Did you know?
Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that affects about 1% of Americans. People with this disorder may hear voices other people don’t hear, may believe that others are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. These experiences are terrifying and can cause fearfulness, withdrawal, or extreme agitation. People with schizophrenia may not make sense when they talk, may sit for hours without moving or talking much, or may seem fine until they talk about what they are really thinking. Living with schizophrenia can make holding a job or caring for one’s self difficult and he/she may need others to help care for them. While treatment can relieve many of the disorder’s symptoms, most people who have schizophrenia must cope with some lingering symptoms as long as they live. Nevertheless, this is a time of hope for people with schizophrenia and their families, for new treatments can help many lead rewarding and meaningful lives.
Why Talk to U-M College Students about Schizophrenia?
Psychotic symptoms (such as hallucinations and delusions) usually first appear around the age in which people are in college: symptoms usually develop in men in their late teens and early 20s and in women in their mid-20s to early 30s. Research has shown that schizophrenia affects men and women equally and occurs at similar rates in all ethnic groups around the world.
Symptoms: Making Sense of It All
Positive symptoms are unusual thoughts or perceptions, including hallucinations, delusions, thought disorder, and disorders of movement.
A hallucination is something a person sees, hears, smells, or feels that no one else can see, hear, smell, or feel. “Voices” are the most common type of hallucination in schizophrenia, and these voices may comment on their behavior, order them to do things, warn them of impending danger, or talk with each other about them.
Delusions are false personal beliefs (believing that neighbors can control their behavior with magnetic waves, people on television are directing special messages to them, or radio stations are broadcasting their thoughts aloud to others) that do not change even if someone presents proof that the beliefs are not true or logical.
Negative symptoms represent a loss or a decrease in the ability to initiate plans, speak, express emotion, or find pleasure in everyday life. People experiencing negative symptoms often have a lack of facial expressions or a flat tone of voice.
Cognitive symptoms (or cognitive deficits) are problems with attention, certain types of memory, and the ability plan and organize.
Schizophrenia and Suicide
People with schizophrenia attempt suicide more often than people without schizophrenia. About 10% of people with this illness succeed (especially young adult males). It is hard to predict who is prone to suicide, so if someone talks about or attempts suicide, professional help should be sought right away.
Treatment: What to Expect
Antipsychotic medications effectively ease the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. While these drugs have greatly improved the lives of many patients, they do not cure schizophrenia. Sometimes several different drugs must be tried before the right one is found. Everyone responds individually to antipsychotic medications, but agitation and hallucinations usually improve within days and delusions usually improve within a few weeks. No one can tell beforehand exactly how a medication will affect a particular individual many people see substantial improvement in both types of symptoms by the sixth week of treatment.
Does Psychotherapy Help?
Psychotherapy is not the best treatment for schizophrenia. Antipsychotic medications primarily treat schizophrenia, and when these medications have reduced the symptoms, psychotherapy can be useful to help develop coping and communication skills.