Schizophrenia is an often misunderstood and sometimes frightening condition.
Schizophrenia rarely comes by itself. Usually, it is a accompanied by problems such as major depression, anxiety disorder and/or substance abuse. It is a specially dangerous condition because it can be triggering by multiple, different and independent causes.
Across history, schizophrenics have played the role of textbook crazy people, witches and even victims of demonic possession. They were treated as incurably cursed and doomed to live a life haunted by their own minds, treated as less than human by most and often caged, which only worsened their condition.
Schizophrenia is a very socially problematic issue because it can turn the schizophrenic, in certain cases, into a danger to others and themselves. While violent outbursts aren't the most common occurrence, its certainly a possibility. But hey, if you constantly heard a disembodied voice telling you to murder your cat, you'd probably get violent at one point too.
What Is Schizophrenia
As already said above, schizophrenia is a mental disorder, and its most defining feature is the fact it can warp the affected person's mind and perception of the world in such extreme ways as to create feeling of sounds, voices, images and even tactile sensations, when no such things exists. It has multiple causes that affect its triggering.
According to recent medical studies, schizophrenia is thought to be caused by two classes of factors:
- Genetic: just like depression can have genetic roots, so can schizophrenia. Its hard to identify if a certain schizophrenic episode is caused by genetic or environmental factors because its usually hard to separate and properly identify the causes. Mental Health professionals speculate that the people who are at greatest genetic risk of developing schizophrenia are those who have a first degree relative who is schizophrenic, with the risk chance being around 6,5%. Additionally, a monozygotic twin (identical twins born out of a single egg that divides into two embryos) have almost a 50% chance of developing schizophrenia if the other twin is schizophrenic. The genes which are believed to have a connection with schizophrenia are NOTCH4 and zinc finger protein 804A.
- Environmental: the living environment conditions of a person can certainly affect the possibility of developing schizophrenia. Environments which are overly stressful, that induce depressive episodes constantly or that enable drug abuse are some examples we can mention. Overly stressful events such as death of a loved one, childhood trauma, being constantly bullied or abused are all things that can trigger the first stages of schizophrenia. According to social and medical studies, people living in large, crowded urban environments are far more likely to develop schizophrenia than people living in rural or other isolated areas. Social and economic conditions such as poor housing, unemployment and family dysfunction have all been linked to schizophrenia, but these things are more often than not caused by schizophrenia, and not the other way around;
Borderline Personality Disorder
Schizophrenia appears to have a special connection with bipolar disorder. Genetic research has shown that the causes of both disorders may overlap, as in, the genes that cause schizophrenia may often also play a part in the development of Bipolar Disorder.
Its important to note that, despite being two different disorders, bipolar disorder often occurs in schizophrenics. This is speculated to happen after the schizophrenics mind degenerates due to the strange unreal stimulus his/her mind is experiencing.
Also known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is an unfortunately not uncommon condition. It involves wild mood swings which put a person in intermittent states of happiness following by deep depression, which is then followed by happy episodes, and so on. The "elevated" (happy) mood episodes are also called manic or hypomanic episodes.
During the manic half of the episodes, the person experiences intense feelings happiness, irritability or feels very energetic, even when fatigued. These are usually the most dangerous episodes, as they can easily lead the affected person to make rash or poorly thought out decisions and harm others.
During the depressive episodes, the person exhibits all the symptoms of deep depression. Thoughts of helplessness, fear and suicide are common, and they avoid social contact. While bipolar people are far more likely to commit suicide than normal, the risk is increased greatly during the depressive episodes of the disorder.
Yet again we are faced with one of the greatest issues with mental disorders: the fact that one mental disorder can trigger another, and vice versa. Unfortunely, depression is known as one of the main causes for schizophrenia, and schizophrenia itself can cause depression.
Depression can push a person into a state of desperation and helplesness, to the point that they are unable to even feel pleasure, with their only solace comming from a combination of isolation and sometimes drug use. These factors greatly contribute to the development of schizophrenia. It has been speculated that a depressive mind may even develop schizophrenic symptoms as a coping mechanism, creating delusions and hallucinations to distract the depressive mind from its despair.
Schizophrenia, on the other hand, can easily cause depression with its symptoms. Its not hard to imagine how a person can become depressive (and even agressive) by having delusions of being hated or harassed by others, hearing voices telling them to do things they don't want to, and having visions of shadowy figures and other beings, which can be very disturbing.
When the schizophrenic also becomes depressive, treatment becomes even harder, since the symptoms of both disorders will have to be combated.
Since the symptoms are usualy only truly perceived by the patient itself, you will likely only have a chance to detect them if you know the person affected by it and carefuly observe and question him/her. If any of these symptoms are detected, a doctor should be sought:
- Disorganized speech or thoughts: while there are a whole number of conditions that can cause this, its one of the earliest symptoms of schizophrenia. The affected person cannot communicate properly, articulate full phrases or even words. The term world salad is very appropriate here. Sometimes the affected person can't even articulate a single words, often spouting made up words and collections of syllables that make no sense;
- Hallucinations: these can come in a large variety of flavors. There can be auditory hallucinations such as disembodied voices, sounds that seemingly have no cause and point of origin, constant droning sounds, etc. Visual hallucinations are also common. A schizophrenic will often report seeing shadows, people that they may or may know standing or doing something close to them, ghosts, and other such things. While far more rare, tactile hallucinations are also reported, with patients saying that there bugs crawling over or even under their skin. These sort of hallucinations often lead to self harm and pathological paranoia;
- Delusions: by far the most common symptom of schizophrenia, a schizophrenic will often display delusional behavior, interpreting things in incorrect or unrealistic ways, such as thinking a person who said hi to them on the street is following or persecuting them somehow. Feelings of being harassed or threatened are common. A schizophrenic may also experience delusions of grandeur, thinking of themselves as some sort of celebrity, or that someone is in love with them. Feelings of impending doom are also reported;
- General inability to function: while many schizophrenic remain partially functional as a person, some of them become completely unable to live normally. They withdraw from society, avoiding all forms of contact, speaking in a monotone voice and appear to lack emotion altogether. This is usually followed by a lack of care with personal hygiene and inability to feel pleasure in any way.
The first step is to try to calm and talk with the person you think is being affected by schizophrenia. Explain that you're concerned about them and that they probably need professional help. Try to encourage them to seek help, as people in these situation often feel like they're alone and helpless.
You may be refused by said person, however, and you cannot force anyone to see a doctor (unless, of course, they are your children). However, if their condition has deteriorated to the point that they cannot take care of themselves anymore, or if they're harming themselves or others, you may have no choice but to call emergency service providers so that they might get evaluated by a certified mental health professional and begin their treatment.
As laws regarding involuntary commitment to mental treatment may vary from place to place, make sure to contact the local police station or hospital for details.
Guilherme Radaeli (author) from São Paulo - Brazil on July 14, 2016:
Please do so! People in general still lack a lot of info on how schizophrenia can manifest.
Roselyn Knight on July 14, 2016:
Schizophrenia can ruin lives one after another. I can relate to every sentence of the article.
I saw the phases of mental deterioration of my father, a schizophrenic patient from time to time. I heard that during his childhood days, once he fell from the terrace dangerously which might have triggered internal damages to his brain. Perhaps that time he was not looked after well and the damage took permanent place in his brain. Many years later, he faced a strong but superficial revolt from his professional front and that generated huge depression within. No one could ever imagine he is slowly turning into a prey of Schizophrenic disorder because most of the people were not aware of this traumatic and incurable mental disease those days.
I was then a school going ( K.G ) student. One day, I went to school with my father. That was a chilled winter. I went inside to get our morning prayer done along with my fellow classmates and school teachers. The windows were closed in order to restrict the cold wind to enter the school premises. Suddenly my father screamed loudly and tried to open all the shut windows. I could hear his voice of despair; not getting to see his lovely daughter from outside. That was one of a weird incident I ever saw in my life. I cried as the situation got messy. It was embarrassing to see him screaming for this unusual expectation. I could feel his inner depression but could not help him as he was out of control. A series of attempts from other guardians and school authorities together calmed him down slowly.
I learnt from my mother that after the very incident of lock out at his office, he changed himself to a different person altogether. Once he dropped an expensive camera into a bucket of water and that too without any specific reason. He used to feel alone in front of dozen of people; a sort of split personality appeared to be associated with him which was swallowing him gradually day by day. Of course I have a lot of things to say on this but I presume this comment section won't allow me to enter all the details. Perhaps I will go for a full fledged article afterwards.
Janis Leslie Evans from Washington, DC on July 01, 2016:
Interesting angle on schizophrenia and its connections to Bipolar and manic depression. I will pay more attention to how one may trigger the other. Thanks for this article, Daak.