Causes and Effects of Schizophrenia

The signs, symptoms, and effects of schizophrenia can be different for every person impacted. Learning about schizophrenia is one of the first steps towards getting better.

Understanding Schizophrenia

Learn about schizophrenia and mental health

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that is characterized by symptoms that include delusions, disruptions in thinking, and hallucinations. This illness is incapacitating and can significantly impact an individual and those around him or her. Regular tasks and making plans can become challenging, or even impossible, for an individual who suffers from untreated schizophrenia.

Often starting in early adulthood, schizophrenia disturbs an individual’s concentration and thought processes. He or she might feel as though current events are not real, or he or she might feel disconnected from his or her body. These phenomena can dramatically impact an individual’s daily routine, career goals, and social life.

This is not an easy condition that can be wished away. Schizophrenia is a complicated mental illness that requires intensive therapy and treatment, which is why many of the cases are a good fit for inpatient care. Inpatient treatment is a beneficial option for the individual to fully recover because of the easy access to immediate medical attention, a team to supervise and help with progress, and support from friends and family. With treatment, an individual can recover quicker and return to his or her regular life able to manage the symptoms of schizophrenia effectively.

Statistics

Schizophrenia statistics

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), men are more likely than women to be diagnosed with schizophrenia. Women are more likely to develop schizophrenia later in life than men. Within the United States alone, roughly 0.3% to 0.7% of the population has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Suicide is also a serious issue in those who battle schizophrenia. About 5 to 6% of people with schizophrenia have committed suicide. Furthermore, nearly 20% of the total population of those with schizophrenia have attempted suicide. This statistic indicates the importance of immediate and effective care to prevent a grave outcome from occurring.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for schizophrenia

Research suggests that one’s genetics and environment can play significant roles in determining an individual’s risk for schizophrenia. Consider the following:

Genetic: Heredity significantly adds to the development of schizophrenia. However, some of those diagnosed with this condition have little to no history of schizophrenia in the family. One hypothesis suggests that this mental health condition is linked to recessive genes that might be connected to other mental health disorders as well.

Environmental: Heredity and genetics are often viewed as the main contributors in the development of schizophrenia. However, environmental influences can also impact one’s risk of developing this disorder. For example, studies show that individuals who lived the majority of their lives in urban areas are slightly more likely to develop schizophrenia, however researchers are unsure why. More research needs to be carried out in order to find a clear cause and effect connection between schizophrenia and life experiences.

Risk Factors:

  • Malnourishment while in utero
  • Personal history of personality disorders, such as schizotypal or paranoid personality disorders
  • Having a father of older age
  • Exposure to stress, diabetes, or infections while in utero
  • A history of mental illness in the family, especially immediate family
  • Distress during birth (e.g., lack of oxygen during birth)

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia

Someone with schizophrenia might have varying symptoms. As with other mental health conditions, symptoms can vary and be unique with each individual. In general, schizophrenia symptoms are categorized into three separate categories:


Positive symptoms: 
An individual develops a behavior that is in excess of what is viewed as normal, such as:

  • Having delusions or improbable beliefs
  • Having hallucinations, or feeling, hearing, seeing, or smelling things that are not real
  • Irrational speech
  • Unusual behaviors

Negative symptoms: An individual typically stops regular behaviors or no longer shows specific normal behaviors, including:

  • Lack of communication or has an inability to form speech
  • Ignoring regular tasks and activities
  • Lack of movements and/or being immobile
  • Foregoing hygiene and cleanliness
  • Little expression of emotions, or displaying no emotions at all
  • Incapable of experiencing or feeling pleasure

Cognitive symptoms: These symptoms are those that impact one’s ability to plan, think, and make decisions, such as:

  • Problems with memory, being forgetful
  • Inability to remember common tasks and items
  • Having difficulty making decisions and planning
  • Having difficulty concentrating, or being unable to concentrate at all

Effects

Effects of schizophrenia

If an individual does not obtain immediate help, it can lead to detrimental results that impact the individual and those around him or her. Some of the potential effects of untreated schizophrenia can include:

  • Conflict in personal relationships with others
  • Paranoia
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Inability to socialize
  • Disregard for family and friends
  • Disregard for medical needs
  • Substance use
  • Dangerous behaviors that can harm either the individual or others
  • Inability to handle and control finances
  • Loss of home and basic necessities
  • Depression, fear, and anxiety
  • Failure to maintain employment
  • Loss of income
  • Worsening or development of mental health symptoms

Co-Occurring Disorders

Schizophrenia and co-occurring disorders

An individual suffering from schizophrenia can develop additional mental health conditions, as stated in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Some mental health conditions might already be present during the development of schizophrenia, while others might develop while a person suffers from it. Substance use disorders, for example, are common conditions that can develop when an individual attempts to self-medicate symptoms. Other mental health disorders that can co-occur include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
    Specific phobias
  • Schizotypal personality disorder
  • Paranoid personality disorder

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