|Minding Your Mental Health™|
Section II - Mental Health Topics
Schizophrenia does not mean “split personality.” It is a term used for a group of thought disorders in which the sufferer loses contact with reality. The illness often results in chronic ill health and some degree of personality change.
How severe the illness is varies from person to person. At times, people with schizophrenia appear normal. During an acute or psychotic phase, though, persons cannot think straight and may lose all sense of who they or others are.
Schizophrenia occurs in about 1.5% of the population. It affects men and women equally.
It usually begins during adolescence or young adulthood, but it can also begin in middle or late life.
The exact cause for schizophrenia is not known. Many factors play a role:
How to Recognize Schizophrenia
Often, the sufferer’s family or friends are the first to notice the personality and behavior changes that go with schizophrenia. These changes may not be evident for months or even years. Initially, the person may:
Symptoms become more bizarre as the illness goes on. The schizophrenic may suffer from these psychotic symptoms:
Types of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia cannot be cured. It can, though, be controlled. Treatment for it depends on its type and severity. Severe cases need treatment in a hospital. This usually includes medication, therapy, and rehabilitation. Medications most often used are anti-psychotics or major tranquilizers, also called neuroleptics. These help to alter abnormal brain chemistry. They reduce or get rid of the chance of relapse for many people when taken regularly. They also help the person better utilize therapy.
These medications can have many side effects so they should only be given under the care and monitoring of a physician, most often a psychiatrist. Therapy can help the sufferer and their family and friends cope with the emotional aspects of the disorder. Its goal is to also help the person learn how to deal with stress and prevent future stresses from leading to further illness. This is very important because schizophrenic attacks come and go in cycles of relapse and remission.
The combination of medication and therapy should be tailored to the person’s needs. While some 10% of schizophrenics remain severely impaired for life, many persons function well within the community with proper treatment.
Medical care, not self-help, is needed to treat schizophrenia.
What You Can Do for a Friend or Relative
Copyright 2004, 5th Edition, American Institute for Preventive Medicine. All rights reserved.