Schizophrenia. A loaded word in our culture. A fact of life for 51 million people worldwide, and 2.2 million in the USA. An incurable mind and brain disorder, Schizophrenia usually manifests in the late teens to early adulthood and affects men and women equally. While often criticized by the media and movies, an infinitesimally small proportion of Schizophrenia patients become violent. Most live satisfying lives and control their affliction with medication, therapy, and the support of loved ones. The best chances arise from early detection and treatment.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia are broken up into three categories
Positive symptoms are psychotic behaviors not present in healthy individuals and denote a particular “lose of touch” with reality. Audial, visual, olfactory, and/or kinesthetic hallucinations, delusions, thought, and movement disorders are positive symptoms.
Negative symptoms are disruptions to normal emotions and/or behaviors and are much harder to detect often being misdiagnosed as other conditions. Flat affect (No facial movement or dull voice with no inflection), lack of enjoyment of life, lack of ability to plan or sustain activities, and very little social interaction even when pressed into conversation are all negative symptoms of Schizophrenia.
Cognitive symptoms are subtle and hard to distinguish or diagnose from other disorders. These symptoms include inability to understand information and make decisions, short attention span, and problems using learned information. These often cause the greatest disturbance in day to day life and often cause emotional distress in the individual and their loved ones.
While definitely life altering, Schizophrenia is highly treatable. The problem lies in finding the right combination of medication to combat the individual symptoms and encouraging the patient to stay on their medication. While incurable, it is possible to lead a rich and fulfilling life. The symptoms can be successfully managed with therapy, medication, and support.