Learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia and get help for yourself or a loved one. Seven Hills Hospital helps individuals struggling with schizophrenia build a strong foundation for lasting recovery. Located near Las Vegas, Seven Hills is the leading provider of psychiatric and addiction treatment.
Learn About Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a severe neuro-psychiatric disorder that is characterized by a wide variety of symptoms that include hallucinations and delusions or lack of emotion and motor control. Those struggling with schizophrenia have an extremely difficult time distinguishing between what is real or imagined. Additionally, they have a hard time thinking logically, expressing feelings, and behave in an appropriate manner. Those with schizophrenia may hear voices that others do not or may see thing that are not really there. These experiences can cause an individual to become fearful and withdraw socially. Schizophrenia is a chronic and often disabling illness that leads to extreme distress, turmoil, and disruption in the lives of those who suffer from it.
People with schizophrenia tend to have difficulty functioning in society, at work, and in school. This illness can not only be exhausting to the individual, but to their family as well as he or she will often need to rely on their loved ones for help with daily tasks. While there is no cure for schizophrenia, with treatment, symptoms can be significantly reduced. The majority of individuals with this disorder are able to live fully productive lives.
Statistics on Schizophrenia
It is estimated that 1% of the population in the United States suffers from schizophrenia. It is believed to affect men and women in equal numbers. The first episode of schizophrenia symptoms is thought to typically occur between a person’s late teen years and mid-thirties. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that it is uncommon for individuals over the age of 45 to suffer the initial onset of schizophrenia.
Causes and Risk Factors of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a complex disorder in which no one cause has been identified. Instead it is believed to be the result of a combination of factors. The most commonly cited factors believed to play a role in the development of schizophrenia include:
Genetic: Schizophrenia is believed to have a strong genetic link and runs in some families. It is estimated that 10% of individuals who are suffering from schizophrenia have a first-degree relative (such as a parent or sibling) who suffers from the illness as well.
Physical: Many researchers believe that individuals with schizophrenia are either very sensitive to the brain chemical dopamine, or produce too much of it. This neurotransmitter allows nerve cells in the brain to communicate with each other and an imbalance in this chemical can affect the way a person’s brain will react to stimuli. Additionally, it has been shown that those with schizophrenia have subtle differences in their brain structure.
Environmental: Scientists have stated that there are likely many environmental factors that play a role in the onset of schizophrenia, but the most commonly noted are believed to occur while in utero or during the birthing process, including exposure to viruses prenatally, the presence of complications during the birthing process, and prenatal malnutrition.
- Family history of schizophrenia
- Having an autoimmune disease
- Having a father who is significantly older in age
- Family history of other mental disorders
- Infection or malnutrition during pregnancy
- Complications during birth
- Taking mind-altering substances
Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia
The symptoms of schizophrenia will vary greatly from person to person with some individuals experiencing the dissociative feelings as a constant part of life, while in others the symptoms will come and go. Additionally, symptoms are characterized by type, including positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms. The majority of schizophrenia symptoms are believed to initially present between the ages of 16 and 30, with men typically experiencing symptoms earlier than women do. Some symptoms of schizophrenia may include:
Positive symptoms are characterized by psychotic behaviors that healthy people typically do not participate in. When people are experiencing positive symptoms, they often lose touch with reality. Examples of these types of symptoms include:
- Thought disorders
- Movement disorders
Negative symptoms are characterized by emotional and behavioral abilities that people are no longer able to perform. These tend to be much more difficult to identify because they are not as apparent as the existence of positive symptoms. Examples of these types of symptoms include:
- Flat affect (e.g. lacking facial expressions, speaking in monotone, etc.)
- Lacking the ability to concentrate
- No longer able to articulate thoughts
- Speaking as little as possible
- Lacking personal hygiene
Cognitive symptoms present very subtly and may not be immediately identified as symptomatic of the presence of schizophrenia. These symptoms can include:
- Poor executive functioning
- Experiencing significant problems with one’s working memory
- Having extreme difficulty paying attention
Effects of Schizophreia
When left untreated, schizophrenia can have an extremely detrimental impact on a person’s life. The effects of schizophrenia will vary in severity depending upon each individual person and can include:
- Familial discord
- Failing at school
- Inability to develop and maintain significant interpersonal relationships
- Chronic substance abuse or addiction
- Extreme phobias
- Excessive paranoia
- Isolation from family and friends
- Severe anxiety
- Self-harming behaviors
Individuals who have schizophrenia may also suffer from other mental health disorders. Some examples of these co-occurring disorders can include:
- Substance abuse disorders (this is the most common)
- Paranoid personality disorder
- Schizotypal disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Specific phobias