Schizophrenia is one of the most mis-characterized and misunderstood mental illnesses. In our effort to educate and empathize, we’d like to take a moment to clear the air regarding schizophrenia and to dispel some of the myths. Often referred to by Hollywood as “crazies” and “the truly insane,” people with schizophrenia suffer not only a debilitating mental illness but crippling societal prejudices and ignorance.
What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a “chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder” that can cause psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. (NIMH: Schizophrenia) Hallucinations are often characterized by “hearing voices” or “seeing things,” but can also include experiencing other senses such as smells or feeling things that aren’t there. Delusions can include, but are not limited to, paranoia about someone or something that is trying to hurt or control the individual experiencing schizophrenia. Other symptoms of schizophrenia include thought disorders such as disorganized thinking or making up meaningless words– known as “neologisms.”
Less known symptoms can include movement disorders, having a flat affect, having little to no pleasure in everyday activities, and neglecting basic hygiene. Cognitive symptoms–however subtle–can in include lack of focus, poor working memory, and poor processing and decision making.
As you can imagine, schizophrenia has the ability to disable one’s functioning in terms of social interactions, work, school, family, and community engagement. There is no cure for schizophrenia, however, with proper medication, treatment, and assistance towards developing appropriate coping skills, an individual with schizophrenia can still lead a healthy and meaningful life.
Schizophrenia affects about 2.4 million American adults, affecting both men and women equally, although men tend to experience symptoms earlier than women. Although there isn’t any known single direct cause, contributing factors can include genetics, environment, and imbalances in brain chemistry.
Treatment options include antipsychotic medications, which can be effective in diminishing psychotic symptoms. Once a patient is stabilized on medication, psychosocial treatment can help with community integration and engagement by re-learning communication skills, self-care, and forming supports throughout the community. Studies show that those who receive a treatment combination of medication and psychosocial support will continue to take their medication without interruption, leading to fewer hospitalizations.
In the end, if it’s important to you, it’s important to us. Although schizophrenia affects only 1% of Americans, it’s important for all people to know that we are here to advocate, help, treat, and become an ally for the outcast and those who are down and out as a result of mental illness. Regardless of your affliction, whether it’s mild or severe, please give us a call today.