Schizophrenia is a serious, long term mental illness in which people interpret reality abnormally or they may not be able to differentiate between their own thoughts from reality. It affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves which can cause distress to themselves, their families or friends.
The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. A combination of the following factors may lead to the condition:
- Environmental factors
- Differences in brain structure and function
- Stressful or emotional life event
Symptoms of schizophrenia vary depending on the type and severity. Some of the symptoms include:
- Confused thoughts
- Reduced motivation
- Reduced or disorganised speech
- Suicidal thoughts
- Social withdrawal
- Difficulty to focus on or do tasks
- Lack of response
- Thought disorder
- Diminished feelings of pleasure
- Difficulty in planning
- Difficulty in decision making
- Flat affect (not showing the usual signs of emotion such as smiling, frowning, raising voice etc)
- Problems in attention, concentration, memory
Diagnosis of schizophrenia involves:
- Review of signs and symptoms
- Medical history
- Physical examination
- Tests to rule out other health conditions
- Psychiatric evaluation
- DSM-5 (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – fifth edition) criteria for schizophrenia may be used by a psychologist or your mental health professional.
There is no exact way to prevent schizophrenia. Steps that help in preventing relapse or keeping the condition from worsening are:
- Follow treatment plans strictly
- Avoid caffeines, alcohols and drugs
- Have a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Manage stress
- Join a support group
- Stay active.
Schizophrenia requires lifelong treatment. Treatment measures include:
- Medication: antipsychotic drugs are used in the treatment.
- Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: a type of psychotherapy used in the treatment of mental illnesses which helps to turn your negative thoughts to positive ones.
- Electroconvulsive therapy: a procedure used in the treatment of psychiatric conditions which involves passing small electric currents through the brain
- Psychosocial interventions such as social skill training and family therapy are being widely used in the treatment of schizophrenia.
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