Schizophrenia is the most common among the disorders categorised as a psychosis. It impairs the person’s sense of reality, reduces their ability to express their emotions or distorts their interpretation of various situations.
About 1% of people are affected by schizophrenia during their lifetime. Usually, schizophrenia starts quite young, between the ages of 15 and 45, often coinciding with major changes in one’s life. The reasons for the disorder are diverse, ranging from hereditary to biological and environmental factors.
Symptoms and diagnosing schizophrenia
The symptoms of people suffering from schizophrenia often vary considerably from one person to the next or even from one stage of the illness to the next within the same person.
The usual symptoms include hallucinations, the most common of which are auditory. However, visual, tactile, olfactory or gustatory hallucinations are also possible. Delusions, in other words distortions of thinking or perception, and unfounded beliefs are also a typical symptom. The person may hear accusatory speech in their head or become afraid of being persecuted or spied on.
Schizophrenia can also manifest itself as illogical speech, avolition and endless fatigue, but also motoric stiffness, agitation or lack of emotions or speech.
Schizophrenia is diagnosed if two of these symptoms occur and the person’s ability to function socially has significantly and consistently reduced over the course of a few months.
The disorder may also involve neuropsychological disruptions, such as difficulty concentrating and impairment of short-term memory, receiving information and making decisions. Contrary to the common belief, schizophrenia does not involve aggression. However, the hallucinations and delusions cause fear, feelings of shame and isolation.
Schizophrenia is treated with medication, psychosocial treatment and therapy. The treatment is very individual and depends on the level of the disorder and symptoms, the stage of the disorder and the patient’s aptitude for various forms of psychotherapy, couples’ therapy, family therapy or trauma therapy.
Most patients find antipsychotics beneficial, but the need varies from one patient to the next. We recommend discussing the advantages and disadvantages of medication with your doctor and trying to find the medication and dose that suits your needs.
The person affected with schizophrenia usually does not feel ill, but their loved ones notice the symptoms. Friends and loved ones are often needed so that the person can find help, seek treatment and manage their everyday life. The person’s neuropsychological skills can be supported and maintained with exercises from rehabilitative programmes.
People often believe that schizophrenia is a lifelong disorder and that people cannot recover from it. However, studies show that people can partially or fully recover from schizophrenia. The symptoms can be treated and people can learn to live with it. Some of those affected experience no symptoms at all between episodes.
Some of those affected are able to return to work or their studies, while others find supported employment the best option. If the person is not able to work, we recommend focusing on other activities that feel pleasant and meaningful and adopting a lifestyle that suits your wants and needs, despite the illness. Keeping in touch with other people and participating in social situations is important but often requires encouragement from both loved ones and medical staff.