Schizophrenia Symptoms, Signs & Effects

What is Schizophrenia?

Learn More About Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that makes it hard for those suffering from it to tell the difference between what is real and what is not real. It makes it difficult for them to think clearly, have standard emotional responses to situations, and to act normally in social settings. Schizophrenia is characterized by a breakdown in one’s ability to think properly. Schizophrenia is chronic, severe, and disabling for the majority of individuals who suffer from it.

While suffering from schizophrenia can cause extreme distress and turmoil, know that there is help. Through a combination of different forms of therapy, along with the determination of appropriate psychiatric medications, a person with schizophrenia can lead a productive life.

Statistics

Statistics of Schizophrenia

It is estimated that about 1% of Americans suffer from schizophrenia. Unlike other types of mental illness, schizophrenia appears to affect men and women in equal amounts. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that it is uncommon for people over the age of 45 to suffer the initial onset of schizophrenia. Up until recent years, schizophrenia was not commonly known to occur in children, but there has been a growing awareness of the increasing amounts of childhood-onset schizophrenia.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Schizophrenia

It’s not believed that schizophrenia is caused by a single root factor; rather it’s believed that an amalgamation of genetic, physical, and environmental risk factors work together to cause this disorder. Most commonly cited contributing factors include:

Genetic: Schizophrenia has been long known to run in families. While schizophrenia only affects about 1% of the general population, 10% of people who have a first-degree relative suffering from the disorder develop the disease.

Physical: It has been hypothesized that people suffering from schizophrenia have an imbalance of the interrelated chemical reactions of the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate in the brain. These neurotransmitters are responsible for allowing brain cells to communicate with one another, so the imbalance that occurs in people with schizophrenia may result in  a lack of cranial communication. According to the NIMH, studies of brain tissues post-mortem have revealed differences in the brains of people with schizophrenia as opposed to the brains of people not suffering from the illness.

Environmental: The most common environmental factors that scientists have concluded play a role in the onset of schizophrenia is that of malnutrition before birth, exposure to viruses before birth, and problems during birth. Experts in the field are quick to admit that there are most likely many more environmental factors that come into play, but they have yet to provide any conclusive evidence.

Risk Factors:

  • Age
  • Family history of other mental illness
  • Exposure to viruses and/or malnutrition in utero
  • Problems at the time of one’s birth
  • Increased immune system activation (such as autoimmune diseases)
  • Taking mind-altering substances (e.g. psychoactive or psychotropic drugs)
  • Having a father who is older in age

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

The display of schizophrenia symptoms, like hallucinations and delusions, generally starts between the ages of 16 and 30, with men typically experiencing symptoms earlier than women. Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia can vary from person to person depending on a number of factors, including the age of the person and the length of time in which the person has been knowingly suffering from the illness. The symptoms of schizophrenia are broken down into positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and cognitive symptoms. The following are examples of each:

Positive symptoms: Positive symptoms refer to mental disturbances in an individual’s perception of reality. Some examples of positive symptoms can include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Thought disorders
  • Movement disorders

Negative symptoms: Negative symptoms of schizophrenia are mental abilities that an individual has lost or something that an individual can no longer perform. These symptoms can be more difficult to identify because they are not as obvious as the positive symptoms. Some examples of negative symptoms include:

  • Lack of initiative or goal-driven behaviors
  • Desire to be alone
  • Change in expression of emotions
  • Failure to articulate
  • Lack of concentration
  • Inability to plan, organize, or follow instructions
  • Lack or appetite
  • Lack of personal hygiene

Cognitive symptoms: Unlike the positive and negative symptoms associated with schizophrenia, cognitive symptoms present themselves in a much more subtle manner. Some examples of cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia may include:

  • Trouble focusing
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Poor executive functioning
  • Problems with one’s memory

Effects

Effects of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a difficult, isolating disease that can cause a number of long-term effects. The following are some examples of the different types of effects that schizophrenia can have on a person:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse or addiction
  • Chronic hospitalization
  • Homelessness
  • Social isolation
  • Poverty
  • Estrangement from family
  • Inability to attend work or school
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders of Schizophrenia

The most prominent type of co-occurring disorder that exists with schizophrenia is substance abuse and addiction. However, it is not uncommon for there to be other mental health disorders. Some co-occurring disorders may include:

  • Substance use disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Schizotypal disorder
  • Paranoid personality disorder

My schizophrenia got to the point where reality and fiction were blurred. With the caring support of my family and friends, I was able to get treated for my schizophrenia at Ohio Hospital for Psychiatry. The staff were both caring and patient, and were able to help me treat my symptoms which are now to a bare minimum.

– Chris S.