Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Allied Sciences, Nehru Nagar, New Delhi

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia - A mental condition involving distorted perceptions of reality and inability to function in most aspects of life due to changes in thought, behaviour, and action. This is also indicated in the origin of this word (Greek for splitting of the mind).

Eugen Bleuler (1857–1939) coined the term "Schizophrenia" in 1908. Schizophrenia is the most common mental illness – 1-2% of the world population is affected by it. It is a worldwide disease that occurs in all cultures and among all socioeconomic groups. In India the prevalence rate of 2-3 per 1000 persons is reported.

Schizophrenia usually begins before the age of 25 years, and persists throughout life. With timely intervention, professional help, family support and community involvement, a person with Schizophrenia and his/ her family can benefit and manage the illness better.

Common signs of Schizophrenia may include (some) of the following :–

  • Hallucinations (sensory perception in the absence of any stimulation)
  • Delusions (irrational beliefs which are held without adequate evidence)
  • Irritability / Aggressive tendencies
  • Poor self care / hygiene
  • Disorganized behavior

It may also include symptoms like:-

  • Withdrawn behavior
  • Lack of interest / energy to participate in functional daily activities
  • Cognitive by poor attention, concentration, memory judgment etc.

Causes of Schizophrenia:

The causes of schizophrenia are not yet fully known. It mainly occurs due to imbalance in the neurotransmitter/chemicals in the brain eg. Dopamine. Like many other illnesses, schizophrenia occurs on the basis of genetic vulnerability as well. Persons with a parent, brother or sister who has schizophrenia have a higher chance of developing schizophrenia.

Individuals with psychosis most often lack insight or awareness of their disorder. This lack of “insight” includes unawareness of symptoms of schizophrenia and may be present throughout the entire course of the illness. This causes non-adherence to treatment.

Currently, there are no radiological, laboratory, or psychometric tests available specifically to test for the disorder.

Although antipsychotic medications are the mainstay of the treatment for schizophrenia, research has found that psycho social interventions, including psychotherapy, can augment the clinical improvement.

Medicines will take care of the biological issues of the illness whereas psychosocial treatment like psychotherapy can be used to take care of non biological issues like social, occupational dysfunctions etc.

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