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Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects one’s ability to manage emotions, think clearly, make decisions and communicate effectively with others. Although it is a severe condition that dramatically affects one’s quality of life, schizophrenia is often stigmatized. Those who struggle with the illness do so without the help and support they need to manage their symptoms and heal from their illness.
There is limited data on the exact prevalence of schizophrenia in the United States. Some studies suggest that the illness affects between 0.25% and 0.64% of American adults. Although the illness can occur at any age, it is uncommon for someone younger than age 12 or older than age 40 to be diagnosed with schizophrenia. With treatment, it is possible to manage symptoms and live a full, healthy life after a schizophrenia diagnosis.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder—those who struggle with schizophrenia experience many complex symptoms. Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that affects one’s ability to interpret reality accurately. They will experience various symptoms that, at times, impact their ability to function in their day-to-day environments. There is no cure for schizophrenia, and someone with the illness will require lifelong care to keep symptoms under control.
The debilitating nature of schizophrenia leads to many misconceptions and misunderstandings about the disease and its severity. First, having schizophrenia does not mean you have a multiple-personality or “split personality.” There is also a common (and dangerous) theory that many who have schizophrenia are dangerous or violent. This is also inaccurate. Most people diagnosed with schizophrenia are no more dangerous than the rest of the general population without the illness.
Symptoms of schizophrenia typically appear during early adulthood, although teens experience symptoms as well. For mental health providers to diagnose schizophrenia, symptoms must present and persist for at least six months. Women tend to show symptoms later than men. For men, the first symptoms of schizophrenia typically present in their teens and early 20s. On the other hand, women show the first signs of schizophrenia in their 20s and early 30s. For teens, the signs of schizophrenia may be more subtle and difficult to distinguish from normal teen behavior or other mental health conditions. Examples of schizophrenia symptoms in teens may include poor academic performance, reduced motivation, and difficulties forging and maintaining relationships.
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What Are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?
The symptoms of schizophrenia include problems with behavior, emotion, and thinking. What schizophrenia looks like will vary from person to person, but, in general, symptoms include a combination of hallucinations, delusions, speech problems, and functional impairments. To clearly understand the symptoms of schizophrenia, it helps to know a little more about each symptom.
Psychosis is a set of symptoms involving a loss of touch with reality that occurs due to how the brain processes information. Disturbances in thought and perception characterize psychotic episodes. Psychosis leads to difficulties interpreting what is real and what is not.
Delusions are false beliefs that exist despite available evidence that they are not true. There are different types of delusions. One example is paranoid delusions which occur when someone believes they are being harassed or persecuted by others.
Hallucinations involve smelling, tasting, feeling, or hearing things that are not there. The most common hallucinations for someone with schizophrenia are auditory hallucinations or “hearing voices.”
Disorganized thinking and speech
Speech and thought patterns for someone with schizophrenia are typically disorganized or do not make sense to others. Often, these symptoms are so severe that it affects the individual’s ability to communicate effectively.
Abnormal motor behaviors
Abnormal motor behaviors are movements that are out of the ordinary. Examples include childlike, silly behaviors, unpredictable agitation, and outbursts. They can also appear as repeated movements that are without purpose. The most severe symptoms can lead to problems with activities of daily life. Some experience catatonia (or “a catatonic state”) where one appears to be in a daze with little movement or response to their surroundings.
Negative symptoms refer to something that is not there. In the case of someone with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia, negative symptoms refer to what is absent or abnormally lacking. Examples may include:
Impaired emotional expression.
Lack of desire to engage in daily activities or social contact.
A decreased pleasure experience.
As with any mental health condition, the duration, severity, and frequency of symptoms will vary from person to person. In general, the frequency of severe psychotic symptoms declines with age. Not taking medications as prescribed or engaging in drug or alcohol abuse will increase symptoms.
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What Causes Schizophrenia?
There is no single cause of schizophrenia. Instead, research suggests there may be several potential contributing factors.
No specific genetic variation or abnormality causes schizophrenia; rather, several contributing genetic factors. Studies show hereditary links also play a strong role in increasing one’s risk of developing schizophrenia. Research indicates if you have a close family relative with schizophrenia, your likelihood of developing the illness is six times higher than someone without a hereditary connection.
Certain factors before birth, including exposure to malnutrition and viruses during the first and second trimester, may increase the risk of schizophrenia. Also, new studies show a possible connection between psychosis and autoimmune disorders.
Problems with specific chemicals in the brain, specifically dopamine and glutamate, may contribute to an increased risk of schizophrenia development.
Some research suggests the use of mind-altering drugs (particularly by teens and young adults) can increase the risk of schizophrenia. Also, increasing research into the effects of marijuana use suggests that smoking marijuana increases the risk of psychotic incidents and ongoing psychotic episodes.
Is There New Jersey Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic, lifelong condition which means there is no cure. However, it is possible to manage symptoms safely and effectively with treatment. Because people with schizophrenia may struggle with co-occurring disorders (dual diagnosis conditions), it is important to seek help at a New Jersey schizophrenia treatment center specializing in dual diagnosis therapy.
Treatment programs for schizophrenia generally involve a combination of therapy and medications to improve symptoms. The most common therapy model used to treat schizophrenia and any co-occurring condition is cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. Psychotherapy treatments aim to reduce the severity of symptoms and enhance function and communication skills. Treatment may also include antipsychotic medications to help relieve symptoms during the early stages of treatment.
Because treatment can be complicated or slowed by substance abuse and misuse, it is important to abstain from drugs and alcohol during treatment. Due to the invasive and complex nature of schizophrenia symptoms, people with schizophrenia are at greater risk for developing substance use disorders compared to the general population. For this reason, seeking help at a dual diagnosis treatment program in a New Jersey rehab like Relevance Recovery is crucial to ensuring a comprehensive treatment that addresses both conditions as part of a simultaneous treatment program.
How to Find Schizophrenia Treatment at a New Jersey Rehab Center
With treatment, it is possible to manage schizophrenia symptoms and live a full, rewarding, and highly productive life. Schizophrenia is a chronic illness, and may who experience symptoms require therapy throughout their lives.
In addition to New Jersey aftercare at Relevance Recovery, many peer and family support groups are available to help individuals and families manage the ongoing challenges living with schizophrenia may present. To learn more about schizophrenia treatment or dual diagnosis addiction treatment in New Jersey, contact a member of our admissions team today.