Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects everything about a person; how they think, feel and even behave. Often, it’ll feel like they’ve lost touch with reality.
Symptoms and Signs of schizophrenia
As individuals differ, so will the symptoms and signs of schizophrenia will vary. We can however classify the symptoms into four:
- Speech and Thought disorders (unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking)
- Behavioural or cognitive disorders
- Negative symptoms
1.Delusions – This is when the patient displays having false beliefs. It can take many forms, such as:
- Delusions of Persecution: They may feel that people are out to get them.
- Delusions of Grandeur: They may think they have extraordinary powers and abilities.
- Delusions of Control: They may feel others are attempting to control them remotely.
- Delusions of Reference: They may feel that something general in the environment was specifically for them.
2.Hallucinations – This is when the patient is sensing things that are not there. However, hearing voices is much more common than seeing, feeling, tasting, or smelling things which are not there. People with schizophrenia may experience some, or all the types of hallucination.
3.Speech/Thought disorder – The person may jump from one subject to another for no logical reason, thus causing their speech to be incoherent and hard to keep up with. The forms include:
- Loose associations– Shifting from topic to topic, with no correlation between them
- Neologisms– They might use made up words.
- Perseveration– Repetition of words and statements; saying the same thing over and over.
- Clang– Wrong use of rhyming words.
4.Behavioural disorders: For some patients, the overall above forms of symptoms affect the patient, and show signs such as:
- Poor “executive functioning” (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions)
- Trouble focusing or paying attention
- Problems with “working memory” (the ability to use information immediately after learning it)
- Negative symptoms:“Negative” symptoms are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. Symptoms include:
- “Flat affect” (reduced expression of emotions via facial expression or voice tone)
- Reduced feelings of pleasure in everyday life
- Difficulty beginning and sustaining activities
- Reduced speaking
Other symptoms may include:
- Lack of motivation.
- Social withdrawal.
- Unawareness of illness.
Just like every mental illness, it’s not easy to deal with schizophrenia. The different signs and symptoms make it difficult. However, some coping mechanisms that can make living with schizophrenia easier.
- Distraction: Some schizophrenic patients may find books, podcasts, music or even tv can be good distractors, painting, or even just listening to someone talk can help too.
- Writing: journaling their symptoms, can help keep track of progress and also serve as a coping mechanism.
- Reality test: This involves the assistance of someone trusted and who can be honest no matter what. The person can always tell them if their symptoms are real or imagined.
- Use their voice to drown out the others: This could mean the person talking to him or herself, talking to others, or singing aloud to a song, thereby distracting them from the other voices.
And as we always say, if you know or love someone who is schizophrenic, caring might be hard, but it’s a necessary sacrifice. Here are some ways you can help them cope:
- Help them get treatment and encourage them to stay in treatment.
- Remember that their beliefs or hallucinations seem very real to them.
- Be respectful, supportive, and empathic without encouraging dangerous or inappropriate behavior.