Schizophrenia is the most common mental disorder involving psychotic symptoms. Schizophrenia is often described as disintegration of the mind: the disorder affects thinking, feelings and behaviour in a way that a person suffering from the disorder will have trouble performing various important human functions. The symptoms of schizophrenia include psychotic hallucinations and delusions, among other things, incoherence of speech and behaviour, as well as aboulia and lack of emotions or distortion of emotions.
Schizophrenia is usually diagnosed during adolescence but it is possible for the symptoms to appear already in childhood or as late as middle age. Sometimes the first symptom is a sudden and intense psychotic episode, whereas sometimes the symptoms develop slowly over weeks or months.
Whether a person suffering from schizophrenic symptoms rehabilitates or not depends on the success of the treatment. If the symptoms are left untreated for long, it may result in serious problems at work and in personal relationships; on the other hand, if antipsychotic medication and other treatment is begun in time, the patients can lead good and independent lives.
Treating schizophrenia People diagnosed with schizophrenia are always treated on a long term, combining various treatment methods while taking the needs of the patient and their families and friends into consideration. The syndrome is treated with medication, psychotherapy and other forms of social support. The goal of treatment and rehabilitation is to alleviate the symptoms, improve social skills, control and adapt to the illness, as well as to provide support to the families and friends of the patients.Read more about seeking treatment
Symptoms of schizophrenia
People suffering from delusions can, for example, think they are someone else, become afraid of being controlled or persecuted; they may feel guilty for things that have not actually happened or they may think they are “the chosen one”. The delusions can also be linked to religious beliefs; delusional persons may, for example, think they are seeing the devil or god.
Hearing voices is the most common hallucination. These voices can be accusatory or angry, and they can be the voices of loved ones or strangers. Sometimes, over time, the voices may become softer. Sometimes people who hear voices are constantly wearing headphones or they adjust the volume on the television higher to drown the voices.
Although they cannot actually hear the voices as the voices come from inside the patients’ heads, they seem very real to the schizophrenic, sounding like they come from outside their heads. Someone close to the person hearing voices may say that he/she does not hear the same voices but nevertheless understands that the voices are very real.
In addition to, or instead of, hearing voices, schizophrenia may also include other kinds of sensory hallucinations. People suffering from schizophrenic symptoms may feel different kinds of objects or creatures on their body, or see, taste or smell things that do not really exist.
Hallucinations, such as hearing voices, are typical to people with diagnosed schizophrenia. However, hearing voices does not always mean that a person is suffering from a schizophrenic syndrome. People may hear voices in connection to, for example, upsetting situations, intense stress or excessive substance use. In addition, people suffering from psychotic depression or bipolar affective disorder can hear voices.
It has been estimated that a significant number of Finns hear voices at some point in their lives. Some will only hear voices once, while others may hear them for a longer period of time. People suffering from long-term auditory hallucinations have an association of their own, Suomen moniääniset, which operates under the Finnish Central Association for Mental Health.
Thought disorders refer to difficulties in the ability to plan ahead, in concentration, or in remembering important things in daily life in general. The patients lose their thoughts and find it hard to communicate with others.
Aboulia refers to a condition in which the patient is unable to perform a particular task or unable to perform anything, basically. Daily routines, such as bathing, can become incredibly difficult.
Affective flattening refers to the inability to express emotions. Sometimes the emotions are distorted from the perspective of so-called normal life; a patient suffering from schizophrenia may express inappropriate feelings, which may seem confusing to other people.
People suffering from schizophrenia may isolate themselves from others and confine themselves into their homes. The withdrawal may be caused by delusions, thought disorders or the deterioration of social skills, as well as by the fear of interacting with other people.