Schizophrenia: What are the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment?

Schizophrenia is a mental disease characterised by abnormality in the expression of reality and by significant social or occupational dysfunction. A patient suffering from schizophrenia may portray disorganised thinking. He/she may experience delusions or hallucinations, especially hearing hallucinations.

Although schizophrenia is an uncommon disorder, WHO statistics are quite alarming. At present, there are 24 million patients suffering from schizophrenia around the world. Schizophrenia is a chronic mental illness and its prevalence is high.

What are the causes of schizophrenia?

There are number of factors responsible for schizophrenia, including environmental and genetic factors. Schizophrenia and other common mental illnesses are generally seen in patients whose biological relatives have suffered from the same. However, there are other neurobiological factors that may lead to schizophrenia. Studies have found that psychosocial and family dynamics can contribute towards the onset of schizophrenia.

Who is at risk of schizophrenia?

Approximately, one in hundred individuals may develop schizophrenia in their lifetime. It is common in both males and females. In men, it is usually found between 10 – 25 years; in females, it is usually found between 25 – 35 years.

Moreover, people consuming alarming levels of cannabis are reported to be six times more likely to suffer from schizophrenia as compared to non-users.

What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

A person suffering from schizophrenia may show the following signs and symptoms:

How schizophrenia is diagnosed?     

There are no fixed lab tests for schizophrenia. The diagnosis of schizophrenia is done on the basis of a clinical case history and along with a mental status examination of the patient.

What are the treatment options for schizophrenia?

Not every patient can be cured of schizophrenia. Proper diagnosis and treatment helps in managing symptoms effectively. Since schizophrenia is essentially a neurobiological condition, anti-psychotic medications are the mainstay of the treatment. However, psychosocial interventions like behavioural therapy, social skills training and psychotherapy can improve a patient’ symptoms. A supportive family environment also plays a significant role in preventing relapses.

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