A Devastating Illness – Schizophrenia

A Devastating Illness – Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a devastating mental health disorder that strikes about 1 percent of the population, first occurring in the teenage years or the early 20s. It is marked by disordered or psychotic thinking accompanied by visual or auditory hallucinations.

Along with the primary symptoms, such as hearing voices, several secondary symptoms impair persons with schizophrenia. Hearing voices, for example, makes it difficult to concentrate, to learn, to read a book, or to have normal interpersonal relationships. This, in turn, can lead to depression. People with schizophrenia often become disengaged from society. Many persons with schizophrenia feel ongoing paranoia including fear of people, new experiences, and the medical health community.




There are several common symptoms of schizophrenia. On the other hand, the symptoms are individual, so that schizophrenia is idiosyncratic. From person to person, the variety of schizophrenic symptoms vary.

The following are considered primary symptoms:


  • Delusions, which is the belief in something that is not real
  • Hallucinations, which involve seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. Often the hallucinations include hearing voices. Auditory hallucinations can include flashes of light or colors and seeing people who aren’t there. Besides, there are tactile and olfactory hallucinations. The most common of these is hearing voices.
  • Disorganized Cognition (thinking) shows up in speech and behaviors. Speech may show up as random statements, talking to oneself, and saying things that don’t make sense. It is also difficult for persons to perform tasks that involve organized thinking, such as cleaning a room or straightening out a row of chairs.
  • Behavioral symptoms include ongoing silliness, depression, withdrawing from society, showing very little interest or engagement from society.
  • Emotional symptoms include moodiness, depression, isolation, paranoia, and suicidal ideation.




As schizophrenia strikes people in their teenage years, several symptoms appear as normal behavior, including depression, withdrawing from society, lack of motivation or emotions, and insomnia. Young persons with schizophrenia may also turn to street drugs or alcohol. People often erroneously blame the drugs for causing the illness, but there is no solid evidence that supports this claim. People with schizophrenia often self-medicate by turning to street drugs, but this does not prove self-medicating (taking street drugs or alcohol to mitigate symptoms) has caused the schizophrenia. 


Risk factors


There is no known cause for this mental illness, but risk factors include having family members with schizophrenia and complications during pregnancy that affect normal brain development.




Patients and their families try a number of approaches that can help persons with schizophrenia. Treatment often involves family members who may seek help coping with the chaotic lifestyle of a family member, who is chaotic and suffers from a variety of symptoms and impairments. 


Treatment often includes talk therapy, hospitalization or institutionalization, electroconvulsive therapy.


A variety of social support systems are available depending on your location. This includes support groups for family members, enrollment in specialized work training, and assisted housing or work programs that allow someone with schizophrenia to engage with society as much as possible. 


A variety of antipsychotic drugs are also available. Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications are also available.


The issue of medications should be discussed in-depth with your physician. The size of the doses and the combination of drugs to try is often discovered by trial and error with doctors making adjustments based on feedback from the patient. Some drugs work well for a while, but the effectiveness changes over time. Working closely with a physician is critical for persons with schizophrenia


If you suspect you or your child has a mental illness, call Pacific Medical Care in San Diego at 619-333-8114. Let us put you back on the road to better health.

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