Schizophrenia is a significant mental health disorder characterised by abnormal interpretations of reality. It can manifest as a combination of hallucinations, delusions, and highly disordered thinking and behaviour, leading to impaired daily functioning and potential disability.
During active phases of the illness, individuals may struggle to differentiate between real and unreal experiences. The severity, duration, and frequency of symptoms can vary, with a decrease in severe psychotic symptoms often observed as individuals age. However, non-adherence to prescribed medications, substance abuse, and stressful situations can exacerbate symptoms.
The exact causes of schizophrenia are not fully understood, but research suggests that a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurochemical factors contribute to its development. Here are some common factors believed to play a role in the development of schizophrenia :
It’s important to note that schizophrenia is a complex disorder, and the interplay of these factors can vary among individuals. The exact cause of schizophrenia is likely to involve a combination of genetic vulnerability, environmental triggers, and neurobiological abnormalities.
The symptoms of schizophrenia can be categorised into three main groups :
Typically, symptoms of schizophrenia first emerge in early adulthood and must persist for at least six months for a diagnosis to be made. Initial symptoms often appear in men during their late teens or early 20s, while women tend to exhibit signs in their 20s or early 30s. Subtle signs may manifest earlier, such as troubled relationships, poor academic performance, and reduced motivation.
Before confirming a diagnosis, it is crucial for a psychiatrist to conduct a comprehensive medical examination to rule out substance misuse or other neurological or medical conditions that can mimic schizophrenia.
While there is no cure for schizophrenia, many patients experience significant symptom improvement. Diagnosing and treating schizophrenia can be complex when substance misuse is involved. Individuals with schizophrenia are at a higher risk of drug misuse compared to the general population. In cases of addiction, treatment for both the addiction and schizophrenia should be pursued concurrently.