Public awareness of mental illnesses is on the rise, and for good reason. Approximately 1 in 6 people in the UK will need treatment for mental health conditions in their lifetimes, for a wide variety of mental health conditions. In particular, approximately 1 in 100 people will suffer from an episode of schizophrenia at some point in there life.
At any one moment, some 220,000 people in the UK alone are receiving treatment for the condition. This article endeavours to explain the symptoms and hypothesised causes of schizophrenia.
What are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a type of psychosis, a set of mental health conditions that cause an impaired connection between thoughts and reality. Schizophrenia has two categories of symptoms, classified as positive and negative.
Some of the symptoms often get mistaken for ‘phases’ during the teenage years (the time at which symptoms start to develop), leading to diagnosis problems. Symptoms often appear in short bouts or episodes, followed by other periods where few or no symptoms are present at all.
Positive symptoms are any kind of change in thoughts and behaviour. The most commonly thought of symptoms are hallucinations. Hallucinations can include any of the five senses, but the most common is hearing voices.
They are extremely real to the person experiencing them, and have been described as anything from pleasant and encouraging to downright abusive. The voices may be ‘coming’ from one or many different places, oftentimes televisions and radios. They might be giving instructions, describe things the person is seeing, discuss the person’s thoughts, or directly talk with the person suffering.
Delusions are another symptom of schizophrenia that are related to the hallucinations. They are beliefs held with total conviction despite being objectively wrong. Hearing voices describe their actions often leads people with schizophrenia to think they are being monitored by the government or some other kind of entity.
They ‘discover’ secret messages in TV signals or newspapers that are communicating solely to them, or they lead themselves to believe they are being followed.
Confused thoughts are also a symptom, with people having difficulty holding their attention on a single activity or trouble producing words properly during a conversation.
Finally, general behavioural or mental changes can be a sign of schizophrenia; acting inappropriately, being disorganised, thinking their thoughts aren’t their own, thinking their actions aren’t their own, or that their thoughts are disappearing are common changes that occur.
Negative symptoms are withdrawals or lack of functions that healthy persons wouldn’t experience. This includes people becoming increasingly socially withdrawn, losing motivation for life and activities, being uncomfortable around people and finding initiating conversations difficult, changes in sleeping patterns, and a lack of concentration.
What Causes Schizophrenia?
Its unknown exactly what causes schizophrenia, but the prevailing consensus is that it is caused by an interplay of psychological, genetic, physical, and environmental factors.
For example, if one identical twin has schizophrenia there is a 50% chance that the other will develop the condition too. No individual gene has ever been established as causing the condition, leading geneticists to believe there are several different genes interacting with one another.
Psychologically speaking, there are some slight differences in brain structure between schizophrenics and non-victims. However, these differences can be present in people who don’t develop schizophrenia.
The usage of drugs that alter neurotransmitters in the brain (specifically serotonin and dopamine) has been shown to relieve symptoms of schizophrenia. It has been suggested that either an imbalance of the two chemicals, or a change in the body’s sensitivity to them is the cause of schizophrenia.
Other than these, complications during pregnancy (such as asphyxia, premature birth, and a low birth rate), drug usage under the age of 15, and the use of amphetamines or cocaine have been shown to have some link to the development of schizophrenia.
Likewise, stressful life factors (such as sexual abuse, divorce, bereavement, or losing your job/home) do not cause the condition but can trigger its development in people vulnerable to it.
Schizophrenia Awareness Training
TutorCare are a provider of in-house and online training courses. Our Mental Health awareness programme includes Schizophrenia Awareness Training, covering symptoms, diagnosis, causes and treatment for the different types of schizophrenia.
We also offer other mental health related courses on subjects such as Supporting people with Dementia, Bipolar Awareness, ADHD Awareness, Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression Awareness and OCD Awareness.
The NHS website has a lot of information about various aspects of the condition, including possible treatments and information for family: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/schizophrenia/
The website of the mental health charity Mind likewise contains a wealth of information about the condition, as well as providing contact to appropriate support networks: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/schizophrenia/