Schizophrenia 101


Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that impacts an individual’s ability to think, feel and behave. Individuals that struggle or are diagnosed with schizophrenia have impairments that impact their ability to function in the world to include seeing things other people don’t see, hearing things other people don’t hear (voices, noises, etc. ), experience extreme emotional ups and downs, and responds to thoughts that are unreasonable and untrue (unfounded) for example: hearing a child’s voice (they are at home alone with no children in sight), expressing that they have 5 cars and millions of dollars (you are aware that they have little to no money), they are angry because the CIA is watching their every move (there is no evidence of such things happening), etc.

It is found that schizophrenia is diagnosed in the late teen years to the early thirties. It is estimated that there is an average life potential loss of 28.5 years for individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia tends to run in people’s family and can also be triggered or brought on by substance abuse or trauma. It was found that about 20% of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia attempt suicide and 45% of individuals with schizophrenia die by suicide. It has also been found that at least 50% of individuals with schizophrenia struggle with co-occurring disorders (other diagnoses in combination with schizophrenia).

These behaviors are called:

Delusions

Hallucinations

Disorganized Speech

Disorganized Behavior

Negative Symptoms

I have found, in working with this population, that many individuals struggle with co-occurring disorders to include substance abuse in the individuals attempt to manage their symptoms they are experiencing. This can include but isn’t limited to tobacco/nicotine, coffee/caffeine, marijuana, opioids or cocaine.

Treatment:

There are various treatment options for schizophrenia to include medication management and counseling/ therapy. Medication managements assists the individual with managing their symptoms to include lessening or limiting some of the symptoms mentioned about to include delusions and hallucinations; however, medication management can not completely eliminate symptomology. It is important for individuals choosing medication management to be aware of their experiences while on medication due to the significant side effects that can happen while on medication to include tremors, increased suicidal ideation, etc. It is encouraged that you get additional information about medication management for a psychiatrist or physician. I have found that one of the biggest struggles with medication management is consistency. The phenomenon of individuals taking medication, feeling better and then convincing themselves that they no longer need the medication happens often especially without the support of others to help educate the individual on the reasons they have improved feelings and symptoms.

Counseling can be effective for assisting with learning to control symptoms of schizophrenia, self-awareness (knowing the difference between what’s real and what’s not), managing anxiety around their experience in the world, depression and problem-solving. Counseling is a holistic option to treating schizophrenia, but its success is also determined by the intensity of symptoms the individual is experiencing and the individuals’ level of support.

Bibliography/Resources:

https://www.samhsa.gov/treatment/mental-health-disorders/schizophrenia#definition

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/schizophrenia.shtml

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