Unraveling the Complexities of Schizophrenia: Quality of Life
Schizophrenia: the “cancer” of mental illness. Schizophrenia is the most severe and debilitating psychiatric disorder that exists. This disorder affects about 1% of the population worldwide (Owen & Mortensen, 2016). Although the percentage may not seem significant, the actual number of people affected is huge. While there are several different causes of schizophrenia, most of them aren’t preventable. There are many signs and symptoms of the illness, but there is no way to foresee the onset of it. As of right now, a cure has not been discovered, but treatment has come a long way from where it used to be. Most people believe schizophrenia is just hallucinations and people acting out of the ordinary, but the truth is that it is an extremely complex, unpreventable mental illness. So, what causes schizophrenia?
Understanding Schizophrenia as a Debilitating Disorder
There isn’t an exact reason people develop schizophrenia, but there are many factors believed to contribute to the disorder, and most of them are things that aren’t preventable. Some of the believed causes happen early in life and even before birth. If a mother has complications or stress during pregnancy or a child develops a serious infection, it could lead to the onset of schizophrenia. Abuse in early childhood could lead to schizophrenia as well. Genetics are believed to be another major cause of people developing schizophrenia. There is a higher risk of a child developing this disorder if one or both of their parents have it. According to Laurens and Cullen (2015), “anywhere between 10% and 15% of children will develop schizophrenia if they have an immediate family member diagnosed with it.”
Order your custom essay on
The final major reason for people developing schizophrenia is the differences in the biological makeup of the brain. Their brains generally have less grey matter than a typical brain, and if left untreated, the grey matter will continue to decrease. The ventricles in their brains tend to be enlarged, which means there is more fluid in the spaces around them. Also, the amygdala is enlarged, and they have decreased function in the prefrontal cortex. There are excessively higher amounts of the hormone dopamine in the frontal lobes than in the average brain (Solanki et al., 2008).
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenics generally have two types of symptoms: positive and negative. Positive symptoms are things such as disorganized speech, hallucinations, catatonic behavior, delusions, and disorganized behavior. With positive signs and symptoms, the person may be unresponsive to their surrounding, see or hear things that aren’t really there, or not be able to care for themself. Types of negative symptoms seen are the flat effect, avolition, and algogia. A person with negative signs or symptoms may show little to no emotion, have a limited vocabulary, or be unable to do everyday tasks such as cooking or tying their shoes.
All of these symptoms, positive and negative, are important to the diagnosis of schizophrenia. “The positive symptoms tend to relapse and remit, though some patients experience residual long-term psychotic symptoms. The negative and cognitive symptoms tend to be chronic and are associated with long-term effects on social function” (Owen & Mortensen, 2016). Both positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia are devastating and can range in severity. Positive symptoms were named because they are thought of as being added to a person’s psyche. The brain is more stimulated than before the onset of the illness. Negative symptoms occur when the brain has less stimulation, and the person loses the ability to do things they used to be able to, such as routine hygiene or normal emotion.
How the Illness Can Be Treated
Even though there is no cure for schizophrenia, there are many medications and therapies used to help people function and have a life as close to normal as possible. Antipsychotic medicines are the number one type of medication used to reduce symptoms of schizophrenia. The most commonly used medications are as follows:
Zyprexa is used to treat schizophrenia in people 13 and older. It has been shown to block or lessen the effects of several chemicals in the brain. Risperdal is used to treat schizophrenia by changing the activity of certain natural substances in the brain. Seroquel helps to lessen the effects of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Geodon is an antipsychotic that blocks certain neurotransmitters in the brain that heighten the symptoms of the disorder. Haldol helps with the treatment of schizophrenia by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain. Thorazine changes the activity of chemicals in the body.
Clozaril is the last resort medication. It is used in patients who couldn’t be helped with any other medication. It helps the patients who have attempted suicide or are likely to attempt it again. Like the majority of the other medications, it is used to lessen the effects of the chemicals and neurotransmitters in the brain. While medications can greatly reduce problems associated with schizophrenia, they all come with a risk of their own side effects. As Millier et al. (2014) have noted, “The most harmful side effects reported are weight gain, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, sexual dysfunction, osteoporosis, and physical impairments such as tardive dyskinesia.”
Using therapy techniques along with medication is the best way to help a patient (Ben-Zeev et al., 2011). Psychotherapy is a major form of therapy used with schizophrenics. With psychotherapy, the patient meets with the therapist or counselor regularly. The therapist helps them to be able to differentiate between what is real and what is imaginary. Also, the therapist helps them to be able to better understand their illness and how to handle themselves properly. Another form of therapy is family therapy. This type of therapy is important because, a lot of times, the families have to help care for the person with the disorder, and they need to understand and know how to cope with the symptoms they have to deal with. With family therapy, the families will learn all about the disorder and know how to manage it. Cognitive behavior therapy can be very effective for a schizophrenic. It would help them to recognize unhealthy behaviors and develop more beneficial ways of doing things.
Quality of Life for a Schizophrenic Patient
The quality of life for someone with a diagnosis of schizophrenia is reduced significantly compared to a healthy person. Historically, about 60% of people living with schizophrenia attempt suicide, and close to 15% are successful (“Negative Symptoms,” 2017). Many times, schizophrenics go into depression because they are so handicapped by the illness. It can lead to social withdrawal and unemployability. Depending on the severity of the diagnosis and how well treatment works, it’s not uncommon for the person to require 24-hour care. Almost half of people with schizophrenia live with their parents or another family member their entire lives (Takamatsu et al., 2009).
Schizophrenia can be a scary mental illness if you don’t know much about it. With so many affected by it in our world, being aware of what it is and what can be done to help people diagnosed with it will make it less frightening. Even though there is no way to see the onset coming, having so many treatment options available makes it much more manageable. Schizophrenia is not just hearing voices, hallucinations, or acting out. It is a complex illness that cannot be prevented in people who are diagnosed with it. The more aware we are about it, the further research can go and hopefully lead to a cure someday.
- “Schizophrenia: Cognitive Theory, Research, and Therapy” by Aaron T. Beck and Neil A. Rector
- “Divided Minds: Twin Sisters and Their Journey Through Schizophrenia” by Pamela Spiro Wagner and Carolyn S. Spiro
- “Madness: A Bipolar Life” by Marya Hornbacher