Schizophrenia is a mental illness affecting about 3.5 million adults in the United States, and it has been identified as one of the leading causes of disability, especially in today’s youth. Schizophrenia is characterized by thoughts or experiences that seem out of touch with reality, disorganized speech or behavior, and diminished interest or participation in daily activities. A difficulty with concentration and memory may also be experienced. The most common features of schizophrenia are:
Schizophrenia is also associated with substance abuse and unpredictable or aggressive behavior.
Individuals with schizophrenia tend to have difficulties in important areas of life such as work, school, and interpersonal relationships. Some of the symptoms they experience can be extremely distressing and frightening, hence, negatively impacting their overall functioning and causing them to act in a bizarre way. Major warning signs of schizophrenia to keep in mind are:
Schizophrenia is thought to be caused by a number of factors including an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, genes, and environment. Why these brain abnormalities occur is not fully known, though it has been proven that inheriting these genes from parents highly increases the chance of someone developing this mental illness. Exposure to infections or other stressors may also play a role, but much remains unknown.
When patients are admitted to the hospital for schizophrenia, the severity of their symptoms is usually high. To ensure their immediate security, the medical team promptly and effectively develops a comprehensive and individualized treatment plan to stabilize them. A number of approaches to treatment are typically necessary. Usually, the most effective schizophrenia treatment plans consist of a combination of antipsychotic medications and individual, family, or group psychotherapy sessions.
Many schizophrenia patients benefit from psychotherapy. These sessions typically educate the patients and their families about the emotional and practical consequences of their mental illness and teach them coping skills that can be used to remain stable and secure.
The main goal is to educate the patients on the nature and symptoms of schizophrenia, the recognition of early signs of a relapse, and possible medicine side effects. By teaching them how to cope with their illness, and how to sustain relationships and jobs, we allow the patients to return to the community much more equipped to prevent a relapse.
While there is no cure for schizophrenia, the severity of symptoms and the risk of relapse can be managed with an appropriate treatment plan. Here at Fairmount Behavioral Health System, we use a holistic, multidisciplinary treatment approach in order to meet the needs of our patients.
Acute periods of schizophrenic episodes can be very scary both for the patients and their families. Our goal is to restore the patients’ occupational and social functioning while fostering recovery and resilience.
Dianela Castellanos, MS
Widener University Institute of Graduate Psychology