The Elephant in the Room: How Schizophrenia Distorts Reality

If you know someone that was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, then you are aware that (according to the criteria that psychologist use to define mental illnesses), that this individual displays the following symptoms: delusions, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, hallucinations, and negative behavior patterns like the absence of initiative and maintain behavior in pursuit of a goal. Drug abuse and alcoholism is also marked features of those who with schizophrenia; findings indicate that individuals who were affected were twice as likely to abuse alcohol and drugs as those who did not have mental illnesses.

The most important hallmark feature of schizophrenia is that there is no cure for this mental illness. A few years ago, it was discovered that a genetic defect in those affected with schizophrenia can trigger a dangerous increase in the natural brain’s chemical release of “dopamine”. To which many physicians will prescribe dopamine-interfering drugs, which for the most part are proven clinically successful, in that they tend to control the delusions and other symptoms of the effects of schizophrenia. However, it is still important to identify that these drugs are still under investigation and the long term negative effects of decreasing dopamine has not been determined. Traditional methods of antipsychotic medications have been proven to not address the symptoms of disruptive speech, lack of motivation, and the inability to have empathy for others. Although it was initially thought that former prescriptions of antipsychotics did show to improve some symptoms, other studies have proven that the effect was minimal to nonexistent.

Although some medications have proven successful in some cases, schizophrenia is not a one size fits all illness and should be treated in conjunction with cognitive therapy. In studies it was proven that cognitive therapy as well as medications was the preferred route to helping the individual cope with his or her mental illness, rather than the sole use of medications. This is especially important with those with low functioning schizophrenia, who showed significant improvement in studies with those with multiple symptoms when cognitive therapy was added to include standard drug-based treatment. Although it is unclear how it happens, a portion of people with schizophrenia do show the ability to manage symptoms better as they age. The families of those with schizophrenia need to have educational resources available to them in the treatment and care of their loved ones. Caretakers have a great need to seek support systems as well because of the constant monitoring of those affected can cause depression and certain isolation from activities outside of the home environment.

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