Schizophrenia

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BIOGRAPHY:

Special Need: Schizophrenia

Best Friends: Professor Bob, Mr. Jekyll, and Mr. Long John

Age: Ageless

Hobbies: Math & Physics

Favorite Movie: Nosferatu The Vampire

Favorite Vacation Spot: Basement of “Rays Assisted Living Center”

Favorite Quote: "We are ready to avenge your honor."

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ABOUT THE SPECIAL NEED:

This is one of the most common neurological disorders in children, adolescence, and adults.  An individual with ADHD has difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity (over-activity). There are there subtypes, including hyperactive-impulsive, predominantly inattentive, and a combination of the two.

Schizophrenia: Is caused by an elevation of at least two chemicals in the brain. These chemicals are named dopamine and serotonin and are as important to the functioning of the human brain as gasoline is to make a car’s engine run or language is to communicate.

An abnormal elevation of these chemicals may cause people to have hallucinations (visual and sound), problems communicating, focusing, remembering, and multiple personalities.

An example of hallucination would be a broomstick flying in the air and talking to you.

Schizophrenia Facts

  • The causes are complex: genetics, early development, substance abuse, stressful social circumstances, and trauma (particularly in childhood) can increase your chances of experiencing schizophrenia.

  • It’s common: worldwide, up to one in 100 people will experience schizophrenia.

  • It starts young: schizophrenia most often develops between the late teens and early 30s, though it can start later, especially in women.

Schizophrenia Myths

  • Myth: ‘It’s split personality

  • Reality: Schizophrenia has nothing to do with ‘multiple personalities.’

  • Myth: ‘You can “catch” it.’

  • Reality: Schizophrenia is not contagious.

  • Myth: ‘People with schizophrenia are violent

  • Reality: People being treated for schizophrenia are no more likely to be violent than anyone else, but they are more likely to be the victims of violence.

  • Myth: ‘You can just will it away.’

  • Reality: Schizophrenia can’t be treated by diet, exercise, prayer, or willpower alone. It requires evidence-based treatment by qualified mental health professionals.

Symptoms

Psychosis

One of the main symptoms of schizophrenia is psychosis. A person experiencing psychosis finds it hard to tell what is real from what isn’t. Psychosis is often experienced in episodes — short periods of intense symptoms. The main symptoms of psychosis are:

  • delusions — false beliefs that can’t be changed by evidence

  • hallucinations — hearing voices or otherwise sensing things that aren’t real

  • disordered thinking — muddled, disrupted thoughts and speech

  • disordered behavior — unusual, inappropriate, or extreme actions.

 

Related: Psychosis factsheet

Non-psychotic symptoms

In addition to psychosis, there are other kinds of symptoms experienced by people with schizophrenia. These vary from person to person — not everyone experiences all of these symptoms. Some people living with schizophrenia may also experience low motivation, lose the ability to express emotions, and feel much less pleasure.

Likewise, some people experiencing schizophrenia experience cognitive deficits — problems with attention, memory, verbal skills, and other mental functions. It’s also common to experience what’s called functional decline. People with schizophrenia often find it harder to work, be social and organize their lives. These non-psychotic symptoms tend to last longer — a long period of functional decline is part of a confirmed diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Seeking help

Schizophrenia frequently begins with general, hard-to-pin-down changes to someone’s thinking, emotions, and behavior. They tend to come and go, but if left untreated, they get worse over time. The following are much stronger signs that something is wrong:

  • preoccupation with a subject

  • speech or writing that is very fast, muddled, irrational, or hard to understand

  • talking much less

  • loss of concentration, memory, and/or attention

  • increased sensitivity to light, noise, and/or other sensory inputs

  • withdrawing from relationships or hobbies

  • increased anger, aggression, or suspiciousness

  • decreased or disturbed sleep

  • inactivity and/or hyperactivity

  • behaving in a way that’s reckless, strange, or out of character

  • laughing or crying inappropriately, or being unable to laugh or cry

  • inattention to personal hygiene

  • depression and anxiety

  • being unable to feel or express happiness.

If you think you or someone you know might be experiencing these changes in their thinking or behavior now, see a doctor immediately. The best place to start is your GP.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Schizophrenia takes time to diagnose: you might get a working diagnosis of schizophrenia quickly, but it can’t be confirmed until you’re experienced a month of psychotic symptoms and at least six months of functional decline. Your diagnosis might also change over time. That’s normal.

Your GP can make an initial assessment then refer you to a specialist — usually a psychiatrist — for full diagnosis and treatment.

Treatments include antipsychotic medication, specialist psychological therapies, and community support programs to help with social connection, physical health, accommodation, and work or school.

Treatment for schizophrenia can last 2–5 years, or even longer. Many people continue to receive treatment and support to manage their illness across their lifetime. Over time, your treatments may change to reduce the type or intensity of treatments, improve the results and reduce side effects.

Related: Getting better • Antipsychotic medication • Involuntary treatment • What use is a diagnosis?

It became a journey of rediscovering myself and developing techniques to help me get well and stay well.

Stigma

There’s a strong public perception that people experiencing schizophrenia are likely to be violent, even though this isn’t true. Film & TV depictions of violent killers are often labeled with a false, highly damaging idea of psychosis or schizophrenia. Some people react fearfully or judgmentally when they learn a person has a psychotic illness.

Stigma hurts, but you can protect yourself against false perceptions by learning as much as you can about it from reputable sources and talking with other people who have experienced schizophrenia, for example, on the SANE Forums.

Related: Guide to reducing stigma • Fact vs. myth: mental illness & violence • Whom should I trust to tell about my mental illness?