Schizophrenia is a severe neuropsychiatric disorder that alters a person’s perception of themselves, the world around them, and their relationship to it. Disruptions are experienced in thought processes, perceptions, emotional responsiveness, and social interactions. Schizophrenia can also be tricky to diagnose due to its inherent biological complexity, the overlap of symptoms with other disorders, and different evaluation methods. In the U.S., this mental health disorder is estimated to affect 0.25% and 0.64% of the population.
Symptoms and Causes
Schizophrenia tends to manifest in the age range of 16 to 30 and equally affects both men and women. Some may not be aware that they have the disorder, while outsiders might be able to recognize it easily by demonstrating strange behaviors. Individuals with schizophrenia may seem to have lost touch with reality and be “elsewhere” other than the present. Some individuals hear voices that aren’t there and believe that someone or something is stalking them and plotting up a grand scheme to destroy them. For some, this is a genuine reality. Although subtle, some other signs to look out for include:
- Troubled relationships
- Poor school performance
- Reduced motivation
These challenges can make it difficult to keep a job, maintain relationships, and lead a happy, healthy life. Nevertheless, this does not mean that you are destined to grief and despair just because you may have schizophrenia. It is not impossible to live the life you want to live.
People living with schizophrenia may experience symptoms that fall into three categories:
- Psychotic symptoms that distort a person’s thinking like hallucinations and delusions
- Negative symptoms like seeming depressed and attached
- Cognitive symptoms that affect the thought process like trouble employing information and making decisions
Scientists are not set on what exactly causes schizophrenia. It is thought to be attributed to genetics, environmental conditions, or some combination of both; the nuanced details still need to be fleshed out in the lab. Schizophrenia sometimes “runs in the family,” but this is not always the case. Being exposed to poor environmental conditions – living in poverty, stressful surroundings, and exposure to viruses or nutritional problems before birth – may also contribute to the development of schizophrenia.
Scientists have discovered that, in general, genetic factors do interact with childhood trauma to influence brain structure and function. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, data strongly suggests that such traumatic experiences are correlated with adverse brain development in multiple regions that impair emotional and behavioral regulation, motivation, and cognitive function. A particular focus of research is looking to identify the exact link between schizophrenia and childhood trauma. In patients, such trauma has been associated with impaired working memory, executive function, verbal learning, attention, and the potential for psychosis.
Misconceptions and Co-occurring Substance Use
Those not familiar with schizophrenia may hold some misconceptions about the disorder, such as being akin to split personality or multiple-personality disorder. However, this is not true. Some believe that individuals with schizophrenia are more dangerous or violent than the average person; this is not entirely true. However, schizophrenia may worsen over time if left untreated, increasing the opportunities for violent behavior to develop.
It’s not uncommon for those with schizophrenia to experience substance use with drugs or alcohol. In general, about 50% of people who have a mental illness will also experience a substance use disorder at some point in their lives. The misuse of drugs or alcohol can interfere with schizophrenia treatment and increase the risk of suicide, trauma, and homelessness. The development of other mental health disorders alongside schizophrenia is also possible. With this in mind, it is probably best to avoid substances that may worsen a schizophrenic disorder. Fortunately, some treatment facilities consider this reality and incorporate substance use therapies alongside mental health.
Bottom Line: Don’t Give Up
Unfortunately, there is no cure for schizophrenia right now, but don’t lose hope; there are ways to manage it effectively. Like Oceanfront Recovery, some facilities offer affordable therapies and support systems to build your capacity to manage schizophrenia. With the right care and attention, it is possible to live a productive and happy life. Scientific research in this field is ongoing. Discoveries are happening all the time that add to the bulk of the information available on this disorder. With this knowledge, improved treatments and techniques are possible, which will help individuals manage their disorders better. Bottom line: don’t give up!
One promising and potential life-changing therapy to consider is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR). EMDR works to process past trauma without patients having to re-live all the painful memories, which is often thought to trigger schizophrenia. In one meta-analysis, researchers reported that seven of ten studies concluded EMDR therapy to be more rapid and more effective than other alternatives. This therapy has important implications for clinical applications as it can be used for various psychological problems, including schizophrenia.
Living with schizophrenia can be confusing, frightening, and debilitating. Sometimes, you just can not keep your feet on the ground. Reality can feel just too far away. This complicated mental health disorder is attributed to genetics, environmental conditions, or a combination of both. However, childhood trauma is thought to play a considerable role in the development of schizophrenia. Adding substance use into the mix can worsen symptoms and lead to other mental health disorders. Addressing these concerns as soon as possible may help you achieve long-term relief. Understand: you are not destined to be a servant to your mental health disorder, and at Oceanfront Recovery, we will help you take control of your journey. We offer various affordable mental health therapy programs to fit your needs, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), EMDR, and family therapy. Check out our programs today – YOU are why WE are here. Call Oceanfront Recovery at (877) 279-1777.