What is Schizophrenia?

What is Schizophrenia? | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Defining Schizophrenia

While all mental illnesses should be given the same amount of attention that you would all other aspects of your health, schizophrenia is one of the more common, complex, and most serious psychiatric disorder that one can be diagnosed with. While the exact cause of schizophrenia remains unknown, it is believed that it may be a combination of a biochemical imbalance as well as the substances through which our cells communicate – also known as neurotransmitters. The areas of the brain that are often affected by schizophrenia include the limbic system and the thalamus. The limbic system deals with three key functions: emotions, memories and arousal/stimulation; while the thalamus is responsible for coordinating outgoing messages, such as sensory and motor signal relay, as well as the regulation of consciousness and sleep.

How Society Views Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses, and there are a lot of myths and misconceptions that surround it…the most common being that people often think someone diagnosed with schizophrenia has split personalities – also known as multiple personality disorder. However, MPD is an entirely unrelated mental illness and has nothing to do with schizophrenia.

Another common misconception about individuals diagnosed with mental illness is that they are dangerous and/or can become violent. While individuals with schizophrenia can be unpredictable at times, most of those diagnosed with this condition are not violent. If violence does occur, chances are they have another underlying condition that has not yet been treated – for example, childhood trauma or substance abuse problems.

Society also often thinks that someone with schizophrenia cannot recover from it; and while it is a difficult mental illness to treat, it’s not entirely impossible. With the right medication and therapy, as many as 25% of those diagnosed with schizophrenia will recover completely, while 50% will notice a significant improvement in their symptoms and can continue to lead full, productive lives.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia can have a gradual or sudden onset. Early warning signs may include things such as withdrawal from activities and personal relationships, irrational/angry/fearful responses to friends and family members, inappropriate language, deterioration in things like work as well as personal hygiene, difficulty concentrating or controlling thoughts, feeling as though you’re being watched, seeing things that aren’t there, hearing voices, mood swings, and anxiety. Initially, these symptoms may be mild, but can become more severe as the condition progresses and/or remains untreated.
Treating Schizophrenia

If a patient has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, they will be prescribed antipsychotic medications to help control symptoms such as irrational thinking, hallucinations and delusions. It’s important that these medications are taken not only correctly, but regularly, in order for them to work.

In addition to medication, Dr. Ali Ghahary also recommends finding a counsellor so that they can help you cope with any stress in your life, as stress can actually aggravate the symptoms of schizophrenia. In addition, a counsellor can also teach you ways to better your social relationships and remain successful, and helping you to be able to live as independently as possible.