Schizophrenia Diagnosis and Treatment
Learn more about schizophrenia diagnosis, its causes and symptoms, the different types, and treatment options.
Table of Contents
What Is Schizophrenia?
Mental illnesses are often incredibly complex, making them hard to diagnose and treat. In most cases, the more serious the illness, the more difficult it is to identify properly and care for. If you or a loved one is suffering from schizophrenia, you’ve likely had to go through the process of securing a proper diagnosis. However, if you believe that you may be suffering from schizophrenia, an accurate diagnosis can be challenging to obtain. Keep reading to learn more about schizophrenia, the diagnosis process, and treatments available to people suffering from it.
Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that affects less than one percent of the population. Like some other mental diso1 rders, schizophrenia goes through periods of activity and inactivity. When schizophrenia is active, symptoms may include delusions, hallucinations, trouble communicating, foggy thinking, and a lack of motivation or focus.
Unlike many people believe, schizophrenia doesn’t translate to having a split personality or multiple personalities. While schizophrenia is a serious illness, it has been stigmatized in the past, making individuals who suffer from it susceptible to claims that they’re dangerous. This is not the case most of the time.
Types of Schizophrenia
- Paranoid Schizophrenia: Now referred to as schizophrenia with paranoia. Individuals suffer from delusions and hallucinations, making it difficult to distinguish what’s real and what isn’t.
- Schizoaffective Disorder: A combination of psychotic symptoms and depression or bipolar disorder. Psychotic symptoms happen even when mood swings aren’t. This is a rare, lifelong illness.
- Schizophreniform Disorder: Symptoms have occurred for at least a month up to six months. This develops into full schizophrenia for about two-thirds of people, while the other third never experience it again, and symptoms go away.
Causes and Symptoms
Potential Causes of Schizophrenia
- Genetics: If you have a close relative, a parent, or a sibling with schizophrenia, you’re six times more likely to develop it as well.
- Brain Damage: Substance abuse that causes brain damage may increase the likelihood of developing schizophrenia.
- Environmental Factors: Exposure to viruses and malnutrition in the first and second trimesters (before birth) have been linked to an increased risk of schizophrenia.
Warning Signs and Symptoms
- Positive Symptoms: Positive symptoms include a wide range of symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, confused thoughts, trouble concentrating, and movement disorders.
- Negative Symptoms: Negative symptoms are a lack of normal mental function and may include lack of pleasure, trouble with speech, flattening, and withdrawal.
- Disorganized Symptoms: The most common disorganized symptom of schizophrenia relates to memory. Individuals who are suffering from a bad working memory and the issues above may have schizophrenia.
How Schizophrenia is Diagnosed
- Physical Exam: Done to rule out other possible causes
- Tests and Screenings: Also used to rule out other disorders and the presence of drugs that may be causing schizophrenia symptoms.
- Psychiatric Evaluation: An evaluation to observe the patient’s thoughts and mental status.
- Diagnostic Criteria for Schizophrenia: To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, patients must meet the diagnostic criteria set up by the DSM-5.
Treatment Options for Schizophrenia
- Second-generation Antipsychotics: Antipsychotics that present a low risk for serious side effects.
- First-generation Antipsychotics: Medication that may come with more serious side effects but may be required depending on the individual being treated.
- Long-acting Injectable Antipsychotics: Intramuscular or subcutaneous injections given every two to four weeks.
Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC)
- Individual Therapy: Psychotherapy meant to help normalize thought patterns.
- Social Skills Training: Improvement of communication and social interactions through daily activities.
- Family Therapy: Therapy designed to help family members learn how to help an individual suffering from schizophrenia.
- Vocational Rehabilitation and Supported Employment: Assistance in being prepared for and finding jobs for those with schizophrenia.
Self-Management Strategies and Education
- Do regular exercise
- Try relaxation techniques
- Try a complementary therapy
- Stick to a sleep pattern and eat well
- Set small goals
Taking Control of the Voices