Schizophrenia is another mental health diagnosis that has been sensationalized in the media and is an often misunderstood diagnosis. Perhaps the most well-known portrayal of schizophrenia is Russell Crowe’s portrayal of John Forbes Nash Jr. in A Beautiful Mind. Schizophrenia involves psychosis, which is a mental state in which people cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined.
People with schizophrenia have shorter life expectancies than the general population. People with schizophrenia are often victims of neglect, exclusion from social circles and even human rights violations. Although incredibly treatable, many people with schizophrenia don’t get the help they need because of the stigma attached to the disorder.
People with schizophrenia experience what are termed “positive symptoms”, “negative symptoms”, and “cognitive symptoms”.
Postive symptoms are called “positive” because they are symptoms that should not be present but are “added on” to a person’s experiences.
Here are some positive symptoms that someone with schizophrenia might experience:
Negative symptoms are functions that should be there, but are absent or “taken away” in people with schizophrenia.
Here are some examples of negative symptoms:
Cognitive symptoms affect the thought process, like changes in speech, attention, or memory.
Here are some cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia:
Symptoms can range from mild to extreme and the typical age of onset is mid to late 20s. About 1% of the population has schizophrenia. Research has shown that the development of schizophrenia is influenced by genetics, family history, and environmental factors.
When diagnosing someone, a therapist or doctor will want to first rule out any other causes of psychosis, like medical problems, substance use, or side effects from medications. They will also assess the presenting symptoms, their severity, and how long they last.
Experiencing any of these symptoms can be really scary for the person with schizophrenia and for those who care about them. Fortunately, there are effective treatments for Schizophrenia that can make life more manageable. Schizophrenia is usually treated with medications called antipsychotics. Therapy (CBT and skills training) can also be helpful for people living with schizophrenia. If any of these symptoms resonated with you or remind you of a loved one, reach out to a mental health professional or your doctor – they can help you figure out the best path.
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