Schizophrenia is a long term mental disorder that involves a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion and behaviour leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions, and feelings. There is a withdrawal from reality into a world of fantasy, delusion or false belief.
Schizophrenia affects the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, perceives reality, and relates to others. It is often hard to spot because there’s usually no specific trigger and the exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. Paranoid schizophrenia or schizophrenia with paranoia is often the complex disorder that is more easily recognised. People with schizophrenia or paranoid schizophrenia have an altered perception of reality. They believe in conspiracies, that they are being watched or relentlessly tracked, they may see or hear things that don’t exist and speak in strange or confusing ways.
There is a myth that Schizophrenia refers to a “split personality” or multiple personalities. Multiple personality disorder is a different and much less common disorder than schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia do not have split personalities; rather, they are “split off” from reality. This “split off” from reality may cause relationship problems, disruption in daily activity such as bathing, eating, working and the completion of simple tasks. In many instances people with Schizophrenia withdraw from the outside world, acting in an eccentric, confused or fearful manner.
Researchers have uncovered that genetics play a role in that when Schizophrenia runs in families that there is a greater likelihood to have Schizophrenia passed on from parent to child. The environment is a contributing factor such as exposure to viral infections, toxins, drug and substance use such as marijuana or highly stressful situations.
Schizophrenia symptoms are referred to as positive, negative and cognitive. The reference to negative symptom doesn’t mean “bad.” It notes the absence of normal behaviours like, lack of emotion or a limited range of emotions, less energy, less speech, lack of motivation, loss of pleasure or interest in life and poor hygiene and grooming habits.
The reference to positive symptoms doesn’t mean good. It refers to added thoughts or actions that aren’t based in reality. They’re sometimes called psychotic symptoms and can include delusions which are false, mixed, and sometimes strange beliefs that aren’t based in reality. Hallucinations, these involve sensations that aren’t real with hearing voices and or sounds being common. Or even a condition called catatonia, where the person may stop speaking, and their body may be fixed in a single position for a very long time.
Cognitive symptoms refer to when a person has trouble understanding information and using it to make decisions or experiences a sudden decline in working memory.
While schizophrenia is a chronic disorder, many fears about the disorder are not based on reality. Most people with schizophrenia get better over time, not worse. Treatment options in South Africa are improving all the time. Schizoprenia is often episodic, so periods of remission are ideal times to employ self-help strategies to limit the length and frequency of any future episodes.
Along with the right support, medication, and therapy, many people with schizophrenia are able to manage their symptoms, function independently, and live a joy filled, purpose driven life.