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The Scattered Thoughts: Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by chronic severe and disabling patterns of thinking including hallucinations, illusions & more. Read here!

Meaning of Schizo is nothing but “Split” and phrenia is “Mind”. It describes a scattered or fragmented pattern of thinking. It is a syndrome wherein all sorts of symptoms that might be associated are found in it and different patients might experience different symptoms.

The disease affects all ethnicities and gender equality and symptoms typically start to occur around ages 16 through 30 and the most common symptoms include hallucinations such as hearing voices that don’t even exist delusions, believing people can control one’s thoughts and their nonsense speaking. 

What schizophrenia feels like?

Schizophrenia is probably one of the most misunderstood mental health conditions. Those who are afflicted by it are often thought to be people who are complete misfits, are violent. However, that is not the case at all with schizophrenics. While the symptoms have been broadly defined, how they will appear in different people differs drastically. Genetics, environment and whether they are taking medication varies from person to person, therefore the symptoms and how they appear to vary as well.

The Scattered Thoughts: Schizophrenia

The Symptoms of Schizophrenia are broadly categorized to make it easy for the diagnosis of different patients. Most human symptoms are versions of a normal physiologic process from any illness. So the three major areas of Schizophrenia disorder –

• Positive Symptoms:

These are the psychotic symptoms like –

Delusions: Delusions are false beliefs that the patient might feel very strongly about, so much so that they do not want to change their mind even if one gives evidence against it. There is all sort of delusions like for e.g.:

A delusion of control, where they think that some outside force or person is having control of their actions.

A delusion of Reference, where someone thinks that insignificant remarks are directed at them, like the Actors, are directly speaking to them by the TV.

Hallucinations: These are any kind of sensation which are actually not present including both visual as well as auditory sensations like hearing voices or commands.

Disorganized behavior: We can say, wearing warm clothes and layering yourself in summer.

Catatonic: Which is related to movements, posture, and responsiveness.

• Negative Symptoms:

Blunted affect: Deficits in facial expression, reduced intensity in emotional expression.

Alogia: “Trouble with speech”, these people with the scientific name of alogia do not talk much or show any feelings.

Flat affect: Here they do not respond with emotion or reaction that would seem appropriate if they saw something very unexpected.

Withdrawal: This includes the next level of introvert people who no longer like to be with friends or people around, they find it difficult like anything. Doctors call it “Apathy”.

Avolition: People facing these symptoms have trouble staying on schedule or finishing what they start. Sometimes they do not even make a start.

• Cognitive Symptoms:

These symptoms include things like not being able to remember things, learn new things, or understand others easily.

These symptoms are more subtle though, and more difficult to notice and might only be detected if they have the really specific tests performed. To go with an example might be somebody not being able to keep track of several things at once, like an address or phone number.

Are Anxiety and Schizophrenia the Same?

Mainly Schizophrenia and Anxiety are two different phenomena – in terms of Physiological and psychological. Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling which is often associated with apprehension, uneasiness, fear, and stress. But Schizophrenia is much worse than that It is a mental disorder which is characterized by distortions of reality and disturbances in mind of thoughts, withdrawn from social thoughts and language.

Anxiety has physical effects on the body such as stomach-aches, headaches, chest pain, nausea, muscle weakness, heart palpitations, fatigue, and Tension. Emotional effects are also seen as trouble concentration, expecting the worst, irritability and etc.

But Anxiety and Schizophrenia have some relation with pasts. And people who have experienced anxiety, especially those who suffer from a disorder often ask that will it turn into Schizophrenia. But the answer is NO! Because the major cause of Schizophrenia is the genetic condition of a person. The probability of having this psychotic disorder depends on the history of the family of a particular person.

Anxiety is not the cause of Schizophrenia since Schizophrenia is more into behavior response than a disease. 

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Schizophrenia is a mental illness - a disorder of brain function that causes a diseased person to have a distorted picture of reality and cannot distinguish between real and unreal experiences. The name of the disease comes from the Greek words schizo = cleavage and fren = reason. Schizophrenia is equally affected by women and men and occurs in most people between the ages of 15 and 25. It is a serious psychiatric disorder that has a chronic course with worsening episodes. In some patients it causes severe impairment of functioning, loss of working capacity, inability to live independently, impaired social functioning and isolation of patients. However, in some patients, and if treatment is started early enough, recovery can occur that allows normal functioning and a normal life.

Schizophrenia is recognized by its characteristic symptoms, which are divided into: positive, negative, affective (changed mood symptoms) and cognitive (cognitive). However, in this article we will only clarify the negative symptoms.

Also read: 10 bad habbits for your mental health

Negative symptoms of schizophrenia

The symptoms that most impair the functioning of the patient are, unfortunately, less successfully treated and are called so-called. negative symptoms. These include emotional flatulence, impaired speech, social isolation of patients, loss of motivation, loss of ability to enjoy (anhedonia), which all consequently lead to impaired functioning.

These symptoms often begin to occur gradually, almost imperceptibly for the patient and the environment, and remain unrecognized for several years. Also, many patients during childhood and adulthood have difficulties with social functioning, fit into peer society, a tendency to isolate themselves and occupy with philosophical and religious ideas. A schizophrenic patient is emotionally withdrawn from his surroundings, unaware of other people's feelings around him, unable to express or show his emotions, avoiding eye contact. With sensory numbness, the patient's face appears motionless, avoiding eye contact and lack of expressiveness or interest. Speech impoverishment refers to the reduction of speech expression and short answers to questions, which gives the impression of an inner void.

Because other parts of mental functioning are preserved, they lead to confusion in family members and the environment, who may interpret such behavior and symptoms as laziness. They are often confused with depressive symptoms, personality traits, and other explanations for patient behavior, which actually requires psychiatric assessment and treatment.

The affective (emotional) part of personality is markedly altered in schizophrenic patients. These changes further affect the overall personality and thus individual psychic functions. Cognitive outbreaks include attention deficit disorder, working memory, abstract thinking, problem solving, and understanding of social interactions. The patient's thinking can be rigid and the ability to solve problems, understand other people's opinions and learn from experience can be diminished. Symptoms of schizophrenia typically reduce one's ability to act and often significantly interfere with work, social relationships, and self-care. Frequent outcomes are unemployment, segregation, deteriorated relationships and reduced quality of life. The main determinant of overall disability is the severity of cognitive impairment. These changes are different at different stages of the disease. The difference is probably quantitative, but sufficient to allow emotional changes in acute patients to give a different impression than in chronic ones. In the beginning of the illness, it is just a typical symptom of loss of emotional warmth. This loss can only be indicated, but also completely clear, so patients act more or less emotionally cold. They often feel this change. They complain about the feeling of strangeness, the feeling of being veiled between them and the rest of the world, as if they were enclosed by a glass wall. Patients are suing themselves to change their feelings towards parents, friends, people of the opposite sex, etc.

Anhedonia is manifested by a loss of the ability to experience life's joy, that is, a loss of interest and pleasure. It can also be reflected by a lack of interest in activities and an increase in pointless activity.

Avolution (unsociability) is the inability to start and maintain goal-directed behaviors, as evidenced by low interest and motivation to participate in work or social activities. There is also a lack of interest in connecting with people.

The extreme form of a mood disorder may in some patients cause a clinical picture in which a person is motionless, does not communicate, cannot drink or eat, and such a condition (stuporous) requires immediate treatment.

The importance of early diagnosis and treatment

The evaluation of symptoms is done by a psychiatrist who can speak with the patient and family members to diagnose the disease. The evaluation also uses psychological testing and radiological and laboratory treatments to rule out physical illnesses that can cause psychiatric symptoms.

Symptoms of the disease persist for several years before treatment begins. Unfortunately, the longer duration of untreated symptoms causes greater and more permanent impairment of psychic functions and impairs the recovery of patients. There is evidence that psychotic conditions cause damage in brain cells that are later difficult to repair. It also impairs the patient's relationship with the environment, loss of work or marriage, which later complicates the patient's recovery. Therefore, it is important to start treatment as early as possible. Also, it is important to prevent continued episodes of exacerbation by continuing treatment, as each new episode further damages the patient and increases the risk of new episodes of exacerbation. Treatment programs that integrate biological, psychological and psychosocial treatment methods help stabilize the patient's mental state, recover functioning and prevent new exacerbations.

Also read: Regular exercise contributes to mental health

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