Schizophrenia symptoms can be terrifying for the affected person or for their observing friends and loved ones. If a person experiences schizophrenic symptoms, it is strongly recommended to get the consultation of a doctor immediately. A professional psychiatrist or psychologist will better diagnose the symptoms and gives his results accurately. Sometimes, the symptoms may represent a similar illness if not schizophrenia which must be treated. And if it is schizophrenia, the treatment must be started soon after diagnosis at least for better recovery.
Schizophrenia can be classified as a mental illness that comes under psychotic disorders. Schizophrenic patients have psychosis symptoms which keeps them out of touch with reality. There are many other illnesses which include psychotic symptoms. There are no specific tests like blood or brain test for diagnosing schizophrenia. There are specially trained out people to diagnose schizophrenia accurately. The trained people perform several interviews along with some psychological tests to find out the current beliefs, history, and symptoms of the patient.
Doctors conclude their results based on these interviews and the verified symptoms with the patient. Schizophrenia cannot be detected by any chemical tests. Recently, several brain imaging techniques have become popular for the determination of the damaged areas of the brain. Such techniques are:
• MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) employs magnets to provide cross-sectional images of the inner structure of the brain.
• SPECT (Single-photon emission computed tomography) employs a scanner, which revolves around the Schizophrenia patient’s head, along with multiple detectors for lowering the imaging time.
• PET (Positron emission tomography) employs the injection of a radioactive substance (safe enough for the patient) into the Schizophrenia patient’s body which can pass through the brain blood vessels and can be detected by a device for producing images of the brain.
There are certain conditions or illnesses which produce the same symptoms as schizophrenia. Hence they are often mistaken to be schizophrenia. They need to be ruled out for proper diagnosis. Such conditions include
• Drug abuse
Consumption of hallucinogenic drugs like LSD or mescaline might result in seeing or hearing things which are actually not present by the Schizophrenia individual.
This can disturb the brain’s electrical signaling and hence it is a trigger for seizure. The seizure is also marked as an involuntary movement that can resemble like seeing or hearing things which are actually not present.
• Brain tumor
An extra-growth in the brain irrespective of the area can lead to some behavioral changes.
This includes inflammation in the brain.
• Thyroid disorders
A hyperactive thyroid can release high amounts of thyroid hormone into the bloodstream. In such an occasion, a person feels apprehensive or delirious.
When there are low sugar levels in the blood, it may result in lethargy and a confused state.
• Wilson’s disease
A rare disease, occurring through heredity, where there will be copper accumulation in the RBCs, which in turn may affect the brain and cause dementia of Schizophrenia individual.
• Alzheimer’s disease
Besides many drugs prescribed as medicine can also at times mimic the schizophrenic symptoms like delusions, severe confusion, especially in elder people. Though there are many disorders very different from schizophrenia, they may have some similarities. Hence they are grouped under ‘schizoaffective disorders’.
Psychosocial Treatment for Schizophrenia
Psychosocial treatment is one of the treatment modes for schizophrenia. It involves educating the people regarding the illness and its management skills, talk therapy and vocational counseling. Several studies have proved the effectiveness of psychosocial therapy in dealing with communication, work, self-care, maintenance of relationships and motivation difficulties in the affected person. But this must assist the schizophrenic people under medication to deal with its symptoms.
With the help of this therapy, patients can easily cope with their daily activities. They can behave as normal people. Such people stick to medication schedules correctly and hence experience less number of attacks. The constant positive relationship with the doctor is essential for proper recovery. By clearly detailing the nature, causes, need for medication for schizophrenia, and the doctor can assist the patients better.
Specific psychosocial therapy includes:
Illness Management Skills
Schizophrenic people must actively participate to manage their illness. If they are aware of the nature, cause, and principles of treatment, they will be ready to take better decisions. If such people are taught the ways to cope with the early symptoms, relapses can easily be prevented by planning the way to respond to it. Then they can additionally be taught the ways to cope with persistent symptoms.
Integrated Schizophrenic Treatment for Co-occurring Substance Abuse
Substance abuse tends to be commonly co-occurring in schizophrenic people. But the ordinary treatment programs for substance abuse are not effective in such people. Integration of schizophrenia treatment and abuse treatment programs will lead to better results.
This highlights the social, vocational training for schizophrenic people to behave normally in the community. Owing to their frequent illnesses during the critical period of life (18-35 years of age), and interference with normal functioning of the people, Schizophrenia patients lack the training needed for work. Rehabilitation programs like Job training, Vocational counseling, Money management, Family Education, and lessons on how to behave in public transportation and the community are very useful for schizophrenic people.
Patients spend most of their time with their family, and hence the family members need to take special care. Even the family members must be aware of the illness and the best treatment programs so that they can adhere to it effectively to prevent more relapses for their loved ones.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is required for Schizophrenia patients where symptoms continue even when under medication. The therapist teaches schizophrenic people ways to:
• Test the authenticity of the patients’ perceptions and thoughts
• “Not listen” to the imaginary voices
• Overcome the indifference.
This treatment is effective in lowering the severity of symptoms and the number of relapses.
Self-help groups for schizophrenic people and their families have grown in recent years. Without the involvement of professional therapists, the group members themselves contribute to mutual support to each other. Such group members are aware that everyone there is facing similar problems and hence they will not feel alone and awkward even when in a group. This enhances their relationships and hence this boosts up their motivation levels. Support and advocacy groups tend to be the best sources of treatment for Schizophrenia people who are mentally disturbed.