What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a long-term mental disease that affects how your brain works. Schizophrenia may change how you think, feel, and behave. You may not be able to know what is real and what is not real. Your thoughts may not be clear or may jump from one topic to another.
What increases my risk for schizophrenia?
Healthcare providers do not exactly know what causes schizophrenia. Stressful events or accidents may trigger symptoms. The following may increase your risk:
- You have a family member with schizophrenia.
- You were exposed to substances such as amphetamines and opiates.
Diagnosis & Treatment Options
What are the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia?
- Delusions: These are false ideas. You may believe that someone is spying on you, or that you are someone famous.
- Hallucinations: You see, feel, taste, hear, or smell something that is not real.
- Disordered thinking and speech: When you talk, you move from one subject to another in a way that does not make sense. You make up your own words or sounds.
- Lack of emotion: You lack facial expressions and do not express emotion.
- Lack of drive or initiative: You have less ability to start and continue a planned activity.
- Social withdrawal: You avoid gatherings with family and friends.
- Cognitive symptoms: These may affect your attention, memory, and to plan and organize things.
How is schizophrenia diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will complete a full examination and will ask you some questions to help plan your treatment. These questions could include:
- If you have a history of psychological trauma, such as physical, sexual, or mental abuse.
- If you were given the care that you needed when you needed it.
- If you have a history of alcohol or drug abuse.
- If you want to hurt or kill yourself or others.
- If you have hobbies and goals, if the people in your life support you, and how you feel about treatment.
How is schizophrenia treated?
Which medicines are used to treat schizophrenia?
- Antipsychotics: These help decrease psychotic symptoms and severe agitation. You may need antiparkinson medicine to control muscle stiffness, twitches, and restlessness caused by antipsychotic medicines.
- Anti-anxiety medicine: This medicine may be given to decrease anxiety and help you feel calm and relaxed.
- Antidepressants: These help with symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Mood stabilizers: These control mood swings.
- Tranquilizers: These increase feelings of being calm and relaxed.
Which therapies are used to treat schizophrenia?
- Assertive community treatment: A team of healthcare providers and support groups in your community help you with your therapy.
- Cognitive behavior therapy: This therapy helps you to change certain behaviors. It will help you handle symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions.
- Illness-management skills: This type of therapy teaches you what you can do to help manage your disease.
- Family psychoeducation: Your family will be part of your therapy.
- Social skills training: This training helps you learn how to get along with other people.
- Supported employment: This is a form of therapy where you are placed into a job that fits your skills. It will help give you independence and self-confidence.
- Electroconvulsive therapy: This is a type of shock therapy, also called ECT. This therapy passes a small amount of electricity to the brain.
Preparing for Care
When should you seek immediate care for schizophrenia?
During a psychotic episode, you may not know the difference between what’s real and what isn’t. You may see and hear things that aren’t there or believe something is controlling your thoughts. If you notice signs in yourself—or someone around you—that seem to be leading up to a psychotic episode, you should contact your provider immediately.
When should you seek care for schizophrenia?
Patients with schizophrenia should be evaluated on a regular basis. Frequency of visits should be based on your status, compliance with your treatment regimen, and the presence of other conditions. Talk to your provider about the treatment and plan that is appropriate for your care.