Schizophrenia is a complex mental illness that may well be many illnesses masquerading as one. It is believed to be caused by a biochemical imbalance in the brain. The precise cause is unknown but researchers believe that many genes may create a predisposition to it. It is also thought that neurotransmitters (substances through which cells communicate) are involved; that changes in dopamine and serotonin levels have an impact; and that the limbic system (where the emotions are) and thalamus (where outgoing messages are coordinated) are involved. Symptoms include:
- withdrawal from social activities
- sleep disturbances
- irrational, angry or fearful responses to family
- deterioration in personal hygiene
- hearing voices or sounds others don’t hear
- seeing people or things others don’t see
- a constant feeling of being watched
- sudden excesses, such as extreme religiousity
Approximately one per cent of the population is affected. Many people with schizophrenia do not seek help, either because they do not have insight into their condition, or out of fear of rejection because of the stigma of mental illness. Lack of insight may explain a person’s aversion to medication. Another reason is that many medications have unpleasant side-effects.
Although there is no cure, recovery is possible. The impact of the illness can be minimized with early diagnosis and appropriate psychosocial treatment and medication. Cognitive therapy may also be used, as well as peer support.
Excerpts taken from www.schizophrenia.ca