• Francisco Torres MD

What is Schizophrenia?

Updated: Aug 29, 2020

Well, for starters, it’s not the same as multiple personality disorder, as many people think.

People with schizophrenia may hear voices or believe that other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting against them. These experiences are terrifying and can cause fearfulness, withdrawal, or extreme agitation. The chronic, severe, and disabling psychiatric disorder that we now call schizophrenia can be traced in written documents like the Egyptian Book of the Dead as far back as 2000 B.C. Many schizophrenics do not make sense when they talk-sometimes displaying “word salad: speech-here is an example: (Psychologist reads Patient Carl transcript 12 – 15 seconds. Eugen Bleuler first coined the term ‘schizophrenia’ in 1911 and defined the disorder with his four “A’s”: blunted Affect or diminished emotional response; loosening of Associations or reduced understanding of relationships; Ambivalence-an inability to make decisions; and Autism-a preoccupation with one’s own thoughts and reduced awareness of external events. The psychotic symptoms associated with schizophrenia-hallucinations and delusions-tend to emerge earlier in men than in women. For men, symptoms appear in their mid to late-20’s, while for women, schizophrenia symptoms surface in their mid-20’s to early-30’s. Symptoms don’t typically occur after age 45 and only rarely before puberty. Although schizophrenia is a serious illness, the outlook for those diagnosed with the disorder has improved over the last 30 years. There is still no cure, but effective treatments have been developed, and many people with schizophrenia improve enough to lead independent, satisfying lives. If someone you love has symptoms of schizophrenia, please consult a mental health professional. Want to learn more? Check out other videos and sources on this site for more information.

Diagnosing Schizophrenia

There is no single laboratory or brain imaging test for schizophrenia. Schizophrenia treatment professionals must rule out multiple factors such as brain tumors and other medical conditions (as well as other psychiatric diagnoses such as bipolar disorder). At the same time, they must identify different kinds of symptoms that manifest in specific ways over certain periods of time. To make matters more complicated, the person in need of mental health help and treatment may be in such distress that they have a hard time communicating. It often takes a decade for people to be properly diagnosed with schizophrenia. A health care provider who evaluates the symptoms and the course of a person’s illness over six months or more can help ensure a correct diagnosis.

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