What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a breakdown of thought processes and by poor emotional responsiveness.
Schizophrenia, also sometimes colloquially called split personality disorder, is a chronic, severe, debilitating mental illness that affects about 1% of the population, corresponding to more than 2 million people in the United States alone. Other statistics about schizophrenia include that it affects men about one and a half times more commonly than women. It is one of the psychotic mental disorders and is characterized by symptoms of thought, behavior, and social problems. The thought problems associated with schizophreniaare described as psychosis, in that the person’s thinking is completely out of touch with reality at times. For example, the sufferer may hear voices or see people that are in no way present or feel like bugs are crawling on their skin when there are none.
How common is schizophrenia in children?
Although there have been fewer studies on schizophrenia in children compared to adults, researchers are finding that in children as young as 6 years old can be found to have all the symptoms of their adult counterparts and to continue to have those symptoms into adulthood.
How is schizophrenia diagnosed?
As is true with virtually any mental-health diagnosis, there is no one test that definitively indicates that someone has schizophrenia. Therefore, health-care practitioners diagnose this disorder by gathering comprehensive medical, family, and mental-health information. Patients tend to benefit when the professional takes into account their client’s entire life and background. This includes but is not limited to the person’s gender, sexual orientation, cultural, religious and ethnic background, and socioeconomic status. The symptom sufferer might be asked to fill out a self-test that the professional will review if the person being evaluated is able to complete it.
What are treatments for schizophrenia and the side effects of those treatments?
While there are a number of helpful treatments available, medication remains the cornerstone of treatment for people with schizophrenia. These medications are often referred to as antipsychotics since they help decrease the intensity of psychotic symptoms. Many health-care professionals prescribe one of these medications, sometimes in combination of one or more other psychiatric medications, in order to maximize the benefit for the person with schizophrenia.
Family psycho-education: In addition to educating family members about the symptoms, course, and treatment of schizophrenia, this form of treatment consists of providing family support, problem-solving skills, and access to care providers during times of crises. When this intervention is consistently provided for at least several months, it has been found to decrease the relapse rate for the individual with schizophrenia and improve the person’s social and emotional outcomes. Also, the burden that family members experience as a result of having a loved one with schizophrenia is lessened, family members tend to be more knowledgeable about the disorder and feel more supported by the professionals involved, and family relationships are improved.