, childishness, sudden outbreaks of agitation, being non-cooperative to instructions, unusual posture, excessive movement.
- Signs of negativity – lack of eye contact, emotion, personal hygiene, withdrawal from daily activities.
Symptoms can start appearing in men in their mid-20s, and in women in their late 20s. They can vary and worsen or improve over time. People in the 40s age group rarely get schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia in teenagers display similar symptoms, but may be more difficult to diagnose, especially when teenagers hit puberty as the symptoms are quite similar to this mental disorder, i.e.,
- drop in school grades
- lack of motivation
- difficulty sleeping
- withdrawal from family and close friends
For teenagers, it is also a time of discovery and experimentation where substance abuse easily comes in with similar symptoms. Medical research shows teenagers are more likely to suffer from visual hallucinations normally related to substance abuse, rather than delusions.
People suffering from schizophrenia can also suffer pain, get seizures, and the disease may even advance to multiple sclerosis. As it is a mental disorder, schizophrenics lack the ability to understand this is a serious problem that requires medical attention, and it is often up to family members or close friends to intervene and get help.
One crucial point to highlight is that it is common for schizophrenics to have suicidal thoughts. There may be a need for family or close friends to arrange for immediate medical attention or intervention if signs of this type of situation show.
Complications arising from schizophrenia:
If left untreated, schizophrenics may experience various complications in life which include:
- Depression and isolation
- Inability to remain employed or attend school
- Substance abuse – alcohol and drugs
- Suicidal thoughts and attempts
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Medical disorders – pain, seizures
- Aggressive behavior
These are some of the common signs of schizophrenia. Please note: this article is only intended to give a general guideline in schizophrenia, and should in no way be taken as medical advice.
If you know of somebody displaying symptoms of schizophrenia, do your best to seek medical attention for the person as he/she will not be able to understand this is a serious problem. A qualified medical practitioner will be able to observe a patient’s behaviour and whether to refer the patient to a mental health professional (psychiatrist) for further consultation and proper treatment according to each individual.
29th June 19:10