Understanding the Complexities of Schizophrenia
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The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines schizophrenia as “a mental health disorder characterized by disruptions in thought processes, perceptions, emotional responsiveness, and social interactions.” It results in an internal struggle to differentiate between reality and false perceptions of reality. The inability to distinguish between the two can become so severe that it interferes with daily activities and makes life particularly challenging.
Up to 24 million people worldwide are affected by schizophrenia. This disorder is one of the most misunderstood and complicated mental health disorders, which often contributes to harmful stigma to those affected by it. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) now considers schizophrenia to be a spectrum disorder. Previously it was categorized into five different subtypes, shades which now exist on a sliding scale. These include:
This subtype is characterized by high levels of suspicion without cause and distorted sensory function. Those who struggle with paranoid schizophrenia may experience hallucinations and hear voices that are not there. They may also either be preoccupied with a single delusion or experience frequent auditory hallucinations.
When experiencing residual schizophrenia, individuals encounter hallucinations, disorganized speech, delusions, or catatonic behaviors, as are typically associated with schizophrenia but on a smaller scale than more extensive subtypes. Despite the lesser severity, residual schizophrenia should be taken seriously. If left untreated, it can worsen or progress.
The symptoms of this subtype include rambling speech and behavior. When severely disorganized speech is involved, it can be challenging to follow the affected individual’s speech as it may be incoherent.
Additionally, inappropriate affect is involved with disorganized schizophrenia. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines inappropriate affect as an emotional response that is not in keeping with the situation or is incompatible with expressed thoughts or wishes. For example, an individual with this subtype may smile when told about the death of a friend.
On the more advanced end of the scale, catatonic schizophrenia has been believed to be the result of untreated schizophrenia. Symptoms of this disorder include refusal to move, change position, and extensive immobility. Alternatively, individuals may experience excessive, unnecessary movement for no reason, echolalia — the meaningless repetition of words or phrases heard by someone else — or echopraxia – the meaningless repetition of movements seen by someone else.
Those who don’t meet the criteria for the previous four subtypes may fall into the undifferentiated category. When individuals experience this sub-type, they will experience hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech, or catatonic behavior. However, these symptoms are neither consistent nor similar enough in pattern and severity to be considered one of the above subtypes.
Colors of Schizophrenia
Because of the complexity of schizophrenia and the vast range of symptoms and severity levels, the above disorders are now only considered to be specifiers of this spectrum disorder. Similar to a broad spectrum of colors, regardless of the shade, each is still classified as a color. No matter how minor or severe, each case of schizophrenia is still considered to be on the schizophrenia spectrum.
The Spectrum of Schizophrenia
The word “schizophrenia” combines the Greek skhizein, “split,” and phren, “mind.” This name for the disorder misrepresents what it truly is. This results in a severe misunderstanding among the general population. People tend to believe that schizophrenia involves split personalities when it does not. Consequently, it is often mistaken for the condition dissociative identity disorder — sometimes referred to as multiple/split personality disorder.
Schizophrenia falls under the umbrella of psychotic disorders as it typically involves episodes of psychosis. It is recognized as the most common psychotic disorder. An individual can, however, be diagnosed with psychosis but not schizophrenia, as it is its own disorder under this umbrella. Bipolar disorder is another condition that has been known to involve psychosis.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorder
While the previously recognized subtypes of schizophrenia have distinct qualities, they are now combined under one diagnosis. The symptoms can vary greatly on the schizophrenia spectrum and include, but are not limited, to the following:
- Hallucinations that involve hearing/seeing things that don’t exist outside of the mind
- Delusions from unusual beliefs based on false perceptions of reality
- Jumbled thoughts due to hallucinations or delusions
- Loss of interest in everyday activities
- Decreased personal hygiene
- Avoidance of people including friends and family
One common misconception of schizophrenia includes violence. This spectrum disorder does not result in violent behavior.
When to Seek Treatment
If you believe you or a loved one may be experiencing schizophrenia, reach out right away. Obtaining a diagnosis will be the first step in the treatment process. The primary method of treating schizophrenia is medication in the form of antipsychotics. In addition, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may be used, as it has also been proven effective in treating the condition.
With the right guidance, you can thrive despite your schizophrenia in bright and beautiful ways. There is a big and exciting world out there just waiting for you to fully live and experience it. Don’t let your disorder hold you back. Seek treatment today.
Facing schizophrenia can be challenging and confusing. With our help, you can conquer the obstacles in your path and thrive in ways you didn’t know were possible. At Alter Behavioral Health, we believe in you and the flame you hold within. Let us guide you and ignite your fire to the roaring potential you deserve. Proper guidance and care can help you overcome your schizophrenia and live a life free of the challenges you face. We can help you achieve a brighter and happier future where your inner light can shine brighter than the sun. Call us today at (866) 691-4386 for more information and to get started on the first step to the rest of your life.