Disease often misunderstood

Schizophrenia is a disease that is often misunderstood by the public. Those people who are afflicted by the disease are often feared or ridiculed for their behavior.

Schizophrenia, in most people, starts with a gradual deterioration in early adulthood, usually in their early 20s. some of the warning signs indicating the start of a schizophrenic episode include: social isolation and withdrawal; Irrational and bizarre or odd statements and beliefs; increased paranoia or questioning others motives; becoming more emotionless; hostility or suspiciousness; increasing use of drugs or alcohol; lack of motivation; speaking in a strange manner unlike themselves; inappropriate laughter; insomnia or oversleeping; deterioration in personal appearance and hygiene. One or more of these symptoms may not lead to schizophrenia; a group of them is cause for concern.

Schizophrenia is a disease characterized by a broad range of unusual behaviors. The disease impairs peoples thinking. They often lose the ability to rationally evaluate their surroundings and interactions with others. They believe things that are untrue and may have difficulty accepting what they see as true reality.

Individuals suffering from schizophrenia are often afflicted by hallucinations and/or delusions. They behave in an extremely paranoid manner. They may do things such as purchase multiple locks for their doors, refuse to talk on the phone, constantly check behind themselves while walking in public. Out of context these behaviors may seem irrational or illogical. To someone with schizophrenia these reactions and behaviors seem normal.

Schizophrenics have a high suicide rate. Nearly one third of schizophrenics will attempt suicide. 10% will commit suicide within 20 years of the onset of the disease. It is unlikely that they will share their suicidal intentions with others. The highest risk of suicide is among schizophrenic males under 30 who are depressed and may have a recent hospital discharge.

There is a close relationship between schizophrenia and substance abuse. People with schizophrenia have less ability to judge and control temptations. This leaves them vulnerable to the difficulties associated with substance abuse. People with this disorder often self medicate in order to deal with their symptoms. The most commonly used substances are nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.

The use of these substances impedes treatment and recovery.

The onset of schizophrenia prior to adolescence is rare. Males commonly have their first episode in their early 20s and females in their late 20s.

It is thought that 0.3%-0.7% of individuals acquire schizophrenia. Hostility and aggression can be associated with schizophrenia.

The vast majority of people with schizophrenia are not aggressive and are more frequently victimized than individuals in the general population.

The information in this article can be found at PsychCentral.com in the following articles: Schizophrenia Basics: Delusions Hallucinations and Onset by John M. Grohol, Psy.D; Schizophrenia Symptoms by Steve Bressert, Phd.

Miriam R. Keith is consumer support coordinator of the Washington County Behavioral Health Board, 344 Muskingum Drive, Marietta, 45750. Behavioral Health Matters appears the last Saturday of the month on the Opinion page.


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