Schizophrenia Disease – Definition, Risk Factors, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Complications, Treatment, Prevention, When to See a Doctor?

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that occurs in the long term. This disorder causes sufferers to experience hallucinations, delusions or delusions, thought disorder, and behavioral changes.

These symptoms are symptoms of psychosis, which is a condition where the sufferer has difficulty distinguishing reality from his own mind.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a chronic psychiatric disorder in which the sufferer experiences hallucinations, delusions, confusion in thinking, and changes in attitude. Generally, people with schizophrenia experience symptoms of psychosis, which is difficulty distinguishing between reality and thoughts on oneself.

This is what makes schizophrenia equated with psychosis, even though the two are different. Psychosis is only one symptom of several types of mental disorders, including schizophrenia.

Also read: Is it true that the negative stigma about schizophrenia can worsen the condition?

Causes of Schizophrenia

Although the main cause of schizophrenia has not been found, there are several factors that are suspected to be the cause of this health problem, including:

1. Genetic Factors

Offspring of people with schizophrenia have a 10 percent higher risk of developing the condition. The risk increased 40 percent greater when both parents were schizophrenic. Meanwhile, twins in which one of them has schizophrenia will have a risk of up to 50 percent greater.

2. Complications of Pregnancy and Childbirth

Schizophrenia can be caused by several conditions that may occur during pregnancy and the impact will be seen when the child is born. These conditions, such as exposure to toxins and viruses, a mother with diabetes, bleeding during pregnancy, and nutritional deficiencies.

Apart from pregnancy, complications that occur during childbirth can also cause a child to develop schizophrenia. For example, low birth weight, premature birth, and asphyxia or lack of oxygen at birth.

3. Chemical Factors in the Brain

Imbalance of serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain can be one of the causes and increase a person’s risk of developing schizophrenia. Both are chemicals that function to send signals between brain cells as part of neurotransmitters.

In addition, people with schizophrenia also have differences in brain structure and function compared to people who do not have mental disorders. These differences include:

  • The ventricles of the brain are larger in size. The ventricles are the part of the brain that is filled with fluid.
  • The temporal lobe is smaller in size. Memory in the human brain is related to the temporal lobe.
  • Cells in the brain have fewer connections.

Schizophrenia Risk Factors

Anyone can get schizophrenia regardless of age, but generally teenagers and people in their early 20s are at a higher risk of developing this condition.

In addition, there are several factors that can increase the risk of schizophrenia:

  • Abnormal structure of the brain and central nervous system.
  • Some complications of pregnancy and birth, such as malnutrition, lack of oxygen or exposure to toxins or viruses that can affect brain development.
  • Have a family history of schizophrenia.
  • Premature birth.
  • Increased activation of the immune system.
  • Imbalance of serotonin and dopamine levels.
  • Taking mind-altering drugs (psychoactive or psychotropic) during adolescence and young adulthood.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is divided into two categories, namely positive and negative.

1. Negative Symptoms

Negative schizophrenia symptoms appear when the traits and abilities possessed by normal people, such as concentration, normal sleep patterns, and life motivation disappear.

Generally, these symptoms are coupled with a person’s unwillingness to socialize and feel uncomfortable when with other people. The characteristics of people who suffer from negative symptoms of schizophrenia, which look apathetic and emotionally bad, do not care about their own appearance, and withdraw from society.

2. Positive Symptoms

Meanwhile, positive symptoms of schizophrenia usually include delusions, hallucinations, confused thoughts, and changes in behavior.

The thing to watch out for, the symptoms of schizophrenia usually develop slowly over months or years. The sufferer may have many symptoms, or only a few symptoms.

People with schizophrenia may have trouble connecting with friends and coworkers. They may also have problems with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Early symptoms of schizophrenia can include:

  • Feelings of irritability or tension.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Trouble sleeping.

As the disease progresses, the person may have problems with thinking, emotions, and behavior, including:

  • Hearing or seeing things that are not there (hallucinations).
  • Self isolation.
  • Reduced emotion in tone of voice or facial expression.
  • Problems with understanding and decision making.
  • Problems paying attention and following up on activities.
  • Strongly held beliefs in something that is not real (delusions).
  • Speak in a nonsensical way.
  • Diagnosis of Schizophrenia

If symptoms of schizophrenia are seen, the doctor will generally perform a physical examination of the sufferer. In addition, a family medical history examination will also be carried out.

Meanwhile, for supporting examinations such as blood tests, CT Scan, or MRI can be done to rule out organic causes of schizophrenia symptoms, such as brain tumors or metabolic disorders that have hallucinatory symptoms such as schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia Treatment

Schizophrenia can be treated using several ways, such as combining medication with psychological therapy. The drug given is an antipsychotic that affects neurotransmitter substances in the brain. This drug is able to reduce  anxiety, reduce or prevent hallucinations, and help maintain the ability to think.

Doctors generally give antipsychotic drugs to people with schizophrenia to reduce or eliminate symptoms. Other treatment, namely through electric shock or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

The ECT method is carried out by providing an external electric current to the brain of the sufferer who has previously been anesthetized or put to sleep, so that the electrical disorder in the brain that causes hallucinations can be reduced.

Schizophrenia Prevention

Currently, there are no specific preventive measures for schizophrenia. However, early examination can help reduce the severity of the symptoms. Family harmony is also an important thing to maintain, as well as doing positive activities and exercising regularly.

When to go to the doctor?

Immediately see a doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist if you experience the above symptoms or other symptoms, such as:

  • Listen to voices telling you to hurt yourself or others.
  • Have the urge to hurt yourself or others.
  • Feeling scared or overwhelmed.
  • Seeing things that are not there or real.
  • Feeling that you can’t take care of yourself.

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