Early symptoms of schizophrenia
Though rarely diagnosed in children, the early symptoms of schizophrenia may appear during childhood – or at least warning signs predicting the condition in adulthood. Such warning signs in children with a family history of the disease may include deficient short-term and verbal memory, impaired gross motor skills, attention deficits, and a decreasing verbal memory, IQ, and other mental functions. However, these symptoms may not be detected – or may not be distinguished from normal childhood fantasies – and thus the condition may only be noticed until late adolescence or early adulthood.
The most common symptoms of schizophrenia are:
· Thought disorders.
· Movement disorders.
These involve experiencing as normal and real things that do not exist. Visual, olfactory, and tactual hallucinations are possible but auditory hallucinations are more common. Schizophrenics may hear voices commenting on their actions, telling them to do something, warning them of impending danger, and even conversing with other voices.
These are beliefs alien to the patient’s culture and which remain unchanged even after they have been proven false or illogical. They may believe that they are getting direct messages from the television or radio, or that they are a historical figure or a famous celebrity. The patient may also believe that another person is either in love with them or hates them and means them physical, emotional, or psychological harm.
· Thought disorders
These occur when the patient cannot organize or logically connect his or her thoughts. This disorganized thinking manifests by way of impaired communication. For instance, the patient may give unrelated answers to questions, string together meaningless words that don’t make sense, or stop talking in the middle of a sentence because they feel a thought has been taken out of their heads.
· Movement disorders
Such as bizarre posture, a complete lack of response, or useless and excessive movement. Conversely the patient may become catatonic and not move nor respond to others, though catatonia became a rarity when treatment for schizophrenia became available.
The above symptoms are called positive; the word has a beneficial connotation, but a more useful association can be made with the plus sign (+) used to identify a positive number. In other words, these symptoms add an undesirable element to the patient’s perception of reality – such as voices that the rest of the people don’t hear. Conversely, negative symptoms subtract from the patient’s abilities. Examples of negative schizophrenia symptoms include:
· Lack of facial expression.
· Showing no emotion.
· Not making eye contact.
· Speaking little or in a monotone.
· Not getting pleasure from daily activities.
Additionally, there are cognitive symptoms such as inability to understand and use information to make decisions, difficulty focusing or paying attention, inability to use information immediately after learning it. Contrary to what some people might believe, violence is not one of the early symptoms of schizophrenia – nor one of the late symptoms for that matter. In fact, schizophrenics are more likely to unfoundedly expect violence from others than be violent themselves. At the same time, they may also be likely to harm themselves. People with schizophrenia commonly experience suicidal ideation and behavior.
Schizophrenia has been linked to substance abuse as well. Drugs such as marijuana, amphetamines or cocaine can worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia, as well as cause symptoms that resemble it, but they don’t actually cause the condition itself – though other drugs may be risk factors. The cause of the disease has not been established but it is believed to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Risk factors of schizophrenia:
· A family history of the condition.
· Womb exposure to viruses, toxins, or malnutrition – especially in the 1st and 2nd trimesters.
· Frequent activation of the immune system – for instance from inflammation or autoimmune disease.
· Older father’s age.
· Taking psychoactive or psychotropic drugs during adolescence and young adulthood.
In addition to that, schizophrenics are more prone to smoke, and abuse alcohol and prescription drugs. Quitting smoking can be hard on people with schizophrenia as nicotine withdrawal may intensify the symptoms of the condition. But since smoking can also detract from the effectiveness of treatment, smoking cessation strategies that include replacement methods are recommended. Other complications stemming from this condition include:
· Family strife.
· Inability to work or study.
· Social isolation.
· Aggressive behavior (as mentioned above, this is uncommon and may be a consequence of lack of treatment, substance abuse, or a history of violence.)
Currently there is no cure for schizophrenia, but treatment – mostly antipsychotic medications – allows patients to successfully cope with the symptoms and prevent the complications of this condition. On the downside, treatment must go uninterrupted from diagnosis and through the natural course of the patient’s life, and hospitalization may be required during critical periods. Psychosocial interventions may also be needed; especially if the patient does not think they need treatment because they believe their hallucinations and delusions are real. Patients are encouraged to join support groups and learn relaxation and stress management techniques to help them deal with both the symptoms of schizophrenia and the side effects of medication.