Schizophrenia (from the Greek word schizophreneia means ‘split mind’) is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a mental disorder characterized by impairments in the perception or expression of reality and by significant social or occupational dysfunction. A person experiencing schizophrenia is typically characterized as demonstrating disorganized thinking, and as experiencing delusions or hallucinations, in particular auditory hallucinations.
Although schizophrenia is a rare condition, if you consider the worldwide scenario, it is quite disturbing. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, there are 24 million people in the world suffering from schizophrenia. Its incidence is comparatively low but the prevalence is high because it is a chronic mental illness (the number of cases per year are low, but a lot people are currently suffering from the condition).
Why is it caused and what exactly happens to the brain cells in a person suffering from the condition is still unknown. We spoke to our expert Dr Samir Parikh, Consultant Psychiatrist, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Science, FMRI who provides a better insight into the condition.
There is no single cause of schizophrenia. It is believed that several factors including environmental and genetic factors contribute to the condition. There is some genetic contribution to schizophrenia and such related mental conditions are more commonly seen in biological relatives of patients suffering from the illness. However, there are other neurobiological factors that may also contribute. Psychosocial and family dynamics can also play a role in the onset and recovery of schizophrenia.
The lifetime chance of developing schizophrenia is estimated to be about 1%. So, one in a hundred individuals may develop schizophrenia in their lifetime. And, it is equally prevalent among both men and women. In men the illness usually found between 10 – 25 years whereas in women it is more common between 25 – 35 years.
Substance abuse also has a significant association with schizophrenia. Individuals reporting high levels of cannabis are reported to be six times more likely to suffer from schizophrenia as compared to non-users.
A person suffering from schizophrenia exhibits following symptoms.
Read about 5 symptoms of schizophrenia that you should know.
- Inability to differentiate reality from unreal events or imagination
- Erratic behaviour
- Inability to control emotions
- Inability to think clearly
- Speech problems
There are no definitive medical tests that can confirm the condition. The diagnosis of schizophrenia is done on the basis of a clinical case history and along with a mental status examination of the patient.
Some, but not all patients with schizophrenia can be completely cured. Adequate treatment, however, can enable most patients to manage their symptoms. Since schizophrenia is essentially a neurobiological condition, antipsychotic medications are the mainstay of the treatment. However, psychosocial interventions like behavioural therapy, social skills training and psychotherapy can facilitate improvement. A warm and non-critical family environment also plays a significant role in preventing relapses.
The content has been verified by
Dr Samir Parikh
, Consultant Psychiatrist, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Science, FMRI.