Most doctors make various diagnoses every day that concern the human body, for example our physiology: a broken bone, an underactive thyroid, cancer, etc. There are various physical reasons why we may not be well. However, there are not only physiological causes for any symptoms, but also psychological ones. Sleep disturbances, lethargy, loss of appetite, lack of concentration, etc. they are often signs of mental illness that are often not taken seriously enough. However, if the first symptoms are not treated, they can intensify and lead to psychosis. In more than a few cases, the result is diagnosed schizophrenia.
Myth: The split personality
Schizophrenia is believed to have existed as long as there have been people. However, the disease itself was not recognized until 1887 by Dr. Emile Kraepelin interpreted as such. Previously, diseases affecting the psyche and spirit were referred to as mental illnesses and associated with evil, the devil. It didn’t matter if it was a congenital disability or a developed mental disorder. It all triggered the fear that the devil was possessed by those affected, which is why they were locked up or, at worst, killed.
For a long time schizophrenia was spoken of as a “double personality”, which is also the meaning of the term, which derives from ancient Greek. However, this is a misconception, because neither the personality is divided in the disease, nor the mind. However, as people with the diagnosis often feel externally controlled and sometimes hear voices, this has been interpreted as something demonic, dividing people internally and making them evil and unpredictable. In fact, schizophrenia has nothing to do with a split personality. However, those affected suffer from the negative connotations which are still widespread. The word is also sometimes used as a swear word when someone behaves contradictory or confused. In order to get out of this stigma, what is needed above all is knowledge and education about the disease.
Signs of mental illness
The first signs of possible schizophrenia may appear years before diagnosis. Because those affected are often restless, tense, sometimes they have sleep disturbances, mood swings, fears, depressive moods, and problems with memory and concentration. Relatives often notice changes in character. If these warning signs are ignored, they can continue to manifest and trigger other symptoms that ultimately lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia:
- hallucinations: like hearing voices or perceiving something as real that is not really there
- illusion: here the paranoia is stronger, as is the constant fear that everyone is conspiring against you
- speech impairment
- ego disorder: one feels removed from the self and controlled from the outside
- Movement anomalies: like a constant need to move
- Amazing feelings: many complain of complete inner emptiness and severe mood swings
- social withdrawal
The changes in the brain that can trigger these symptoms occur again and again over the course of human life. The gray matter of the brain, made up of nerve cell bodies, increases in early adolescence. The connections between nerve cells, the so-called synapses, are produced in excess. However, gray matter decreases again until early adulthood, which can sometimes lead to a developmental disorder of the brain. In other cases, schizophrenia is genetic.
types of schizophrenia
There are several types of schizophrenia, the best known being:
- Paranoid schizophrenia: This type of person has a constant feeling of being watched and influenced. The focus here is on delusions and hallucinations.
- Hebrew schizophrenia: Hebrew schizophrenia mainly affects people between the ages of 15 and 25. This is where emotional changes come into play. Feelings do not fit the respective situation and therefore seem inappropriate.
- Catatonic schizophrenia: This form of schizophrenia is quite rare and is associated with movement abnormalities, such as a pronounced need to move or make faces.
How schizophrenia is treated
As soon as the symptoms of schizophrenia are recognizable, a doctor should be consulted, who will then take a medical history and perform a physical and neurological examination. Additionally, an imaging procedure, such as MRI, is done to rule out possible organic brain diseases. If all tests support the diagnosis of schizophrenia, an individual therapy is created for the affected person. The following treatment options are particularly useful:
- Medicines: These drugs are called antipsychotics, and they block the activity of certain chemical messengers in the brain that relieve symptoms. Also, some doctors use antidepressants and benzodiazepines. However, these should be taken with caution, as they can sometimes be very addictive.
- Different types of therapy: Such as psychotherapy, social skills and cognitive function training, movement therapy, sociotherapy, etc.
The fact is, there are ways to get out of schizophrenia or to learn to live with it in the best possible way. The sooner you see a doctor if you have symptoms, the better, however this applies to all diseases.