Schizophrenia is the most common type of psychotic disorder. Individuals with schizophrenia experience delusions and hallucinations, which result in noticeable behaviour changes over a period of at least six months. These symptoms usually result in a decline in normal functioning socially, at work, and/or at school.
Symptoms of schizophrenia
Have you been experiencing a persistent disturbance in your thoughts, emotions, or perceptions of the world around you? Has this made you feel anxious, depressed, fearful, paranoid, or anti-social? Have you been experiencing strange sights or sounds that you cannot explain, or been having particularly grandiose thoughts?
If you have been experiencing some of these symptoms for several weeks, you may be suffering from schizophrenia or a related psychotic disorder and should seek help. It is extremely important to seek support if your symptoms are not improving, if your state has affected your everyday life, or if you are having any thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
Causes of schizophrenia
The cause of psychotic disorders and their symptoms is believed to be associated with over-activity of the brain chemicals responsible for emotion and behaviour. Schizophrenia, as well as other psychotic disorders, is often hereditary. Therefore, individuals who are related to someone who has been diagnosed with the disorder may be more vulnerable to be diagnosed themselves.
However, past experience also plays a role in the development of the condition. Injury during childhood or foetal development is associated with a higher risk for developing schizophrenia. Additionally, drug or alcohol abuse, as well as a number of medical conditions, such as HIV or malaria, is associated with a greater risk for the onset of a psychotic episode or disorder.
Treatments available for schizophrenia
The two most common types of treatment for schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders are medication and psychotherapy. Medications called antipsychotics can be prescribed to minimise the common symptoms of the condition, such as delusions and hallucinations. These act by restoring the imbalance of brain chemical activity responsible for the observed symptoms of the disorder.
Psychotherapy can also be effective in treating psychotic disorders, especially for those who wish to avoid the side effects of antipsychotic medications. Cognitive behavioural therapy is a common type of psychotherapy used in the treatment of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. In the treatment of schizophrenia, CBT is extremely skill-oriented. Patients learn coping techniques to deal with their hallucinations and delusions, as well as identify their personal triggers so that they can work to prevent or reduce their symptoms. Patients also learn general skills they can apply to potentially stressful everyday challenges, such as problem-solving and social skills. This can be incredibly useful for preventing the occurrence of episodes or outbursts.