All You Need to Know About Schizophrenia
Getting diagnosed with schizophrenia was scary for me. Knowing it as a ‘serious brain health issue’ made me very nervous about my future.
This guide encompasses a basic understanding of schizophrenia and what you can do if you are unsure if you have it, just got diagnosed, or know someone who is schizophrenic.
What Is Schizophrenia?
A simple definition of schizophrenia is a brain health issue that deals with symptoms like hallucinations, delusions and disorganized thinking, speech, and/or unusual behaviour and mismanagement of feelings.
Schizophrenia is a brain health disorder that affects approximately 1% of the population. What’s more, the condition is commonly misunderstood by the mainstream which leads people struggling with it feeling isolated.
It’s important to know that schizophrenia is not a split personality disorder or multiple personalities. Schizophrenia is a brain health issue while split personality and multiple personalities are psychological disorders.
People have a unique way of seeing the world but those with schizophrenia see things differently than the majority of others. They tend to find it difficult to differentiate reality from their delusions.
For example, there is a strong fear of others hearing their thoughts even though there is none in reality. That’s why a person with schizophrenia may have trouble connecting with other people and making sense of the environment around them.
What Causes Schizophrenia to Happen?
There are no exact causes of schizophrenia. Genetic factors and/or physical, psychological and factors regarding the environment are able to affect an individual more likely to obtain schizophrenia. A big change or stressful life events may trigger the onset of schizophrenia.
I have never experienced any symptoms of schizophrenia during my younger days. They surfaced in my mid-twenties during my college days. I was then diagnosed with schizophrenia after the death of my father.
What Is a Schizophrenic Person Like?
Hollywood or the mainstream media love portraying schizophrenics to be out of control. There is a stigma regarding schizophrenia. Many assume that they are dangerous and capable of causing hurt to others.
Referring to the study led by Dr Olav Nielssen from the University of Sydney in Australia, schizophrenics are rarely dangerous. The risk is even lower if they “received treatment with antipsychotic medication”. Statistically, we are speaking of 1 in 7 million to 1 in 18 million people a year!
Depending on the person, some schizophrenics will experience one or more symptoms as mentioned earlier. In general, they usually have a harder time interpreting reality due to delusions that come in the form of voices or visuals.
While this may limit their daily activities or find difficulty in getting through the day, there are some who can function just as well. On certain days, everything can feel normal but on others, days can be very emotional when dealing with the delusions.
This brain health issue may be disabling to most schizophrenics. The symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and/or lack of motivation often deter them from working on tasks.
Although it is difficult, most of them are able to carry out their daily activities as per usual. It just takes extra effort as compared to other individuals. Therefore, it is not a surprise that many schizophrenics are successful and can sustain a fulfilling life on their terms. You will find lecturers, lawyers and even PhD holders among them.
I Have Hallucinations. Am I Schizophrenic?
Maybe. For example, the assumption of voice hearing is usually associated with schizophrenia. Voice hearing can also happen to those who are depressed or in high stress.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, (DSM-5) recognizes that a schizophrenic must experience at least a combination of two of the following main symptoms which include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking in terms of speech, disorganized behaviour or catatonic behaviour and negative symptoms over a period of at least 6 months or more.
Experts believe that schizophrenia spectrum disorder causes schizophrenics to develop a wide range of combinations of symptoms at a certain time. It may change according to the spectrum and disrupt their sense of reality.
Schizophrenia spectrum disorder may include having one or more symptoms together at the same time. For example, hearing voices, having delusions and/or feeling demotivated and listless sometimes.
Therefore, it is best to get an expert opinion if you think you or your loved one might be schizophrenic.
Are All Schizophrenics the Same?
There are actually many types of schizophrenia although they have the same symptoms.
One of the most common types is paranoid schizophrenia which usually causes paranoia resulting in distrust and suspiciousness of others.
- Disorganized Schizophrenia – disorganized behaviour and speech which includes disturbance in the expression of emotions. One may act out of the norm and speak incoherently.
- Catatonic Schizophrenia - affects the individual’s actions and movements in extreme ways. For example, he/she might stay totally still and not talk at all.
- Undifferentiated Schizophrenia – an outdated term describing a subtype of schizophrenia. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) doesn‘t acknowledge it as a subtype. It is generally referred to people who are experiencing signs of psychosis.
- Residual Schizophrenia – a schizophrenic who no longer suffers from an episode of schizophrenia, delusions or hallucinations.
Can Schizophrenia Be Cured?
However, the truth is that getting the right help from professionals is important. I won’t lie cause it is tough but manageable with proper medication, therapy, and support.
Finding the right dosage of medication is proven to be beneficial to schizophrenics. Most importantly, having a great support system from family and friends will make us feel safer. A holistic approach would be the best choice.
Hope for Us, Schizo Warriors!
You might see schizophrenics portrayed in movies or on TV as being crazy or useless to society—but in reality, many people with the condition can get a job, get married, have kids and be successful professionals in their line of work.
The truth is that all of us have at least a psychological disorder at some point in life. This can either be mild or could be so severe that it affects our daily lives. In some cases, it could be temporary.
It is important to know the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia because this will lead us to seek the right kind of help. For example, if you know that your friend has hallucinations and delusions, then it would be favourable to talk about it. Your friend might not even be aware that he is experiencing these symptoms but if you point it out, awareness would be raised and the next steps can be planned.
Schizophrenia, just like other mental disorders often goes undiagnosed because people tend to brush off odd behaviour as a personality quirk instead of going for professional help. This is why it’s important for us to make an extra effort in supporting our friends who are battling mental disorders.
There is certainly hope yet for schizophrenics. It may be tough but don’t ever give up. Keep going, be brave, be it for yourself, your loved ones or your friends!
I hope this blog will give an insight into what schizophrenia is and my experience with coping with schizophrenia in order to achieve a meaningful life.