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Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a biological brain disease just as Alzheimer's, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's are and yet it is notoriously difficult to diagnose at the onset. There are several reasons why, and one of them is that it resembles other brain disorders like bipolar disorder and depression.
Symptoms also come and go so that concerned family members may think of it as an isolated incident, a "nervous breakdown". Periods of flagrant incoherency or wildly inappropriate behavior can be followed by a return to normal that has everyone fooled, even the medical profession.
Even psychiatrists who are consulted may not be familiar with the subtler aspects of schizophrenia. The illness can present in two quite different ways: as a full-blown psychotic episode complete with delusions, hallucinations and other positive symptoms or with the gradual and insidious encroachment of the less flagrant symptoms.
Full-blown episodes are easier to diagnose than a gradual onset but even then there may still be a number of false starts with treatment as psychiatrists and other members of the medical profession try to read a situation that is never as clear as the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) would have us believe.
One study showed that 50% of schizophrenics are unaware that they are ill. This lack of awareness is thought to be related to the impaired functioning of parts of the forebrain that is affected by the disease. Because the afflicted person cannot see that they are afflicted they may vehemently refuse all assistance and treatment. People suffering from the disease may also be paranoid making them reluctant to accept help from others who their disease is telling them not to trust.
Despite all the difficulties in diagnosing schizophrenia it is becoming increasingly obvious that the prognosis is dependent on how promptly the disease is diagnosed and treated. Schizophrenia that goes untreated can deteriorate so significantly that little can be done for the patient.
If you suspect that a loved one may be suffering from this disease the best route to follow is to contact a local support group that deals with brain disorders. Experience is the significant element here. You need to speak to others who have experience with this particular brain disorder. These support groups may be able to recommend a psychiatrist that specializes in working with schizophrenics. You do not want to waste time messing about with professionals whose knowledge of the disease may be purely hypothetical.
The symptoms of schizophrenia are divided into two categories: positive symptoms that are an excess or distortion of normal functioning and negative symptoms that reflect a loss in normal functions.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF SCHIZOPHRENIA
* Delusions: These are false beliefs that persist despite a lack of validating evidence. They may be distortions or exaggerations of reasoning and/or misinterpretations of perceptions and experiences. Delusions come in many different forms: Paranoid; delusions of reference where you believe incorrectly that things in the environment are directly related to you; somatic delusions where the belief is held that the body is in the grip of a serious illness; delusions of grandeur where you believe that you have special powers.
* Hallucinations: These can be visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory or gustatory. They are a distortion or exaggeration of perception. Hearing voices is one of the more common hallucinations suffered by schizophrenics.
* Disorganized Speech: This involves a level of profound incoherency that has sometimes been called "word salad".
* Grossly Disorganized or Catatonic Behavior: This is a condition characterized by extremes in physical behavior either in the form of stupor or mania. It normally involves abnormal rigidity or flexibility of the limbs.
* Affective Flattening: Refers to the lack of emotion evident in those suffering from this brain disease. It is caused by a reduction in the range and intensity of emotional expression and it effects facial expression, body language, voice tone and eye contact.
* Lack of Energy: Needs more sleep than normal and visibly appears depleted of energy.
* Lack of Interest: Low motivation.
* Facial Expression: Blank or unresponsive
* Alogia: Difficulty or inability to speak
* Inappropriate Social Skills: leads to a kind of voluntary isolation
Diagnosing schizophrenia is a complex process. No one symptom is definitive for diagnosis but rather a certain configuration of signs and symptoms together with significant levels of occupational and/or social dysfunction.
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