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Schizophrenia is a type of mental disorder that disrupts how an individual thinks, feels, and behaves (Castle, Buckley & Gaughran, 2017). Someone who is Schizophrenic engages in abnormal social behavior and does not have a grip on reality. Research reveals that schizophrenia has a lifetime prevalence of around 0.3% – 0.7% (Janicak, 2016). This disorder may not be as common as the rest of the mental disorders, but it is very severe and chronic. According to research, most people usually experience the symptoms of schizophrenia when they are in their mid-teens or at this time and their mid-thirties (Janicak, 2016). Men typically have their first psychotic episode between their early to mid-twenties (Janicak, 2016). Females on the other hand first experience it in their late twenties (Janicak, 2016). This paper attempts to examine the schizophrenia disorder by looking at its symptoms and characteristics using the DSM-5, the causal, psychosocial and cultural factors associated with it and how it impacts families.
The Symptoms and Characteristics of Schizophrenia Using the DSM-5
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM 5) came up with some symptoms and characteristics that can be used to determine whether an individual has schizophrenia. These include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech, much-disorganized behavior and negative symptoms (Castle, Buckley & Gaughran, 2017). The negative symptoms are those that interfere with normal emotions and behaviors. For example, one may have reduced expression of feelings which can be through their tone or facial expression (Castle, Buckley & Gaughran, 2017). They can also get reduced pleasure from life, they start speaking less and have a problem sustaining activities (Castle, Buckley & Gaughran, 2017). Hallucinations can be in the form of hearing voices. The delusions they experience can be bizarre. Disorganized thinking and speech come in the form of having difficulty connecting words in a sentence or losing their train of thought when speaking (Tsuang, Faraone & Glatt, 2014). A specialized psychiatrist with the ability to use the mental status examination tool and DSM 5 to make the correct diagnosis must do the diagnosis.
To conclude this diagnosis, a person needs to have experienced two or more symptoms for one month or longer than that (Tsuang, Faraone & Glatt, 2014). The presence of two or more of the following symptoms in one month. The symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized behaviour, disorganized speech, and negative symptoms. If the person has an onset disturbance with level one functioning in interpersonal relations, self-care, and work, then this is a sign of schizophrenia. Continuous signs of disturbance for six months with symptoms lasting one month and symptoms preceding the active phase characterized by delusions and hallucinations. Schizoaffective disorder, bipolar or depressive disorder are psychotic features but if they have been ruled out and the person presents with no manic and no major depressive disorder.
In addition, an individual needs to have either delusions, disorganized speech or hallucinations as one of the signs.
Causal factors associated with schizophrenia
According to doctors, no single element causes schizophrenia. Instead, this disorder emerges as a result of a combination of both biological predisposition and the environment that an individual finds (Tsuang, Faraone & Glatt, 2014). An example of biological predisposition involves inheriting specific genes. Schizophrenia involves deregulation of multiple pathways in the pathophysiology. Schizophrenia affects dopaminergic, GABAergic, and glutermatergic neurotransmitters resulting to the disease. Shortages of acetylcholine muscarinic receptors contribute to the pathophysiology of the disease. Inflammation contributes to the pathophysiology of the disease by accelerating the psychotic symptoms.
Doctors agree that there is no particular schizophrenia gene. However, they believe that when an individual’s body is exposed to numerous genetic changes or mutations, it can increase their likelihood of getting mental disorders such as schizophrenia (Janicak, 2016). What is clear is that an individual’s chances of getting schizophrenia are high if someone in their family is suffering from it. The possibilities are higher by 10% if the schizophrenic person is your parent or sibling (Janicak, 2016). Children whom both parents have schizophrenia have a 40% likelihood of getting the disorder (Janicak, 2016). Those whose identical twins are suffering from schizophrenia have a 50% chance of getting it (Janicak, 2016). However, some people suffer from the disorder, yet their families do not have a history of it. Experts argue that these people’s genes may have undergone changes that make it possible for them to have schizophrenia.
One’s environment can make them susceptible to schizophrenia. A fetus exposed to particular viral infections while in the womb may have higher chances of becoming schizophrenic (Tsuang, Faraone & Glatt, 2014). The same applies to when a fetus does not get proper nutrition from its mother, and this is particularly during the first six months of development (Tsuang, Faraone & Glatt, 2014). According to studies, some drugs (psychotropic or psychoactive) can alter one’s mind and cause schizophrenia and examples include LSD or methamphetamines (Tsuang, Faraone & Glatt, 2014). Marijuana has the same risk especially if you start taking them at an early age (Tsuang, Faraone & Glatt, 2014).
Psychosocial and Cultural Factors of Schizophrenia
According to psychologists, some factors beyond a patient’s well-being can increase their likelihood of developing schizophrenia.
Stress caused by life events can increase somebody’s risk of getting schizophrenia (Castle, Buckley & Gaughran, 2017). Examples of these events include loss of job and loss of a loved one. The high levels of stress trigger changes in neurotransmitters and increases one chances of becoming schizophrenic (Castle, Buckley & Gaughran, 2017).
The labeling theory is responsible for improving the chances of getting schizophrenia (Castle, Buckley & Gaughran, 2017). Social groups typically develop the rules that their members adhere to. The symptoms associated with schizophrenia are not in line with those rules. Therefore, society labels an individual with those symptoms as schizophrenia. The individual then starts displaying the signs and finally they develop into full schizophrenics.
The Impact of Schizophrenia on the Family
Studies show that approximately 75% of people with schizophrenia are in constant contact with their families (Janicak, 2016). Also, more than one-third of people with schizophrenia live with their families and most of the times thee are aging parents. Schizophrenia affects not only the individual suffering from it but everyone around that individual.
The family of someone with schizophrenia may have different kinds of burden (Janicak, 2016). This can be a financial burden or the illness becoming severe (Janicak, 2016). The financial burden comes in different ways, for example the money used for treatment, which includes services from mental institutions. Most mental institutions have expensive rates especially if the institutions due to being a threat to family members keep the patient. The family of a person with schizophrenia may experience guilt, hurt, anxiety, and shame. How severe the symptoms influence the burden the family experiences.it may be difficult to know that a loved one is developing schizophrenia and needs medical help. Therefore, they may seek help when the disorder has reached an advanced stage. Sometimes, they may be afraid to get help because of the stigma associated with mental illness. In the end, family members feel guilty, ashamed and blame themselves for not acting soon. People with schizophrenia require help to meet their activities of daily living, therefore family members must dedicate most of their time to helping their sick person. It is obvious that a lot of time is wasted in taking care of schizophrenic people instead of investing the time in economic activities that will help the family financially.
A person who has schizophrenia needs a series of treatments, which may take a long time (Janicak, 2016). Therefore, family members may be unable to get required finances for treatment. Most families with people with schizophrenia face this burden. One of the symptoms of schizophrenia can be violence. A person diagnosed with schizophrenia can be dangerous to family members if some of the symptoms like violence are not treated. Being violent often, results to injury to some of the family members, which is the reason family members often, opt to take these patients to a restrained mental institution.
Schizophrenia is a disorder that negatively affects a person and those around him. Therefore, it is essential to know how to identify the symptoms and get help before the disorder becomes even more severe. Understanding the factors that cause schizophrenia can help one to avoid them. Study suggests that some people have schizophrenia but under medications, for example antipsychotics they can still manage to perform activities of daily living without being a burden to their family members. The process of handling people with schizophrenia can be a burden but with proper treatment and care, the symptoms of the disease can be managed under routine drug therapy.
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