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Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects a person’s ability to think clearly, process emotions, and make decisions. Schizophrenic activity in the brain can cause irrational thoughts and behaviors, delusions, extreme paranoia, and changes in personality.
Schizophrenia is a long-term illness, and unfortunately there is no one known cure, or universal treatment plan. Because schizophrenia can present itself in different ways in different people, treatment plans typically vary from person to person.
According to SARDDA (Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America), an estimated 3.5 million Americans are affected by Schizophrenia, and only about 50% of those affected seek and receive proper treatment. Each year, it is estimated that Schizophrenia-related economic costs total between $32.5 and $65 billion dollars.
Researchers are not sure what exactly causes Schizophrenia, though the following theories have been suggested by researchers:
The following factors can affect your risk of developing Schizophrenia:
If your primary care physician suggests you may have schizophrenia, he or she will most likely refer you to a psychiatrist for an official diagnosis. A psychiatrist will be able to make a Schizophrenia diagnosis based on the diagnostic criteria listed in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition).
The DSM 5 lists the following diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia:
The patient must experience at least two of the following symptoms over the course of six months, with at least one month of persistently active symptoms. The symptoms must also cause significant disturbance to occupational or personal functioning:
Another interesting possible warning sign for schizophrenia is excessive smoking of cigarettes. The incidence of smoking is extremely high in schizophrenic patients: 80% to 90%, versus 25% to 30% of the general population. Various studies have demonstrated that the use of tobacco transiently restores the schizophrenic patient’s cognitive and sensory deficits. Smoking cessation also appears to exacerbate the symptoms of the disease.
The following symptoms may be early warning signs of schizophrenia:
The prognosis for Schizophrenia varies from patient to patient. According to SARDAA (Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America) 25% of Schizophrenia patients undergoing treatment make a full recovery, 50% see an improvement in symptoms over a 10 year period, and 25% do not see any improvement in symptoms.
Schizophrenia can be disruptive to both your personal and occupational life. The following tips can help you manage your symptoms and make life with Schizophrenia easier:
Schizophrenia itself may not be specifically screened for by primary care physicians, but many of its early warning signs and symptoms are covered by general mental health screening questionnaires. Specific screening tools are also available to help mental health professionals gather information from patients in order to make a diagnosis. Yale University Medical School developed the PRIME screening test in order to help doctor detect schizophrenic symptoms in patients before the symptoms result in full psychosis.
The PRIME screening test includes the following statements, to which patients respond with answers ranging from “definitely disagree” to “definitely agree”:
Most treatment plans for schizophrenia involve a combination of medication and psychosocial therapies.
The following categories of medications may be used to treat schizophrenia:
Antipsychotic drugs, which are particularly effective at treating hallucinations and delusions. Popular antipsychotic drugs include:
Common side effects of antipsychotic medications include:
Anti-depressants drugs, which may be helpful in treating negative symptoms of schizophrenia (including diminished emotional expression and lack of motivation). The type of anti-depressant used depends on the patient and the other forms of medication being taken.
Anti-anxiety drugs,which can be helpful in reducing the duration of a psychosis episode and decreasing overall nervousness and anxiety levels. Popular anti-anxiety drugs include:
Therapy options for schizophrenia patients include:
The following alternative and complementary therapies may be helpful in treating symptoms of schizophrenia:
Mind/body therapies including yoga, meditation and tai chi. These practices can help develop consciousness about one’s thought patterns and reduce overall stress levels.
Dietary supplements/vitamins. A limited number of studies have found that the following supplements may be effective in regulating emotions and reducing anxiety:
Diet. Some studies suggest that eliminating certain foods, including highly processed foods, caffeine, and foods high in sugar, can help regulate overall mood.
Contact a doctor if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
If you have thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately at 1-800-273-8255.
If you receive a schizophrenia diagnosis, you may want to ask your doctor questions about your conditions. Sample questions include:
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