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William Lark

William Lark

What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a major medical condition and a mental illness. It disrupts a persons ability to do things clearly, and interferes with their how they think, feel and act. People with schizophrenia sometimes find it hard to express emotions, and in most cases hear things that do not exist. It can also cause lack of judgment, and can make them speak and think without logic, or suspect and fear things that do not exist. This can be an issue for people that work, because it is difficult to keep a job, and sometimes find it hard to act normally around others. Many people confuse schizophrenia with someone that has multiple or split personalities. This is not true. The word schizophrenia comes from two Greek words that mean to split and mind. But People diagnosed with Schizophrenia have only one personality, just like everyone else. However they might act differently and in an unusual manner, leading people to this conclusion.

What are the symptoms?

There are 3 categories of symptoms for schizophrenia. Positive symptoms, which are things added to the persons behaviors or ways of functioning. Negative symptoms, these take something away from the persons way of experiencing the world. And cognitive symptoms, which usually alters the way the person thinks and concentrates. The symptoms of schizophrenia usually start at around the age of 16. To help determine if someone has this illness, you just have to look at their behavior and see how long it continues in this way. Symptoms must continue for 6 months before a diagnosis of schizophrenia will be given. Symptoms include: Confused Thinking their thoughts might not make sense, they could lose train of thought easily, and everyday things might not make sense. Hallucinations hear, see, feel, smell or taste something that is not there. Hearing voices is common, they might feel as though someone is trying to harm them, Social withdrawal dress and body cleanliness becomes sloppy, fells awkward around people, not as social, weak understanding of social interaction. Emotions becomes harder to express emotions, lack of responsiveness. Isolation trying to be alone People around the age of 18 are in their peak period of schizophrenia. These years in a persons life are crucial for social and career development. In a test with people who were diagnosed with schizophrenia, 40% of men, and 23% of woman had schizophrenia before the age of 19. Much research is being done to identify and treat schizophrenia before it begins. However, schizophrenia is not extremely common, only about 0.3% 0.7% of the worlds population are affected during their life. Even though this is a small number, it still needs curing. People with schizophrenia have more physical health problems. On average, people with schizophrenia die 12 to 15 years earlier than people without it and in 5% of cases, they will commit suicide


William Lark
What causes schizophrenia?
There isnt one single thing that causes schizophrenia; in fact there are several causes: Being related to someone with schizophrenia can often lead to you having it as well. In fact, people who have a family history of schizophrenia and who experience brief a period of psychotic symptoms have a 20 40% chance of being diagnosed one year later. Some drugs (including prescription drugs), can cause symptoms, or make them worse. Psychological and social situations can influence schizophrenia as well. It has also been seen that stressful situations can make an impact on the development of schizophrenia. Another thing that can factor into increasing the risk of schizophrenia is pre-birth factors. Oxygen deprivation, infection, or stress and lack of healthy foods in the mother during pregnancy might result in a slight increase in the risk of schizophrenia later in life

How is schizophrenia treated?

There isnt much you can do to treat it, however it is curable, and you can still have a fun life while coping with schizophrenia. You can try and combat the symptoms. The main way of doing this is with drugs. Drugs usually help with mental and social support. The first and most helpful drug is Antipsychotic medication. It reduces the positive symptoms in about 7 14 days, but doesnt help much with thinking and negative symptoms. The choice of drug is up to you and it debatable which is best. How you respond to the medication also differs from person to person. 40 - 50% of people have a good response to medication. 30 40% have a partial response. And for 20% of people, it doesnt work at all. If you are part of the 20% that dont respond well to the other drugs, you may be given clozapine. It works well for people who dont cope well with the other drugs. Although is a last resort because it can lower the white blood cell count in 1 - 4% of people who take it (which is a serious side effect). The only time you would need to go to hospital is if you had a severe episode. However there are support groups, members who can visit, and other forms of support available. The best results are when you do both together, drugs and social support. Regular exercise can also improve the physical and mental health of someone with schizophrenia.

How can I help?

Always remember, schizophrenia is a medical condition. If you think you know someone that has schizophrenia, or think you yourself has it, contact a doctor. There is nothing you can do to help make things better. You cannot stop schizophrenia without medical treatment. Although most schizophrenics are not violent, drugs or alcohol can make them do things without thinking, so always approach them with caution. It is also best to find out as much about the illness as you can. If you cant contact a doctor straight away, you will at least have some knowledge about it. It can also help you understand if treatment is working or not. Also, be patient. Curing schizophrenia does not happen in a day or a week. It takes time, dont rush it. You could end up making it worse. And finally, stay healthy yourself. Although schizophrenia isnt contagious, it can sometimes cause grief and trauma on the rest of the family. Be ready to find support and makes plans to keep you and the rest of the family well.


William Lark
Useful references
Ask an expert receive answers to questions about schizophrenia from consultants and professionals: SFNSW Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia Mental Illness Fellowship victoria Mental Health Services Website (Vic) National Alliance of the mentally Ill (NAmI) (USA) Mental Health Council of Australia SANE Australia Beyond Blue