There is no hard data for the prevalence of schizophrenia. Diagnosis of schizophrenia is complex. Often it overlaps with other disorders which may be diagnosed without schizophrenia. However, tentatively around 1 % of India’s population is affected by schizophrenia. This mental disorder is seen more in men of the age group 15-45 than in women. It is one of the 15 top reasons of disability in the world.
Causes of Schizophrenia
Doctors are yet to put their fingers on the exact cause of schizophrenia. A combination of several factors could lead to the onset of the disorder. Ascertaining the cause can help with the treatment.
• Genetics - If someone in your family has been afflicted with schizophrenia, chances are she/he will pass it down to the next generation. If both the biological parents are schizophrenic, genetic mutation raises the chances of schizophrenia in their child by 40%. Even if no one in the family has schizophrenia, every person has a 1% risk of getting schizophrenia.
• Environmental factors - If a child comes down with certain illnesses like viral infection, she/he becomes susceptible to schizophrenia. Ingesting psychedelic drugs and marijuana can trigger schizophrenia in people with schizophrenia in the family.
• Stress/anxiety - Excessive stress, anxiety and emotional trauma may awaken schizophrenia
• Hormonal imbalance - A hormonal influx that takes place during puberty is yet another reason behind schizophrenia.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
• Hallucination - This is one of the first symptoms of schizophrenia. People begin to see, hear or sense things that are non-existent. The most common hallucination is hearing voices in the head.
• Delusion - Schizophrenic people harbour beliefs and notions that seem to defy logic
• Confusion and incoherent speech - When a person is affected with schizophrenia, their thoughts get jumbled up and they find it hard to knit their thoughts and express them.
• Difficulty in concentrating - A schizophrenic person has a small attention span which makes concentrating hard for them
• Unusual movements - A schizophrenic person is either jumpy or motionless for long stretches of time (catatonic).
• Lack of emotions - Schizophrenic people have a low emotional range. They hardly talk and do not emote much.
• Withdrawal - A person affected with schizophrenia loses interest in life and becomes dispassionate
• Cognitive problems - Schizophrenic people find it difficult to sort out their memories or different facts
Treatment of Schizophrenia
Treatment for schizophrenia aims at controlling the symptoms. Doctors prescribe a course of anti-psychotic drugs in tandem with counselling. Anti-psychotic drugs manipulate chemicals like dopamine and serotonin to curb the symptoms of schizophrenia. As for therapy, there are several different approaches towards helping a schizophrenic take back control of her/his life.
• Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - The therapist establishes a bond based on trust with the patient and then starts equipping her/him with the tools to separate reality from illusions and hallucinations (the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia)
• Art therapy - A schizophrenic person explores and expresses her/his thoughts and emotions through the medium of art (clay models, writing, poetry, music, plays). This also helps the therapist get to the core of the issue.
• Family therapy - It helps to establish communication between the schizophrenic person and her/his family. Therapy aims to dispel myths about schizophrenia and help the family grapple with the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia can seem to be an alarming disorder. Without proper medication, it often is. But the life of a schizophrenic person improves exponentially if she/he undergoes therapy in conjugation with medication.