Schizophrenia is well known–but often misunderstood–disorder. It is often marked by negative connotations, and misrepresentations of the disorder are common and fail to capture the real picture of a person with a complex but very treatable psychiatric condition.
The number of people affected by schizophrenia and by related psychotic disorders is unknown, but estimations can be 0.25% to 0.64% in the United States.
Schizophrenia can get in the way of living a normal life and even affect the people around whoever has it. Speech, emotions, thinking, and other aspects of life affected by schizophrenia may make it hard for one to interact with others and affect everyday activities.
At SoCal Mental Health’s Orange County Behavioral Health Center, we help people manage symptoms of schizophrenia. Our home-like community provides both one-on-one and group therapy aimed at creating a path to independence.
What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a life-long psychotic disorder characterized by breaks from reality, hallucinations, and beliefs that do not reflect the real world.
Schizophrenia can impair ones ability to distinguish reality from delusions and hallucinations. It can also impair speech, motor function and cognitive functions.
People with schizophrenia may hear voices, see ficticious images or believe that other people are out to get them. These hallucinations and sensations can be distressing and cause a person to behave irrationally. These symptoms may lay on a spectrum, where some people have milder symptoms and others have more severe and debilitating symptoms.
Symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30. Men tend to develop symptoms in their late teens to early 20s, while women often show symptoms in their late 20s to early 30s. Typically, people are not diagnosed with schizophrenia after age 45.
There are three categories of symptoms of schizophrenia:
- Psychotic Symptoms that cause a person’s thinking to be distorted. Some of these symptoms include hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t there), delusions (false beliefs), difficulty organizing thoughts and speech, and odd movements.
- Negative Symptoms make it difficult to express feelings or function normally. When a person appears depressed and withdrawn, it’s a red flag.
- Cognitive Symptoms interfere with a person’s ability to think clearly. Among these are difficulties with information use, decision-making, and paying attention.
Types of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a term that encompasses a group of disorders that all share basic symptoms. However, distinct patterns of presentation are often noted. Two of the most common are Paranoid Schizophrenia and Catatonic Schizophrenia.
Paranoid Schizophrenia, also known as schizophrenia with paranoia, is the most frequent kind. Those who suffer from paranoid schizophrenia have a distorted view of the world around them. Sometimes, they’ll see or hear things that aren’t there, speak in a muddled manner, believe that others are trying to harm them, or feel as if they’re constantly being observed.
If someone with the disorder tries to self-medicate their symptoms using drugs or alcohol, it can further lead to relationship troubles and disruptions of routine daily tasks like showering, eating, or running errands. It can also lead to alcohol and drug dependence or substance use disorders (SUDs).
Catatonic Schizophrenia is another type of schizophrenia characterized by a kind of dissociation or withdrawal that often manifests as various forms of paralytic and psychotic symptoms.
Some of these include:
- Stupor: The most common sign, in its most extreme form it involves a disengagement with external stimuli, resulting in a total shutdown of psychomotor activity.
- Mutism: Falling into profound silence, abandoning verbal communication.
- Contortions: Displaying “waxy flexibility,” such as having their arm or leg molded into shape by someone else and maintained in that position until it is changed.
- Mimicry: When a person with schizophrenia replicates another person’s words or behaviors for no apparent reason, this is called echolalia or echopraxia.
- Odd Movement: Moving in ways that are out of the ordinary, such as excessive repetition of physical acts or movements that appear to have no purpose.
- Agitation: The person becomes agitated or enraged without apparent cause.
Diagnosing and Treating Schizophrenia
A specialized doctor, such as one of our Orange County psychiatrists, can help diagnose schizophrenia and develop an effective treatment plan. Since schizophrenia is a life-long condition, these treatment plans should be managed well.
There are various causes that have been put forth by psychiatrists. Genetic inheritance seems to play a large role in developing the condition. A chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain have also been linked to schizophrenia, including serotonin and dopamine. Other environmental factors and drug usage (mainly marijuana and hallucinogens) can also exasperate the condition.
As a psychiatrist gets to know the patient and their symptoms, they may be able to develop a treatment plan that can prevent relapses and avoid hospitalization.
While there is no cure for schizophrenia, therapy and medication can manage the most severe symptoms.
Treatment options for schizophrenia include:
- Antipsychotics — such as risperidone, olanzapine, haloperidol, ziprasidone, or quetiapine. Some injectable forms of these medications can last up to 3 months, making the treatment plan easier to manage.
- Psychotherapy — such as cognitive behavioral therapy, interactive and social group therapy, and individual therapy. Individual therapies inlclude supportive counseling, personal therapy, social skill building, compliance therapy, and vocational therapy.
- Coordinated care — that integrates the above with family involvement and education to serve as a holistic approach to manage the condition long-term.
How We Can Help
Here at SoCal Mental Health, we open our Orange County Behavioral Health Center to those struggling with conditions like schizophrenia. We are a dedicated group of professionals with a goal to empower others and help them overcome their symptoms.
Our experienced psychiatrists work with skilled therapists to develop a comprehensive treatment plan to help people enjoy their lives and reduce symptoms of mental illness.
Our programs involve crisis stabilization at our inviting residential facilities, as well as medication-assisted treatment and psychotherapy. We are also passionate about holisitic approaches, such as exciting and enjoyable group activities to bring happiness and enjoyment back into one’s life.