Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that often carries a societal label. It is highly disabling and economically burdensome, primarily affecting young adults. Roughly 1 in every 100 people experiences schizophrenia, with men being twice as likely to develop the condition as women. People with schizophrenia face a doubled risk of death by suicide compared to the general population. This disorder not only affects mental well-being but also has a significant impact on social and occupational aspects of life. Unfortunately, individuals with schizophrenia are frequently isolated and may even be expelled from their families due to caregiver frustration or a lack of understanding about the illness.
It is important to dispel misconceptions surrounding schizophrenia. Contrary to popular belief, individuals with this condition are not inherently dangerous, violent, or psychopathic. In fact, they are more likely to become victims of violence, abuse, or fraud themselves. Instances of aggression usually occur when they are provoked or ridiculed. Often, individuals with schizophrenia lack awareness about seeking professional help, making awareness about the disease all the more crucial.
The term "schizophrenia" comes from the Greek words "schezein" (to split) and "phrenos" (mind), describing the separation of daily functions from a person's way of thinking, speaking, and perceiving the world. It is a disorder that affects the processes of the mind and thinking. Those affected often have their own imagined world in which they live and believe, detached from reality. While genetics may play a role, schizophrenia is not entirely genetic.
Symptoms of schizophrenia include muttering to oneself (including hearing voices that are not there) and holding firm false beliefs that cannot be changed by evidence, known as hallucinations and delusions, respectively. Other symptoms may include the feeling of being conspired against, disrupted thoughts leading to incomprehensible speech or unusual behavior, poor emotional response or expression, poor self-care/personal hygiene, withdrawn behavior, and issues with attention, concentration, and memory. Research indicates that patients with schizophrenia are rarely violent.
Fortunately, schizophrenia is highly treatable. Anti-psychotic medications are commonly used, and early intervention is essential. Psychological counseling can also aid in the recovery of individuals with schizophrenia. More than two-thirds of patients can significantly improve with proper treatment. It is important for patients to continue medication and treatment as prescribed by their doctors and maintain regular contact with healthcare professionals. Contrary to popular belief, these medications are not addictive and do not damage the brain. Research shows that the recurrence rate is higher if medications are abruptly discontinued, highlighting the importance of ongoing discussions with doctors.
Early initiation of treatment yields better outcomes. In addition to medication, vocational rehabilitation is crucial. Individuals need to regain their jobs, relationships, and daily life activities to achieve holistic recovery. Community acceptance and overcoming stigma are vital for individuals living with schizophrenia to fully recover. Creating awareness, identifying the early signs of the illness, and sensitizing family members and primary healthcare workers are crucial steps. All stakeholders must collectively take responsibility, and the media can play a vital role. Authentic information, education, and communication (IEC) materials are available on the official websites of organizations such as the National Institute of Mental Health (United States) and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru for detailed information.
This Article is referred from Hindustan Times-World Schizophrenia Day