Schizophrenia is a serious and long-term condition that affects the way a person thinks, feels, acts, engages with other people, expresses emotion and perceives reality.
Neuraxpharm provides medication alternatives for schizophrenia and once your doctor has determined your specific needs, they can prescribe the product that best adapts to your needs and condition.
Find out more about its causes, symptoms and treatments.
Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects the way a person’s brain works and the way they communicate and make sense of the world. As a result, they may need support in some areas.
Schizophrenia is a severe, chronic mental illness that causes a range of psychological symptoms and may mean the person affected can’t always distinguish their own thoughts and ideas from reality. It can lead to problems at work, school and in relationships. People with schizophrenia may become withdrawn and seem to lose touch with reality, which can cause distress for the individual concerned, as well as their family members and friends.
There is no known cure and if left untreated, the symptoms of schizophrenia can be persistent and disabling. However, effective treatments are available to help individuals manage their symptoms, reduce the risk of a recurrence, and better enjoy day-to-day life.
There are many misconceptions about schizophrenia, however, most people affected are no more dangerous or violent than people in the general population.
Schizophrenia is the term used for a series of mental health disorders that fall along the same spectrum, including:
Conditions related to schizophrenia include schizoaffective disorder, which includes elements of both schizophrenia and mood disorders. Its symptoms can include paranoid thoughts, delusions or hallucinations, difficulty concentrating, depression, problems with sleep and appetite, and social withdrawal.
Other related disorders include delusional disorder, brief psychotic disorder, schizophreniform disorder and psychosis.
Schizophrenia affects 20 million people worldwide, or one percent of the population in all cultures. It affects equal numbers of men and women, but the onset is often later in women than in men.
The severity of schizophrenia and its symptoms varies from person to person and symptoms may seem to worsen and improve in cycles known as relapses and remissions. Some people have only one psychotic episode, while others have many during a lifetime but lead relatively normal lives in between. Others may have more trouble functioning over time, with little improvement between full-blown psychotic episodes.
The symptoms of schizophrenia are generally referred to as either positive (or psychotic, based in non-reality), negative (things that are absent), cognitive or disorganised.
Positive symptoms include:
Negative symptoms include:
Cognitive symptoms include:
Disorganised symptoms include:
In catatonic schizophrenia, the person affected might stop speaking, and their body may be fixed in a single position for a very long time.
Schizophrenia can develop slowly, often during the teenage years, and for various reasons may initially be difficult to diagnose.
Early adulthood is the most common age for schizophrenia to appear, and there must be symptoms for at least six months for a diagnosis to be made. Men with schizophrenia may start experiencing symptoms in their late teens or early 20s, whilst for women symptoms may present later, up to their early 30s.
There are three phases of schizophrenia: the beginning stage; the acute/active stage; and the residual/recovery stage. The beginning (or ‘prodromal’) stage could last for days, but equally might continue for years. Lack of one specific trigger means that it might be difficult to identify, and behavioural changes might be subtle.
Symptoms of possible schizophrenia could include changes in mood and social withdrawal, meaning the condition could easily be mistaken for a typical teenage ‘phase’. Lack of motivation, disrupted sleep, difficulty concentrating, an increased temper, trouble within relationships and difficulty at school are all symptoms that might manifest in teenagers when the condition is developing.
Those suffering from schizophrenia may experience an episode of psychosis, which often leads to their diagnosis. Mood changes and increased difficulty in social functioning may present themselves before the first episode of psychosis.
Those with the condition might find that their symptoms are sometimes severe, and sometimes less so.
The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown, however, it is most likely linked to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
It’s thought that some people are more vulnerable to developing schizophrenia and that certain situations, such as a stressful life event or drug misuse, can trigger the condition.
Schizophrenia can affect people anywhere in the world, across all races and cultures.
Schizophrenia can be diagnosed in childhood, however this is relatively rare. Early-onset schizophrenia typically occurs between the ages of 13 and 18. A diagnosis under the age of 13 is extremely rare. Men may experience symptoms earlier than women, although the condition affects all genders equally. It is likely that the earlier the symptoms appear, the more severe the case of schizophrenia will be.
How long a person can live with schizophrenia depends on various factors, including the severity of their case and how receptive they are to treatment. Those living with the condition are likely to be able to live relatively normal lives alongside family if treatment is administered. People with schizophrenia are unlikely to live in psychiatric facilities in the long-term. Research to improve treatment is ongoing.
Schizophrenia often co-occurs alongside other conditions, including psychosis, diabetes and heart disease. Because of this, those with schizophrenia have a life expectancy between 15 and 25 years lower than the general population. People with schizophrenia are two to three times more likely to die early than the general population.
There’s no single test for schizophrenia and the condition is usually diagnosed after assessment by a specialist in mental health, sometimes after a period of psychosis.
Sometimes it might not be clear whether someone has schizophrenia or a related mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder.
Symptoms of schizophrenia must be present for six months, and consistently active for at least one of those months, before a diagnosis can be made. Two of the following symptoms will need to have been observed:
Delusions, hallucinations or disorganised speech must be one of the symptoms noted for a positive diagnosis, and they cannot be the result of any other condition.
The doctor may attempt to rule out conditions that schizophrenia may be associated with, for example substance-induced psychosis, through the use of brain imaging or blood tests.
Diagnosing schizophrenia is based on observing someone’s actions and symptoms. However, doctors may carry out tests to make sure nothing else is at the root of the symptoms. For example, imaging studies or CT or MRI scans might be carried out, to rule out symptoms being caused by problems such as brain tumours, epilepsy, autoimmune conditions or infections. Inkblot, cognitive and/or personality tests may also be used.
Doctors are also likely to perform tests to ensure that symptoms are not being caused by other factors, such as prescription medications, alcohol or drugs.
If a doctor suspects schizophrenia, they may refer to a psychiatrist, who may carry out assessments or observe behaviours in order to try and establish a clear diagnosis.
There are various treatment options for people with schizophrenia, which can help them to live their lives in a manageable way.
Schizophrenia is usually treated with a combination of medication and therapy, tailored to each individual person.
The aim is to ease the symptoms and to cut the chances of a relapse or the return of the symptoms. Treatment options are likely to include antipsychotic medicines and/or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
At the moment, there is no way to prevent the onset of schizophrenia, although treatment methods have been developed that can enable those with the condition to live their lives in a relatively normal way.
Early diagnosis and engagement with treatment can help to lessen the disruption that might be experienced, and can reduce the chance of relapse. Relapses can often be prevented by:
As the cause of schizophrenia isn’t yet known, research into areas including environment and genetics is hugely important. Also vital is research that leads to actions that reduce the impact that the condition can have on people’s lives.
Future treatments for schizophrenia are under the microscope. Deep brain stimulation (DBS), which is a well-established treatment for Parkinson’s disease, may be important in the development of treatment for psychiatric disorders too, and researchers are looking into this.
There is also significant research to identify how genes could affect schizophrenia, with the aim of increasing the personalised medicine that can be offered in the future.