What is schizophrenia or paranoid schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a complex neurological condition that also finds it impossible to differentiate between what is actual and imaginary, to reason objectively, control impulses, respond to others, and act normally. It affects the way a person behaves, thinks, and sees the world.
The most severe type is delusional schizophrenia, or schizophrenia with hysteria, as it’s sometimes called. People with paranoid schizophrenia have an distorted view of reality. They can see or hear objects that don’t happen, talk in odd or misleading ways, think that people are trying to hurt them, or feel that they ‘re being continuously watched. This can exacerbate marital issues, interrupt regular everyday habits like shaving, cooking, or running errands, and lead to alcohol and substance addiction in an effort to self-medicate.Many people with schizophrenia withdraw from the outside world, act out in confusion and fear, and are at an increased risk of attempting suicide, especially during psychotic episodes, periods of depression, and in the first six months after starting treatment.
Although schizophrenia is a persistent illness, many myths about the condition are not rooted on reality. Most patients with schizophrenia get better over time, not worse. Treatment options are improving all the time and there are plenty of things you can do to manage the disorder. Schizophrenia is often episodic, so periods of remission are ideal times to employ self-help strategies to limit the length and frequency of any future episodes. Along with the proper care , treatment, and counseling, many individuals with schizophrenia are able to control their symptoms, function individually, and lead healthy, fulfilling lives.
Symptoms of schizophrenia
There are five types of symptoms characteristic of schizophrenia: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, and the so-called “negative” symptoms. However, the symptoms of schizophrenia vary dramatically from person to person, both in pattern and severity. Not every person with schizophrenia will have all the symptoms, and the symptoms of schizophrenia may also change over time.
A delusion is a firmly-held idea that a person has despite clear and obvious evidence that it isn’t true. Delusions are extremely common in schizophrenia, occurring in more than 90% of those who have the disorder. Often, these delusions involve illogical or bizarre ideas or fantasies, such as:
Delusions of persecution – Belief that others, often a vague “they,” are out to get you. These persecutory delusions often involve bizarre ideas and plots (e.g. “Martians are trying to poison me with radioactive particles delivered through my tap water”).
Delusions of reference – A neutral environmental event is believed to have a special and personal meaning. For example, you might believe a billboard or a person on TV is sending a message meant specifically for you.
Delusions of grandeur – Belief that you are a famous or important figure, such as Jesus Christ or Napoleon. Alternately, delusions of grandeur may involve the belief that you have unusual powers, such as the ability to fly.
Delusions of control – Belief that your thoughts or actions are being controlled by outside, alien forces. Common delusions of control include thought broadcasting (“My private thoughts are being transmitted to others”), thought insertion (“Someone is planting thoughts in my head”) and thought withdrawal (“The CIA is robbing me of my thoughts”).
Hallucinations are sounds or other sensations experienced as real when they exist only in your mind. While hallucinations can involve any of the five senses, auditory hallucinations (e.g. hearing voices or some other sound) are most common in schizophrenia, often occurring when you misinterpret your own inner self-talk as coming from an outside source.
Schizophrenic hallucinations are usually meaningful to you as the person experiencing them. Many times, the voices are those of someone you know, and usually, they’re critical, vulgar, or abusive. Visual hallucinations are also relatively common, while all hallucinations tend to be worse when you’re alone.
- Disorganized behavior
Schizophrenia disrupts goal-directed activity, impairing your ability to take care of yourself, your work, and interact with others. Disorganized behavior appears as:
- A decline in overall daily functioning.
- Unpredictable or inappropriate emotional responses.
- Behaviors that appear bizarre and have no purpose.
- Lack of inhibition and impulse control
- Negative symptoms (absence of normal behaviors)
The so-called “negative” symptoms of schizophrenia refer to the absence of normal behaviors found in healthy individuals, such as:
- Lack of emotional expression – Inexpressive face, including a flat voice, lack of eye contact, and blank or restricted facial expressions.
- Lack of interest or enthusiasm – Problems with motivation; lack of self-care.
- Seeming lack of interest in the world – Apparent unawareness of the environment; social withdrawal.
- Speech difficulties and abnormalities – Inability to carry a conversation; short and sometimes disconnected replies to questions; speaking in a monotone.
Early warning signs of schizophrenia
In some people, schizophrenia appears suddenly and without warning. But for most, it comes on slowly, with subtle warning signs and a gradual decline in functioning long before the first severe episode. Often, friends or family members will know early on that something is wrong, without knowing exactly what. In this early phase of schizophrenia, you may seem eccentric, unmotivated, emotionless, and reclusive to others. You may start to isolate yourself, begin neglecting your appearance, say peculiar things, and show a general indifference to life. You may abandon hobbies and activities, and your performance at work or school can deteriorate.
The most common early warning signs include:
- Depression, social withdrawal
- Hostility or suspiciousness, extreme reaction to criticism
- Deterioration of personal hygiene
- Flat, expressionless gaze
- Inability to cry or express joy or inappropriate laughter or crying
- Oversleeping or insomnia; forgetful, unable to concentrate
- Odd or irrational statements; strange use of words or way of speaking
Treatment for schizophrenia
As upsetting as a diagnosis of schizophrenia can be, ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. Beginning treatment as soon as possible with an experienced mental health professional is crucial to your recovery. At the same time, it’s important not to buy into the stigma associated with schizophrenia or the myth that you can’t get better. A diagnosis of schizophrenia is not a life-sentence of ever-worsening symptoms and recurring hospitalizations. With the right treatment and self-help, many people with schizophrenia are able to regain normal functioning and even become symptom-free.
The 7 keys to self-help from schizophrenia
- Seek social support: Not only are friends and family vital to helping you get the right treatment and keeping your symptoms under control, regularly connecting with others face-to-face is the most effective way to calm your nervous system and relive stress. Stay involved with others by continuing your work or education-or if that’s not possible, consider volunteering, joining a schizophrenia support group, or taking a class or joining a club to spend time with people who have common interests. As well as keeping you socially connected, it can help you feel good about yourself.
- Manage stress: High levels of stress are believed to trigger schizophrenic episodes by increasing the body’s production of the hormone cortisol. As well as staying socially connected, there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce your stress levels, including relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing.
- Get regular exercise: As well as all the emotional and physical benefits, exercise may help reduce symptoms of schizophrenia, improve your focus and energy, and help you feel calmer. Aim for 30 minutes of activity on most days, or if it’s easier, three 10-minute sessions. Try rhythmic exercise that engages both your arms and legs, such as walking, running, swimming, or dancing.
- Get plenty of sleep: When you’re on medication, you most likely need even more sleep than the standard 8 hours. Many people with schizophrenia have trouble with sleep, but getting regular exercise and avoiding caffeine can help.
- Avoid alcohol, drugs, and nicotine:Substance abuse complicates schizophrenia treatment and worsens symptoms. Even smoking cigarettes can interfere with the effectiveness of some schizophrenia medications. If you have a substance abuse problem, seek help.
- Eat regular, nutritious meals to avoid symptoms exacerbated by changes in blood sugar levels. Omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish, fish oil, walnuts, and flax seeds can help improve focus, banish fatigue, and balance your moods.