Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. It may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that disturbs daily functioning, and can be disabling.
People with schizophrenia require lifelong treatment. Early treatment may help get symptoms under control before serious complications develop and may help improve the long-term outlook.
The prevalence of schizophrenia in developing countries, and especially in Africa, is controversial. One of the major findings of the World Health Organization on schizophrenia conducted in the 90’s was that outcome of schizophrenia was better in developing countries. More recent research suggests this may not be the case in modern-day Africa. Rapid urbanization, industrialization, migration, conflict and ongoing poverty and deprivation characterize most of sub-Saharan Africa in recent decades; and it is likely that these potent risk factors for psychosis have contributed to shifts in the occurrence of psychosis and schizophrenia in that continent.
What Are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia changes how you think, feel, and act. It might affect you differently from someone else. The symptoms can come and go, too. No one has all of them all of the time.
They usually start between ages 16 and 30. Men often get them earlier than women. When the disease is in full swing and symptoms are severe, the person with schizophrenia can’t tell what’s real and what’s not. This happens less often as they get older.
People with the condition usually aren’t aware that they have it until a doctor or counselor tells them. They won’t even realize that something is seriously wrong. If they do happen to notice symptoms, like not being able to think straight, they might chalk it up to things like stress or being tired.
Signs and symptoms may vary, but usually involve delusions, hallucinations or disorganized speech, and reflect an impaired ability to function. Symptoms may include:
- Delusions. These are false beliefs that are not based in reality. For example, you think that you’re being harmed or harassed; certain gestures or comments are directed at you; you have exceptional ability or fame; another person is in love with you; or a major catastrophe is about to occur. Delusions occur in most people with schizophrenia.
- Hallucinations. These usually involve seeing or hearing things that don’t exist. Hallucinations can be in any of the senses, but hearing voices is the most common hallucination.
- Disorganized thinking (speech). Disorganized thinking comes from from disorganized speech. Effective communication can be impaired, and answers to questions may be partially or completely unrelated. Rarely, speech may include putting together meaningless words that can’t be understood, sometimes known as word salad.
- Extremely disorganized or abnormal motor behavior. This may show in a number of ways, from childlike silliness to unpredictable agitation. Behavior isn’t focused on a goal, so it’s hard to do tasks. Behavior can include resistance to instructions, inappropriate or bizarre posture, a complete lack of response, or useless and excessive movement.
- Negative symptoms. This refers to reduced or lack of ability to function normally. For example, the person may neglect personal hygiene or appear to lack emotion (doesn’t make eye contact, doesn’t change facial expressions or speaks in a monotone). Also, the person may have lose interest in everyday activities, socially withdraw or lack the ability to experience pleasure.
Causes and Risk Factors of Schizophrenia
Although the precise cause of schizophrenia isn’t known, certain factors seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering schizophrenia, including:
- Having a family history of schizophrenia
- Increased immune system activation, such as from inflammation or autoimmune diseases.
- Some pregnancy and birth complications, such as malnutrition or exposure to toxins or viruses that may impact brain development
- Taking mind-altering (psychoactive or psychotropic) drugs during teen years and young adulthood
Left untreated, schizophrenia can result in severe problems that affect every area of life such as suicidal thoughts, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, social isolation and self injury.
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Prevention of Schizophrenia
There’s no sure way to prevent schizophrenia, but learning more about risk factors for schizophrenia may lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment. Some of the risk factors which you have control include: avoid alcohol and drug abuse(early and long-term use of marijuana and other illicit drugs may raise the risk),avoid social isolation, make an extra effort to deal with stress and anxiety, and make an extra effort to stay positive.
What Are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia? Schizophrenia Preventing Schizophrenia - Risk Reduction Approaches Social Determinants of Schizophrenia: Africa