Schizophrenia is a serious psychotic mental disorder in which a breakdown occurs in the relationship between a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior. As a result, people with schizophrenia have trouble determining what’s real and what’s imaginary, as well as expressing themselves and relating to others. Contrary to how people with schizophrenia are sometimes portrayed, the majority aren’t violent and don’t pose a danger to others.
A condition similar to schizophrenia, but with less severe symptoms, is a schizotypal personality disorder. People with this condition sometimes experience psychotic episodes; however, the episodes tend to be less intense, less frequent, and of shorter duration than those of schizophrenia.
What Kind of Disorder is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia symptoms are classified as positive (beliefs or behaviors that are added to someone’s personality) and negative (aspects of the personality that are lost).
Positive symptoms include:
- Hallucinations, which are imagined sensory experiences like seeing, hearing, touching, smelling or tasting something that isn’t present
- Delusions or false beliefs about others or oneself, such as feeling that they’re being watched or that they’re a famous or important figure
- Unusual behavior such as random outbursts, impulsive actions or anxiety, and agitation with no apparent cause
- Disordered thinking and speech, including jumping from topic to topic with no logical connection between them, making up words and speaking in a way that’s hard to understand or doesn’t make sense
Negative symptoms include:
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Avoidance of social events or activities
- Poor hygiene
- Lack of energy
- Showing little or no emotion, or only certain emotions
- Rarely speaking
- Low motivation
Schizophrenia and Multiple Personality Disorder
Schizophrenia is sometimes confused with multiple personality disorder (also called dissociative identity disorder). However, the two conditions are very different. While people with schizophrenia may hear voices in their heads, they don’t take on separate and unique personalities like people with a dissociative identity disorder. The two conditions are similar in that they both increase the risk of suicide.
Causes of Schizophrenia
Researchers don’t yet know what causes schizophrenia. There are a number of theories including that it’s genetic, that it’s related to problems with brain chemistry or structure, and that immune disorders or viral infections play a role. Schizophrenia does tend to run in families, and experts suspect that the condition may be activated when the body undergoes significant physical or hormonal changes such as in puberty or as the result of extreme stress.
Treatment for Schizophrenia
There’s no cure for schizophrenia. However, with proper treatment, many people with the disorder can lead happy and productive lives. Treatment for schizophrenia typically includes antipsychotic medication that helps control the symptoms of the illness by reducing biochemical imbalances in the brain.
People with schizophrenia may also benefit from counseling or “talk therapy,” participation in self-help groups, and training programs that teach self-sufficiency skills. Housing and employment assistance can be helpful as well, and access to a crisis management service is important in the event of an emergency.
At Baptist Health, we focus on the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. Our behavioral health services provide care for individuals dealing with mental illness. With treatment plans tailored to meet each person’s needs, we help our patients understand and manage their conditions. Find a Behavioral Health provider.