The symptoms of schizophrenia arise at different ages for men and women. Women experience the onset of symptoms later in the twenties while men tend to experience the onset earlier. Children and teenagers may also have schizophrenia, but the symptoms are different. For instance, teenagers are less likely to have delusions but may experience more visual hallucinations. There are very few findings of the disorder after the age of 45. The symptoms of schizophrenia are:
Delusional thinking. Four out of five people with schizophrenia suffer from delusional thinking (having thoughts not based on reality). Examples of delusional thinking include:
- Believing people are going to harm you
- Thinking everyone in a room is angry at you
- Sensing that something is terribly wrong in the world or with yourself
- Feeling like you are very grand, famous, or popular.
Disorganized thinking. Thoughts tend to be disordered and words may be inappropriate for the conversation. Sentences may be mixed up with the end words coming before the beginning words. This is called “a word salad.” All the thoughts and words are there they just don’t come out the right way. This can severely block communication.
Disorganized motor skills and behaviors. You may notice spells of agitation mixed with acting childish. These behaviors can interfere with completing tasks and are not goal-oriented. Motor skills can become disorganized and include:
- Posturing (bizarre or inappropriate body positioning)
- Excessive movement
- Movements that are not needed
- Inability to follow instructions or being unresponsive to commands.
Hallucinations. You may notice a person with schizophrenia sees things that are not there or they may talk to themselves because they hear someone talking in their head. To them, this is all very real. They may see, hear, or even smell or feel things touching them. However, the most common complaint is hearing voices.
Flat affect. This is a lack of expression, emotion, or connection with others. They have trouble making eye contact with others, they do not smile or frown, and speak in a monotone voice. They also have trouble using their hands when they speak to accent a conversation.
Inability to carry out daily life. A person with schizophrenia may be unable to keep up with hygiene needs, plan their day, do daily activities, socialize, or do pleasurable activities.
Paranoid schizophrenia. Most prevalent type. People with paranoid schizophrenia often believe someone is trying to cause harm to them. They think very clearly most of the time, but hear people talking about them and think there is some type of conspiracy against them.
Disorganized schizophrenia. This causes disordered thoughts and actions. You may notice very wild mood swings or even inappropriate emotions like laughing at sadness or getting angry when something good happens. They may talk in a disorganized manner or speak nonsensically.
Catatonic schizophrenia. The individual becomes unable to move or moves in a hyper fashion. You may notice “posturing” in positions that appear unnatural. They may repeat what you say when you speak to them and imitate your movements.
Undifferentiated schizophrenia. This is mixed schizophrenia with varying symptoms from all types.
The following place a person at higher risk for schizophrenia:
- Family history of schizophrenia
- Drug (mind-altering) use in teen years
- Illness in mother during pregnancy or exposure to toxins
- Autoimmune disease
- Advanced age of your father at the time of your conception
Since schizophrenia is a brain disorder, there isn’t any type of blood test that can diagnose it. A psychiatrist will evaluate schizophrenia. They look at these things:
Symptoms of schizophrenia for six months or longer
- Trouble keeping a job or going to school
- Trouble with social interactions
- No medical history to explain the symptoms
The psychiatrist will evaluate symptoms. They look for more than a few of the following:
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Hearing voices
- Seeing things that aren’t there
- Delusional behavior
- Disorganized talking
- Lack of personal hygiene
- Lack of emotion
The following symptoms increase the likelihood of schizophrenia:
- Thinking someone else is putting thoughts inside their head
- Thinking others can read their thoughts
- Blaming something else for behaviors
- More than one voice discussing them
- Voices are talking about what they do (Narration of daily life)
The treatment for schizophrenia requires a combination approach. First, medications are needed to stabilize the brain chemicals that cause disordered thinking and delusions. These are very different from average psychiatric meds because they work on different chemicals. These include:
- Antianxiety medications
People are often non-compliant with these because of side-effects, which include:
- Muscle spasms
- Uncontrolled movements
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
After the condition is stabilized on medication, therapy is added. In therapy, schizophrenia patients work on coping and social interactions, activities, and goal setting. Better success rates have been found when schizophrenic patients are placed in group therapy with others who understand the condition.
Alternative Treatments and Home Remedies
First, a word from The U.S. National Library of Medicine: The pharmaceutical industry has made many advances in the medications given for psychiatric illness. This has led to a better quality of life for people with mental illness. Even for schizophrenics, treatments have improved greatly during the last fifty years. While this is great news for mental health patients, the industry has also realized that many natural treatments used for thousands of years for these disorders are most likely good choices to complement medical treatments. Researchers are looking into the effectiveness of complementary medicine because of the number of patients seeking out this method of treatment. Natural remedies may help reduce symptoms and the following remedies do have some scientific backing but are still being researched. Always talk to your doctor before using any form of herbal medicine. There could be severe and dangerous drug interactions. Your doctor can help you decide what is best, as part of your treatment plan.
Panax ginseng. According to a study done in 2012, this herb can help sharpen concentration and thinking while improving. It may reduce some of the symptoms of schizophrenia such as lack of emotion.
Ginkgo biloba. This herb may help work with antipsychotic medications to make them work better and protect the neurons from antipsychotic damage.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that people with mental illness may not have enough omega-3 fatty acids. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) may be helpful in schizophrenia.
Brahmi. In India, this herb is used to help increase cognitive function. It has been shown to help schizophrenia in animal testing. It may protect the neurons and stabilize brain chemicals.
Antioxidants. Vitamins that have antioxidant properties, including vitamins A, C, and E, have been shown to lower the severe symptoms of schizophrenia. Researchers have found that antioxidants see may reduce oxidative stress that leads to the development of schizophrenia.
Bird, E. (2020, June 23). Boosting brain antioxidants could improve psychosis outcomes. Retrieved from Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/boosting-brain-antioxidants-could-improve-psychosis-outcomes
Chatterjee, M., et al. (2011, December 22). Evaluation of the antipsychotic potential of Panax quinquefolium in ketamine induced experimental psychosis model in mice
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, January 07). Schizophrenia. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizophrenia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354443
National Alliance of Mental Illness. (2015, March). Schizophrenia. Retrieved from National Alliance of Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Images/FactSheets/Schizophrenia-FS.pdf
Peet, M, & Stokes, C.(2005). Omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Drugs, 65(8), 1051-1059. Retrieved from PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15907142/
Rasool, S., Zafar, M. Z., Ali, Z., & Erum,A. (2018) Schizophrenia: An overview. Clinical Practice, 15(5), 847-851. Retrieved from Open Access Journals: https://www.openaccessjournals.com/articles/schizophrenia-an-overview.pdf