Schizophrenia is a chronic psychiatric disorder. This causes sufferers to experience hallucinations, delusions, confusion in thinking, and changes in attitude. Generally, people with schizophrenia will experience symptoms of psychosis. Psychosis is a condition in which the sufferer has difficulty distinguishing between reality and imagination.
This is what makes schizophrenia equated with psychosis, even though the two are different. Psychosis is only one symptom of several types of mental disorders, including schizophrenia.
According to WHO, it is estimated that more than 21 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia. Patients also have a 2-3 times higher risk of dying at a young age. In addition, half of people with schizophrenia are known to also suffer from other mental disorders, such as drugs, depression, and anxiety disorders.
What Causes Schizophrenia?
1. Genetic Factors
Offspring of people with schizophrenia have a 10 percent higher risk of developing the condition. The risk increased 40 percent greater when both parents were schizophrenic. Meanwhile, twins in which one of them has schizophrenia will have a risk of up to 50 percent greater.
2. Complications of Pregnancy and Childbirth
Schizophrenia can be caused by several conditions that may occur during pregnancy and the impact will be seen when the child is born. These conditions, such as exposure to toxins and viruses, a mother with diabetes, bleeding during pregnancy, and nutritional deficiencies.
Apart from pregnancy, complications that occur during childbirth can also cause a child to develop schizophrenia. For example, low birth weight, premature birth, and asphyxia or lack of oxygen at birth.
3. Chemical Factors in the Brain
Imbalance of serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain can be one of the causes and increase the risk of schizophrenia. Both are chemicals that function to send signals between brain cells as part of neurotransmitters.
In addition, people with schizophrenia also have differences in brain structure and function, compared to people who do not have mental disorders. These differences include: The ventricles of the brain are larger in size.
- The ventricles are the part of the brain that is filled with fluid.
- The temporal lobe is smaller in size. Memory in the human brain is related to the temporal lobe.
- Cells in the brain have fewer connections.
Schizophrenia Risk Factors
Everyone can have schizophrenia regardless of age. In general, teenagers and people who are in their 20s have a higher risk. There are also several factors that can increase the risk of schizophrenia:
- Abnormal structure of the brain and central nervous system.
- Some complications of pregnancy and birth, such as malnutrition, lack of oxygen or exposure to toxins or viruses that can affect brain development.
- Have a family history of schizophrenia.
- Premature birth.
- Increased activation of the immune system.
- Imbalance of serotonin and dopamine levels.
- Taking mind-altering drugs (psychoactive or psychotropic) during adolescence and young adulthood.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is divided into two categories, positive and negative symptoms.
1. Negative Symptoms
Negative schizophrenia symptoms appear when the traits and abilities possessed by normal people disappear. Such as concentration, normal sleep patterns, and motivation to live.
Generally, these symptoms are coupled with a person’s unwillingness to socialize and feel uncomfortable when with other people. The characteristics of people who suffer from negative symptoms of schizophrenia are apathetic and emotionally bad, don’t care about their appearance, and withdraw from society.
2. Positive Symptoms
Meanwhile, positive symptoms of schizophrenia are delusions, hallucinations, chaotic thoughts, and changes in behavior.
The thing to watch out for, the symptoms of schizophrenia usually develop slowly over months or years. The sufferer may have many symptoms, or only a few symptoms.
People with schizophrenia may have trouble connecting with friends and coworkers. They may also have problems with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Early symptoms of schizophrenia:
- Irritable feelings.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Sleep disorder, difficulty sleeping.
As the mental disorder progresses, the person may have problems with thinking, emotions, and behavior, including:
- Hearing or seeing things that are not there (hallucinations).
- Self isolation.
- Reduced emotion in tone of voice or facial expression.
- Problems with understanding and decision making.
- Problems paying attention and following up on activities.
- Strongly held beliefs in things that are not real (delusions).
- Talking in a nonsensical way.
Diagnosis of Schizophrenia
If symptoms of schizophrenia are seen, the doctor will generally perform a physical examination of the sufferer. In addition, a family medical history examination will also be carried out.
Meanwhile, for supporting tests such as blood tests, CT Scan, or MRI can be done to rule out organic causes. Such as brain tumors or metabolic disorders that have hallucinatory symptoms such as schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia can be treated in several ways, such as combining medication with psychological therapy. The drug given is an antipsychotic that affects neurotransmitter substances in the brain. This drug is able to reduce anxiety, reduce or prevent hallucinations, and help maintain the ability to think.
Doctors generally give people with antipsychotic drugs to reduce their symptoms. Other treatment, through electroshock or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
The ECT method is done by providing an external electric current to the sufferer’s brain. Previously, the patient had been anesthetized or put to sleep, so that the electrical disturbances in the brain that caused the symptoms of hallucinations could be reduced.
Currently, there are no specific preventive measures for schizophrenia. However, early examination can help reduce the severity of the symptoms. A harmonious family is important to maintain, as well as doing positive activities and exercising regularly.
When to go to the doctor?
Immediately see a doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist if you experience the above symptoms or other symptoms, such as:
- Listen to voices telling you to hurt yourself or others.
- Have the urge to hurt yourself or others.
- Feeling scared or overwhelmed.
- Seeing things that are not there or real.
- Feeling that you can’t take care of yourself.