Schizophrenia Effects, Signs & Symptoms

Understanding Schizophrenia

What does Schizophrenia Look like?

Schizophrenia is a chronic and often disabling brain condition characterized by unusual sensations and perceptions. People who have schizophrenia have sensory or perceptual experiences in the absence of stimuli. They may hear things that others don’t hear or see things that others don’t see. Those suffering from schizophrenia tend to view the world in usual or bizarre ways. They may struggle with strange belief systems, such as believing that others are out to get them, that the government has an implant in their brain to monitor their activities, or that advertisements were meant as special messages for them. When these symptoms first develop, the individual may be frightened by the altered perceptions of the world. After a while however, they become used to this new way of experiencing the world, until eventually they come to accept their distorted perceptions as reality. This may cause difficulties during treatment as taking medication rids them of their psychotic symptoms and they have difficulty coping with the “new” world. At times, individuals may be unable to adjust to this new world and stop complying with their medication in order to return to the “reality” with which they have become comfortable. When left untreated, the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia may decrease in severity over time. However, as it is a neurologically-based disorder, the symptoms never completely abate. It is also possible that instead of the symptoms decreasing in severity, they become normalized to the individual so they report symptoms decreasing in severity and frequency.


Statistics on Schizophrenia

The lifetime prevalence rates of schizophrenia is estimated to be between 0.3% and 0.7% in the United States. Newly diagnosed cases in the U.S. are estimated to be 3 in every 10,000 people. Schizophrenia has been reported in every country in the world though there are variations based on race/ethnicity, countries, and geographic origin for immigrants to this country. While rates have not been shown to differ by gender, men display more negative symptoms and experience a longer duration of the disorder, which is associated with a poorer outcome than women. The typical age of onset falls between the ages of 16 to 30. Although historically the existence of childhood schizophrenia has been called into question, it is now recognized that children present with a different symptom pattern than adults.

Causes of Schizophrenia

What are the Causes and Risk Factors of Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is not believed to be the result of a single factor, rather researchers believe that a number of causes and risk factors work together to cause schizophrenia. Some of the most common causes for schizophrenia include: GeneticSchizophrenia runs in families. Twin studies have shown that when one identical twin has schizophrenia, the other twin develops it only 50% of the time. This indicates that there is no specific gene or group of genes that account for the development of schizophrenia. Physical: Research indicates that when neurotransmitters in the brain are imbalanced, messages sent throughout the brain may not reflect reality. There is some evidence suggesting that when structures controlling neurons aren’t operating properly, this can lead to certain perceptual alterations. Certain brain structures have been found to be shaped differently in those who have schizophrenia compared to others without the disorder. In particular, the ventricles of the brain are larger in those who have schizophrenia. EnvironmentalSeveral environmental factors are thought to be contributing causes of schizophrenia. These include maternal malnutrition during gestation, prenatal exposure to toxins, poisons, chemicals or viruses, birth complications, and enduring stress. Additionally, families who display “high expressed emotion,” defined as negative, critical, or judgmental communication patterns and parents who are over-involved in the lives of their children or who send conflicting messages may contribute to onset of schizophrenia in their offspring. Risk Factors:

  • Family history of mental illness
  • Stress including during gestation, in family units, interpersonal stress
  • Birth in the winter in the northern hemisphere
  • Raised in an urban environment
  • Prenatal bereavement
  • Low birth weight

Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Learn More About the Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

There are a number of signs and symptoms that are characteristic of schizophrenia. They include positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms. Positive SymptomsThese involve excesses or distortions in normal behavior, including:

  • Delusions or false beliefs
  • Hallucinations – perceived sensations without the presence of any stimuli which may account for them
  • Disorganized speech – e.g. abruptly stopping speech in the middle of a sentence or “word salad,” or stringing together nonsensical words
  • Disorganized behavior – e.g. confusion about where one is going, starting to do one thing and becoming derailed by something else
  • Catatonic behavior – This may be represented by freezing immobility or holding unusual poses for hours or days. Sometimes individuals alternate between freezing and extremely agitated behavior.

Negative Symptoms: These involve deficits in behavior or diminished behavior, including:

  • Inability to experience or express emotions, also called “blunted affect”
  • Amotivational syndrome
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Inability to sustain goal-directed behavior
  • Loss of ability to experience positive emotions
  • Impaired ability to plan or complete activities
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Social withdrawal

Cognitive symptoms: These symptoms tend to be subtle, often undetected, and include:

  • Impaired “executive functioning,” or the ability to take in, decipher information, then use this information to make decisions
  • Inability to pay attention
  • Difficulties with “working memory” or short-term memory

Effects of Schizophrenia

Understanding the Effects of Schizophrenia

Left untreated, there are numerous ways that schizophrenia can affect a person’s life. Even with treatment sometimes long term effects of the disorder may develop. These include:

  • Financial difficulties or bankruptcy
  • Homelessness
  • Family conflict
  • Loss of social support network
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Depression
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Decreased ability to understand instructions in order to complete tasks at work or school
  • Physical and medical problems resulting from use of antipsychotic medications
  • Being physically victimized or perpetrating a violent offense again someone else
  • Refusal to participate in regular daily activities
  • Inability to handle normal responsibilities in various areas of life

Co-Occurring Disorders

Schizophrenia and other Co-Occurring Disorders

There are a number of mental health disorders that have been shown to co-occur with schizophrenia. These include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Substance abuse
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Depressive disorders

My husband was having issues with his schizophrenia. North Tampa helped him with his mental health and he has felt much better since treatment.

– Anonymous Patient
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