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Knowing What to Look for in Someone with Schizophrenia and How to Treat It

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Schizophrenia in a Whole Sense

You wake up gasping for air, still in shock, sweat dripping from your forehead. You quickly scan the room for the “masked murder” approaching you. Nothing is there, you are safe. It was just a dream, and that horrible nightmare was not real. Imagine that nightmare still continuing when you wake up, when you brush your teeth, or even when you are at your job. This is what it is like for someone with schizophrenia. Mayo Clinic defines schizophrenia as a severe brain disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. This means that your brain can’t tell what is real and what isn’t. You could be walking down the street and hallucinate that citizen’s faces are melting off. I had a personal experience dealing with schizophrenia when I was living in an apartment. The resident next to me had schizophrenia and was always scared to go out into public. One day we both opened our doors to leave at the same time and she looked at me and screamed and ran back inside. She must have hallucinated something about me that scared her dearly. Another experience with that resident is kind of scary to tell. I was leaving and she saw me leaving and started chasing after me. I hadn’t done anything, but I was scared and ran. She chased me for about 10 minutes before she calmed down and apologized to me. Why did she chase me like that? The voices inside her head told her to chase me, so she listened and did it. Schizophrenia is a serious and scary disorder that should not be taken lightly. Patients are living their lives like their always in a nightmare. That is not the way life should be lived and that is why schizophrenia is important to be known to the public so that help can be done to defeat this horrible disorder.

Symptoms

There are many symptoms associated with schizophrenia that a patient deals with on a daily basis. Schizophrenia patients are said to be less satisfied with the way they live their life than the rest of the population. Patients are always under a depressive state because of schizophrenia and in a general sense, are constantly dealing with psychopathology and the effects of the medication taken for psychopathology (M. Ritsner, February 2003). Patients are usually depressed because of their inability to find emotion in things. Their ability to communicate is flawed and they lose interest in activities easily. Delusions and hallucinations are also symptoms of schizophrenia. This is what makes schizophrenia psychological and what causes patients to be diagnosed with schizophrenia. Hallucinating can be scary and causes patients lives to be dreadful. Delusions cause patients to believe something that is not of reality. Some patients may believe they are famous while some may believe that everyone is staring at them. Disorganized thinking is also a problem associated with schizophrenia. This is the inability think and speaks clearly. Words are said in the wrong order and can impair communication. Disorganized behavior is also a symptom of schizophrenia. Patients tend to not be able to follow directions correctly and can act in a childlike manner that includes not focusing and the inability to control movement. Schizophrenia is a scary and dangerous disorder because of the symptoms associated with it. Living in this state of not being able to control what you think or do is what makes schizophrenia a disorder that needs to be dealt with carefully. These symptoms can cause the patient to become violent and a threat to others. It also takes away the patient’s ability to live normally and to live independent.

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Diagnostic Criteria

In order for someone to be diagnosed with they must have two, or more of the following symptoms of schizophrenia in a one-month-period (R. Tandon):(1) Delusions- To believe something that is not of reality(2) Hallucinations- To see something that is not of reality

(3) Disorganized Speech- Inability to communicate effectively(4) Grossly Disorganized or Catatonic Behavior- Inability to control one’s actions(5) Negative symptoms, i.e., affective flattening, Alogia, or Avolition- Inability to convey emotionsAt least one of the symptoms must be delusions, hallucinations, or disorganized speech in order to be diagnosed. Patients must have a background check to make sure the symptoms are not from some other disorder, or from some experience in the past. In order to be fully diagnosed, Mayo Clinic says that the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) must be met which is the symptoms listed above in the one-month-period. Schizophrenia is not a disorder that can be diagnosed once the symptoms are noticed. It can often take up to six months before the patient is identified as someone with schizophrenia. Other disorders are also taken into account, and the psychiatrist will go over each disorder one by one to make sure it is not one of those before establishing that the patient may, in fact, have schizophrenia. The medications for schizophrenia have side effects that deal with the brain and can cause problems for the patient. That is why diagnosing schizophrenia takes so long to do. You don’t want to give a patient medication that they don’t need that has side effects. Most patients don’t realize that they have the symptoms associated with schizophrenia, which means most psychiatrists find out about the patient through the patient’s family or friends. Diagnosing schizophrenia is a long task with a careful watch of the patient and requires a lot of patience from both the patient and the psychiatrist.

Treatment

Schizophrenia has ways of being treated and these treatments are meant to meet certain goals. Treatment planning has three goals:

  1. Reduce or eliminate symptoms
  2. Maximize quality of life and adaptive functioning
  3. Promote and maintain recovery from the debilitating effects of illness to the maximum extent possible (APA)

Schizophrenia is a disorder that requires lifelong treatments. Medication is a way of reducing the symptoms, but not getting rid of the disorder. Many different medications are used for the controlling of schizophrenia. Mayo Clinic lists many different medications to be used for schizophrenia. The first type is called atypical antipsychotics:

Aripiprazole (Abilify) Asenapine (Saphris) Clozapine (Clozaril) Iloperidone (Fanapt) Lurasidone (Latuda) Olanzapine (Zyprexa) Paliperidone (Invega) Quetiapine (Seroquel) Risperidone (Risperdal) Ziprasidone (Geodon) These medications are usually the ones that patients like to use because the side effects are less common and not as strong. Other medications that are stronger and have frequent side effects are called conventional antipsychotics:

Chlorpromazine Fluphenazine Haloperidol (Haldol)

Perphenazine

Most patients don’t like to use medications because of the side effects and even refrain from going to a specialist because they don’t want to have to take the medication. Hopefully, in the future medication for schizophrenia won’t have as many severe side effects as they do now so that more patients will be able to control their symptoms. A psychiatrist is usually recommended to the patient to help with the treatment process. Because of schizophrenia being a lifelong condition, symptoms will never go away. This means that treatment will never get rid of schizophrenia, but will reduce the severity of the symptoms. Some patients have to be hospitalized if the symptoms are very severe. Other ways of treating schizophrenia are by fighting back at the symptoms. Learning to improve your social skills and stress management can greatly increase your chances of lowering your symptoms of schizophrenia. Because of schizophrenia, the patient’s life is dramatically changed. If the patient is willing to try to get their life back to normal, improving your social skills can help. Psychiatrists will help improve social skills like communication and movements. Controlling your communication means overcoming one of the biggest symptoms of schizophrenia. Patients can also take classes on stress management to reduce relapses of the symptoms and to control the negative thoughts associated with schizophrenia. Practicing the ability to tell yourself that something is not real, like when you’re hallucinating is also a good technique to have. It will stop the symptoms in their tracks when they start up. Patients with schizophrenia are also able to join organizations to help them find jobs, and help them live. Most of the treatment with schizophrenia is not to get rid of it, but to help the patient to live with the disorder as normally as possible. Schizophrenia takes away the ability to live normally and that is the whole idea behind treating this disorder. Families with schizophrenic relatives also have the ability to go to therapy to help improve their stress with it, and to be shown how to easily take care of a relative with schizophrenia.

Etiologies

There is no known single cause of schizophrenia. Many diseases, such as heart disease, result from an interplay of genetic, behavioral and other factors, and this may be the case for schizophrenia as well (Smith). Schizophrenia is mostly based off the patient’s past. A history check is usually done when diagnosing schizophrenia. A child whose parent has schizophrenia has about a 10 percent chance of developing schizophrenia themselves (Smith). If the patient is known to have relatives with schizophrenia, diagnosing if it is the disorder starts immediately because of the long task of figuring it out. Scientists are unable to figure out which genes are the cause for schizophrenia, but believe they could be the reason for schizophrenia and the inheritance of schizophrenia. The way the patient lives may also be the cause for schizophrenia. Experiences from an early age or the way the patient lived can cause the patient to have symptoms. Problems before, during, or after birth can greatly increase the chance of developing schizophrenia. Some scientists believe that schizophrenia is caused by something in the brain. Neurotransmitters in the brain may be at fault for schizophrenia. It is likely, although not yet certain, that the disorder is associated with some imbalance of the complex, interrelated chemical systems of the brain, perhaps involving the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate (Smith). The brain is the greatest achievement we have as humans, but it can also be the most dangerous. With all these ways of being able to get schizophrenia and no real answer to what actually is the real cause for it, it can be scary and unbelievable to be told that you have schizophrenia. Hopefully with better medical studies, schizophrenia will be able to have more answers to how it is caused.

Conclusion

Schizophrenia is a serious disorder that impacts the patient every single day of their life. It is something that needs to be studied more, to give patients more answers and more hope for the future. With all these questions that need to be answered, being told that you have schizophrenia is scary. Medical advancements must happen to allow these questions to be answered. The only way to help the patient is to give them medication and watch them suffer in their head. That needs to change and patients need real help. Medications need to do more than just slow the symptoms, they should keep the symptoms at bay. While most of those treated require inpatient care, only about half of all individuals with schizophrenia obtain treatment, in spite of the severity of the disorder (Versola-Russo). Being diagnosed with schizophrenia also needs to be changed. Having to wait up to six months to be sure that the patient has schizophrenia is a long time to decide. It could be too late for the patient by the time the answer is figured out. Improvements on schizophrenia and the diagnosing process need to be put into place. Schizophrenia is serious, and it is not fair to have the patient trapped inside their mind. More research must be done and more time and care for the patients must be a priority. Just because they are considered a psychopath, does not mean that they are not a person. They deserve to live life the way we all do, not living life on medication and living dependent all their life. Open up the eyes to the public about this dreadful disorder so it can be put to a stop. Leave nightmares in our dreams and not in our lives.

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