Schizophrenia and psychosis are common conditions affecting about 1 in 100 people. It is a disorder that affects thinking, feelings and behaviour and causes patients to have abnormal experiences including seeing or hearing things (voices) when no one is around. About 5% of people will hear voices in their lifetime. The symptoms of the disease usually start in teenage years but it may take several years before the diagnosis can be made.
Symptoms can largely be divided into positive and negative symptoms
- Hearing voices (when no one is around) - Auditory Hallucination
- Seeing things (when no one is around) - Visual Hallucination
- Thinking that their thoughts (thinking) or actions are not their own but someone else’s
- Feeling that a conspiracy is going on to harm the patient
- People are spying on me
- Lack of motivation
- Not looking after self
- Isolating self / avoidance
- Lack of emotions
There are multiple theories about development of Schizophrenia. The general consensus it that it is due to a combination of factors. These can be family history (genetics), unstable or abusive childhood, use of drugs/ alcohol, brain damage, etc.
It is important to recognize symptoms early, the sooner the diagnosis is made and treatment started, the better is the outcome. Your Psychiatrist should undertake a comprehensive assessment along with some blood tests. Sometimes a brain scan is also needed to rule out other illnesses.
Treatment of Schizophrenia/ Psychosis is mainly antipsychotic medication. There are several antipsychotic medication available, and your Psychiatrist in collaboration with you will prescribe the one that suits your symptoms best.
If there is also a large mood component (depression/ mania) than a mood stabilizer can also be prescribed along with antipsychotic medication.
If the patient is very agitated than a short course of tranquilizers is also advisable.
Psychological therapies are also being considered more and more these days but they are at best used in collaboration with medication and are hard to find in India.
The duration of treatment is long. As a general principle, one third of patient’s never have symptoms again of schizophrenia, one third have short episodes again and again and one third are treatment resistant.
Episodes of violence are rare in Schizophrenia.
Also very important is management of stress, good sleep hygiene, taking medication regularly and avoiding drugs and alcohol.