The term schizophrenia was introduced into psychiatry by the Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler. Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder which affects the person’s way of thinking, feeling and the way a person acts or behaves. Worldwide, schizophrenia is associated with considerable disability. It is among the most disabling and economically catastrophic medical disorders and it is ranked by the World Health Organization as one of the top ten illnesses contributing to the global burden of disease.
Schizophrenia affects more than 21 million people worldwide but is not as common as many other mental disorders. It is more common among males (12 million), than females (9 million). People with schizophrenia are 2-2.5 times more likely to die early than the general population. Schizophrenia also commonly starts earlier among men. Slightly more men are diagnosed with schizophrenia than women (on the order of 1.4:1) and women tend to be diagnosed later in life than men. Modal age of onset is between 18 and 25 for men and between 25 and 35 for women.
A patient suffering from schizophrenia may have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imaginary; they lose the contact with reality, may be socially withdrawn; and may have difficulty expressing normal emotions in social situations; they have flat emotional expression irrespective of the situation. It may affect patient’s educational and occupational performance. Symptoms of schizophrenia can be grouped in two types:-
Positive symptoms are those signs and symptoms in which something has been added to the normal repertoire of the patient. Some of the positive symptoms are mentioned below.
• Delusions – Fixed false beliefs or suspicions that are firmly held even when there is evidence to the contrary--individuals may believe that someone is spying on him or her, or that they are someone famous (or a religious figure). • Hallucinations –Seeing, feeling, tasting, hearing or smelling something that doesn’t really exist. The most common experience is hearing imaginary voices that give commands or comments to the individual. • Disordered thinking and speech –Moving from one topic to another, in a nonsensical fashion. Individuals may also make up their own words or sounds, rhyme in a way that doesn't make sense, or repeat words and ideas. • Disorganized behavior –This can range from having problems with routine behaviors like hygiene or choosing appropriate clothing for the weather, to unprovoked outbursts, to impulsive and uninhibited actions. A person may also have movements that seem anxious, agitated, tense or constant without any apparent reason.
Negative symptoms are signs and symptoms in which there is something deficit/absent in the persons normal repertoire. Like-
• Social withdrawal • Extreme apathy (lack of interest or enthusiasm) • Lack of drive or initiative • Emotional flatness The signs or symptoms of schizophrenia are different for everyone. Symptoms may develop slowly over months or years, or may appear very abruptly. The disease may come and go in cycles of relapse and remission.
Early warning signs of schizophrenia include:
• Hearing or seeing something that isn’t there • A constant feeling of being watched • Deterioration of academic or work performance • A change in personal hygiene and appearance • Increasing withdrawal from social situations • Irrational, angry or fearful response to loved ones • Inability to sleep or concentrate
If you suspect someone is experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, encourage them to see a mental health professional immediately. Early treatment--even as early as the first episode--can mean a better long-term outcome. Many people with this illness can lead productive and fulfilling lives with the proper treatment. Recovery is possible through various treatment modalities, including medication and rehabilitation programs. Rehabilitation can help a person recover the confidence and skills needed to live a productive and independent life in the community.
Let’s beat the stigma against mental illness!! Seek Help!!