What is schizophrenia?
Many people experience disorganized thinking, delusions and hallucinations. This medical condition is called schizophrenia. Although it can feel scary to get this diagnosis, there is hope. One in every five people diagnosed with schizophrenia will improve within five years and enjoy a gratifying life.
Symptoms of schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder. If you have schizophrenia, you might experience symptoms like:
- Delusions: These are false beliefs that are not based in reality. For example, you think someone is watching you when they are not.
- Hallucinations: You see or hear things that don’t exist
- Disorganized thinking: You have difficulty speaking or are unable to communicate clearly.
- Abnormal motor behavior: You are unable to fully control your movements or posture, and it is difficult to complete basic tasks.
- Negative symptoms: You are not capable of normal social interactions like making eye contact, changing facial expressions, and so forth.
These feelings can be powerful and overwhelming. They may cause you to avoid being in public or around other people. Some people with schizophrenia feel unable to function and lack motivation.
Schizophrenia may also show itself through symptoms including a withdrawal from your family and friends and/or suicidal thoughts. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911.
Diagnosis for schizophrenia
Only a licensed healthcare professional can diagnose schizophrenia. To get the diagnosis, you may undergo several different tests, including:
- Physical exam: Your doctor checks for any other symptoms or complications.
- Screening test: You are tested for drugs or alcohol.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: Electromagnetic imaging is used to analyze your brain. This may also include a computerized tomography (CT) scan.
- Psychiatric evaluation: A psychiatrist observes your demeanor and appearance, and asks questions about your thoughts, moods, and hallucinations.
For a sure diagnosis, substance abuse and other mental disorders must be ruled out. You also have to show two or more of the following symptoms for at least one month:
- Disorganized speech
- Decreased emotional expression
A healthcare provider will interview you to decide whether you qualify for a diagnosis. The provider may also want to talk with your family and/or friends.
Treatments for schizophrenia
The best treatments for schizophrenia usually include a combination of medication and psychosocial therapy. Sometimes schizophrenia can be treated naturally with holistic or alternative methods.
If you have schizophrenia, your doctor might prescribe antipsychotic medicine. The goal of antipsychotic medications is to help manage your symptoms by changing how your brain processes a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate your mood and response to pain, among other functions.
Neurotransmitters work by traveling from one nerve to another. Antipsychotic drugs prevent delusions and hallucinations. This may help to control your mood and feelings of confusion and fear.
Other possible prescriptions for schizophrenia include anti-anxiety medications and other antidepressants. In some cases, your provider may prescribe an injection of the medication instead of a physical pill.
The best treatments for schizophrenia tend to be a combination of medication and alternative treatments. In some cases, schizophrenia can be treated naturally. Some providers may use talk therapy, communication and social skills training, family therapy and career coaching.
In other cases, your provider might ask you to relax and try exercises like yoga . Yoga can help people manage weight gain related to medicine taken for schizophrenia. Yoga can also help people manage their emotional regulation.
Complications and side effects of schizophrenia
If you have schizophrenia, you might feel tempted to use alcohol or other drugs to self-medicate. You may also feel isolated, depressed, or suicidal. Many people with schizophrenia find it difficult to function normally at work or in social settings.
There are also complications associated with the medications used to treat schizophrenia. If you take antipsychotics, you might experience side effects like.
- Low energy
- Involuntary movement
- Weight gain
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of emotional responsiveness
Other medications may have different side effects. If you have concerns about your medication, talk with your doctor about your options.
Never decrease or stop taking medication for schizophrenia on your own. Consult your healthcare provider about possible complications of any medications you might take for schizophrenia.
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Help Guide: "Schizophrenia."
Mayo Clinic: "Schizophrenia."
National Institute of Health: "Schizophrenia."