Schizophrenia is often associated with cleft or duplication of personality (the literal translation of the word “schizophrenia” is “split mind”). However, the disease can be more accurately defined as a disorganization of normal thoughts and feelings. The cause is probably poor functioning of some cells in the brain. Symptoms usually appear in late adolescence or early adulthood, and sometimes they are triggers by very strong psychological stress. The disease lasts for a lifetime, acute attacks usually occur but disappear, usually coinciding with periods of emotional shocks or personal loss.
The attack begins with gradual or sudden withdrawal from daily activities. The speech of schizophrenics can become incoherent, and sometimes it seems that the patient can’t follow an ordinary conversation. Acute attack occurs unexpectedly, although the attack becomes gradual so it is difficult to determine when psychotic symptoms occur. In these symptoms we include disturbances in the thoughts and feelings, and sometimes movement disorders. Thought process in schizophrenics may be affected, without logical sequence, and association are unusual and disconnected. There may be a “blocking thoughts”, i.e. the sudden interruption of all thoughts – as if the mind suddenly stopped and remained empty. “Insanity” in the generally accepted sense of the word is rare. In addition, in some people, physical disorders are in some way associated with psychological stress. In fact, about 40% of patients of the average general practitioner in the UK are either neurotic who temporarily need assistance or people suffering from psychosomatic symptoms, such as palpitations, headache or indigestion. Only when a person loses touch with reality and behave in a way that is unusual and possibly life-threatening, can be considered psychotic, not just neurotic case. Such patients are best treated at a hospital. However, severe mental illness are affecting a relatively small number of people.
Most young patients and patients of middle age in mental hospitals are schizophrenics. Men and women are equally prone to sickness. In middle-aged and older people the most common is paranoid schizophrenia.
Disruption of chemical processes (chemistry) in the brain, the main cause of schizophrenia, may be hereditary. However, if schizophrenia occurs in your family, it does not mean that you will get schizophrenic attacks. However, you might have a “schizoid personality” (a tendency to timidity and shyness) or “paranoid personality” (a tendency to hypersensitivity and mistrust). People with paranoid personality usually develops paranoid schizophrenia. If one of your parents is schizophrenic, the odds are in 30% of cases that you will have a schizoid or paranoid personality, although the probability that you will get schizophrenia is halved (15%). Even when both parents are schizophrenics, you still have a 50% chance to avoid the disease.
During severe attacks of schizophrenia patients can physically hurt themselves or cause injuries to others; patients may attempt the suicide, too.
What to do?
If you suspect that someone in your family has schizophrenia, persuade him (or her) to go to the doctor. This may be difficult. People affected by mental illness often won’t admit this fact. Even those who realize that something is wrong are afraid that they will be “put in a mental institution.” However, medical care is essential. Never leave alone those who are seemingly severely disturbed. The presence of relatives or friends, who will calm them – or even prvent them from getting hurt – is essential until the professional help arrives. People with symptoms of schizophrenia usually stay in hospital for the previous monitoring. During that time several tests are made to determine if the symptoms are present due to some physical diseases such as brain tumors.
Serious cases should be hospitalized. Treatment usually involves giving medication, psychotherapy and rehabilitation. The most effective drugs are special tranquilizers, which are given in regular doses for correcting abnormal chemistry in the brain. Gradual disappearance of symptoms can reduce the dose, and sometimes giving drugs completely stops after the end of acute attack. However, in some cases long-term medical therapy (drug therapy) is required with regular use of the pill or an injection every two or four weeks. Some patients need antidepressant agents; in rare cases, electroconvulsive therapy (shock) is needed.
The final stage of treatment is rehabilitation, which helps people who are recovering from a seizure to regain their usual skills and behavior. In the initial stages of hospital treatment of schizophrenics, occupational therapy is generally applicable. As the condition of the patient improves, they are given even more complex tasks and obligations – to the degree that matches the tasks and responsibilities of the outside world. After the acute phase of illness, schizophrenic is being prepared for return to the outside world by occasional visits home or by staying in a special home within the hospital. In some cases, patients manage to adapt in their previous jobs while they’re still in the hospital. In this way, they gradually adapt to the obligations of a normal life.
Many patients recover after an attack of schizophrenia to the extent that allows them to return to a relatively normal life. However, if they are exposed to too strong stress, there may be further attacks. In some cases, the disease becomes chronic. Such patients are always introvert and without emotional reaction, although even then the frequency of severe attacks can be avoided by taking the medication regulary.