The Treatment Advocacy Center reports there are more than 335,000 California residents with schizophrenia disorder. Although that is a large number of people, the condition is considered rare compared to other mental health disorders like depression or anxiety.

Schizophrenia typically appears in late adolescence or young adulthood. It is a mental illness that affects all aspects of a person’s life, causing some people to lose touch with reality. Someone with schizophrenia can be treated, and they can lead a long, healthy life when adhering to a strict plan involving medication, therapy, and positive lifestyle choices.

When someone with schizophrenia chooses not to follow these guidelines, symptoms that are seemingly harmless can arise, but these may progress over time. Often, behaviors can become dangerous.

Early Signs of Schizophrenia

While most research alleges schizophrenia onset happens in late teens, there are preliminary signs and symptoms that require attention. If a child has an extreme suspicious attitude about people or places, this could represent an early paranoia.

If there are times when a child has a flat expression on his or her face when they should be showing emotion, others should take notice. They may also express feelings inappropriately, like laughing when they should be crying, laughing when someone gets hurt, or becoming hostile or aggressive when others try to correct them.

If there seems to be a decline in the child’s hygiene, above the ordinary typical child’s lack of hygiene, this could be a sign. Further, suppose they start isolating themselves, withdrawing from family and friends, struggle to focus and complete tasks, and show any other symptoms atypical of their behavior. In that case, it’s okay to seek an assessment from a psychiatrist.

The child’s behaviors may be found to be signs of typical childhood growth and development or it may be an early sign that something else is going on, like schizophrenia. The earlier it is known, the better.

Causes of Schizophrenia

One of the leading causes of schizophrenia is genetics. There is a specific gene that can be passed down from grandparents and parents to children. Having the genetics is not a guarantee that you will have schizophrenia.

It is thought that when genetics encounter specific negative environmental factors, as well as brain chemistry imbalances, diet, and nutrition, it is like the perfect storm.

Environmental factors that can contribute to developing schizophrenia include exposure to abuse of any kind. Physical, sexual, verbal, and emotional abuse can cause trauma to the brain, damage tissues, and process essential chemicals and hormones. A lack of the chemicals dopamine and serotonin are most associated with developing schizophrenia.

Other environmental factors associated with schizophrenia include poor nutrition, trauma during delivery or birth, infections, brain injuries, and the use of drugs or alcohol or both.

Many people tend to believe that marijuana is a great substance to treat schizophrenia. However, some believe marijuana triggers and activates—the schizophrenic gene.

One of the biggest myths about being diagnosed with schizophrenia is that they can’t have a productive, happy life. They can, with the right treatment.

Later Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Some of the most common symptoms shown by someone with schizophrenia can include a lack of expressions. They aren’t able to show emotions well. They may also have a hard time speaking, cannot stay focused, appear confused, nervous, or anxious. They may even have symptoms of psychosis-like hallucinations, delusions, and extreme paranoia.

Any or all of these symptoms can affect a person’s ability to maintain employment, relationships, and what most consider ordinary responsibilities. People with schizophrenia tend to isolate themselves socially rather than engage with others. This may be due to their fear of getting harmed..

They also have trouble communicating with others, expressing their emotions appropriately, and finding the motivation to get involved. For example, someone who has schizophrenia may be having a seemingly normal conversation then jump to another subject, speak inappropriately, or say things only they understand.

Some people with schizophrenia may become catatonic and, at times, find it hard to move or speak at all. Other times they may be hallucinating. When a person with schizophrenia hallucinates, any of their senses can be involved. They may smell things no one else smells. They may see or hear things no one else does. Or, they may experience tastes that no one else can taste.

Delusions may also be a part of some schizophrenic’s daily lives. Delusions can often be accompanied by paranoia. Delusions involve a person thinking something is real when it is not real. For example, someone may believe they have been given superpowers to help them save the world. Or, they think the government is tracking their every move to control them.

While others may see these as unrealistic and maybe a bit odd to someone with schizophrenia, these thoughts are genuine.

To a person with schizophrenia, their behaviors are normal. They do not realize their actions are abnormal from the rest of society. When a disorder begins to disrupt your lifestyle or prevents an individual from being a productive member of the community, seeking treatment can help.

So, what makes a person schizophrenic? Why do some members of a family struggle with this disorder while others avoid it?

Schizophrenia Treatment

Treatment begins with a lengthy evaluation by a psychiatrist. The doctor will look at brain imaging, blood work, environmental and lifestyle factors, and symptoms to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Taking notes about behaviors, as well as possible triggers, can be helpful to the doctor.

Medication has helped millions of people living with schizophrenia. It can reduce symptoms so that individuals can maintain their employment and personal relationships. The medicine works best when supplemented with therapy, a healthy lifestyle, and support activities.

Medication should be prescribed by a licensed psychiatrist who specializes in mental health disorders. They can also recommend the best resources for individual and family therapy, as well as support groups.

Together, patients with schizophrenia and their psychiatrist can create a treatment plan that works.

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