One of the most severe mental illnesses that categorize itself among psychosis is schizophrenia; which, with its capability of disabling patients, has prolonged effects on an individual throughout the entire span of their life. Among the Americans alone, this mental illness affects 1% of all population which depicts the severity of the illness itself while globally schizophrenia seizes approximately 21 million people which further elaborates the necessity to control it. The individuals suffering from it may have disorganized cognitive processes and may even have delusions and hallucinations. As is the case with many other mental disorders, schizophrenia affects not only the individual but their entire families and social circle as well. Those associated with the patients have to adapt and learn to cope with their illness; since the patients often retaliate in the form of aggression or indulging deep into depression and either way, they not only pose threat to their well-being but also to others.
An individual suffering from a psychosis disorder like schizophrenia is bound to endure symptoms that will hinder meager day-to-day tasks. The symptoms are categorized into various kinds, that is, positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and disordered symptoms. In order to make a diagnosis for the illness, the symptoms, however, minute are to be present for one month so that it is easier for a medical practitioner to conclude and diagnose the illness (Parekh, 2017). In addition to that, the symptoms present for a one-month tenure can only be concluded as an illness if the symptoms hinder the daily functioning of the patients whether it be their domestic lives or work lives (Kuipers, 2006). The period used to gauge this is usually taken about six months as in most cases patients are unaware of the impending or existing illness.
People with schizophrenia have to cope with their symptoms throughout their lives as many people have their symptoms hindering their daily life activities; still, many people are able to overpower the illness by leading their lives as they wish.
This kind of symptom is termed as ‘positive’ because they ensure the ‘positivity’ or the ‘presence’ of certain behaviors that are not observed in otherwise healthy people. The intensity of these symptoms can range from mild to severe (Walinga, 2012). For example, the first signs of schizophrenia in an individual could be pushing people away and withdrawing from them, staying in complete isolation which at the beginning wouldn’t seem like healthy behavior but would also not be outright labeled as schizophrenic behavior.
Since this type of psychosis has a wide range of people that could be affected, that is teens to middle age, the kinds of severity also vary with age. As age increases, an individual’s symptoms also become severe enough to impair almost all kinds of cognitive functioning, so much so, that it becomes easily noticeable (Walinga, 2012). They could range from hallucinations and delusions to full-blown muscle impairment, repetition in actions, and or mobility issues.
Hallucinations are out-of-body experiences that can be of all the senses, that is, they can be auditory, olfactory, tactile, visual, and gustatory. Though auditory and visual hallucinations are the most abundantly found types of hallucinations in schizophrenic patients, other hallucinations occur when the most severity of illness is reached (Berenbaum, 1992). It is, however, possible for tactile or gustatory hallucinations to occur because of substance abuse.
Delusions, as the term suggests are beliefs of an individual that are not part of a person’s culture or belief system and are still persistently held by their possessors even though their foundation is based on untrue and illogical perceptions (Walinga, 2012). These beliefs can range from being about themselves to bringing about the actions or intentions of others. Some of the delusions which are ever present in schizophrenic people are persecutory delusions, erotomania, the delusion of grandeur and jealousy, somatic delusions, bizarre delusions etcetera.
These are disturbances in one’s thought processes that disables a person from overpowering his or her mental processes. People suffering from them may have scattered thoughts, and ideas or perhaps experience hindrances in thinking through problems (Berenbaum, 1992).
These are the disturbances in bodily movements, that is, hindrances in motion. People suffering from it are often patients with severe schizophrenia as these symptoms arise and cause problems with functionality in their day-to-day movements. As mentioned above, the severity causes them to repeat their motions and actions. The person becomes catatonic in nature (Kuipers, 2006).
Negative emotions are, as the term suggests subtract or create blocks towards the healthy emotions that are present in a functional human being. That being said, these symptoms are difficult to discern, unlike positive symptoms which are relatively easy to spot in a person (Berenbaum, 1992). These symptoms often include withdrawal from life in general, monotonous effect, that is, the person begins to talk in a flat voice, lack of friends, withdrawal from family and daily life activities, and isolation
These symptoms are very common in patients with schizophrenia as they serve to be the first level of difficulty in their daily tasks. These include problems in focusing on mundane tasks, slow handling of problems, problems in memory retaining, and, trouble processing basic information. Since these symptoms cause basic level hindrances, they are often undiscernible on their own (Micheal F. Green, 2014).
People have long ago distinguished mental processes as being separate in terms of the effects this illness has on a person. The lack of psychological awareness caused them to adhere simply to a biological footing which gave them no satisfactory answers. There is still no one answer to which why this process occurs in some people while in others doesn’t. However, genetics is a factor that plays into determining who this illness will affect (Hughes, 2017).
Schizophrenia isn’t a complication of one genetic mutation but is a complex bunch of negative environmental influences combined with the genetics which result in this (Parekh, 2017). The risk of having schizophrenia is slightly more in people with a genetic history of the disorder, but even then it only occurs in 10% of people who have an immediate relation suffering from the same illness. Moreover, the brain function in terms of the chemicals that are released into the brain when transmitting information play a very important role in determining who the disorder will affect the most. It is possible that an imbalance in neurotransmitters will cause the brain to become vulnerable to schizophrenia (Kuipers, 2006).
Furthermore, as mentioned above, some hallucinations occur mostly when the individual performs substance abuse. Hence, it is fair to conclude that people involving themselves in substances, mostly mind-altering drug abuse increase the risk of schizophrenia development. Teenagers are most likely to fall prey to this quicker than older people (Kuipers, 2006).
It is agreeably daunting for people suffering from schizophrenia to seek treatment, often because of the stigma attached to taking prescription medications, which is one of the reasons why 50% of people choose to cease the process of ingesting their medicines. Many patients resist treatment even when the severity of their condition is evident. Hence, functionality becomes difficult for them in the long run (Kuipers, 2006).
First and foremost keeping a log of the hallucinations or delusions, whichever may be the case is slightly helpful when the same problem arises and repeats itself. The log will eventually help the patient to ground them in reality (Torrey, 1985).
Moreover, the presence of a trustworthy person is significant. It is advised that the patient seeks out anyone they trust so that the problem is first addressed. Furthermore, the patient should seek to distract themselves from the difficulty they find themselves with and avoid substance or alcohol abuse as it will help them in being grounded in reality. And the last, most significant step is to consult a psychotherapist that would help them in finding the appropriate treatment for the illness (Torrey, 1985).
In addition to this, support groups for schizophrenics and their families help the patients the most. The feeling or commonality pushes them to strive harder towards seeking treatment. They are also then able to talk more openly about their kind of schizophrenia than alienating themselves from surrounding people.
Schizophrenia causes impairment in normal day-to-day functions for the people who suffer from it, which causes them an enormous amount of distress. Often, they fall into depression or develop PTSD because of the underlying illness they suffer from, therefore, it is significant for the family of the patients to support them in their time of need (Torrey, 1985).
A helpful attitude firstly would help the patients to realize that there are people whom they can trust. Moreover, the person in charge of their caregiving should be mindful of the fact that the hallucinations and delusions of the person suffering are very real and very true to them.
Hence, they shouldn’t disregard or negate their perceptions without a medical professional in their company as that would to cause distress to the patients and would further provoke them to isolate themselves from their caregivers (Torrey, 1985).
Listening to the patient’s distress is more likely to help the patient in trusting others and openly talking about his or her problem. Addressing the issue and talking about their psychosis from the patients’ perceptions is likely to help them more as they would listen to the caregiver too in return (Torrey, 1985).
Treatment processes are still undergoing development and thorough research in regard to schizophrenia as there is no one treatment available as of yet. However, the results of the tests taken so far have only proved further that the illness is a complex mechanism of a group of cognitive impairments which are influenced by societal and environmental factors. But, the symptoms are being pondered upon singularly, which are opening new dimensions for understanding the concept of the problem and will, later on, help in designing appropriate treatments and interventions for the patients.
Berenbaum, H. &. (1992). Emotional experience and expression in schizophrenia and depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 37-44.
Hughes, I. B. (2017, December 13). What causes schizophrenia? Retrieved from Psychology today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/not-the-whole-person/201712/what-causes-schizophrenia
Kuipers, E. (2006). Cognitive, emotional and social processes in psychosis: refining cognitive behavioral therapy for persistent positive symptoms. Schizophrenia Bulletin, S24-S31.
Micheal F. Green, P. D. (2014). Cognition in schizophrenia . US national library of medicine .
Parekh, R. (2017, January). What is schizophrenia? Retrieved from American Psychiatric Association: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/schizophrenia/what-is-schizophrenia
Torrey, E. F. (1985). Surviving schizophrenia: A family manual. New York: US: Harper & Row Publishers.
Walinga, J. ( 2012). Introduction to Psychology: 1st Canadian Edition. Hewlett Foundation.