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On schizophrenia: What is it, and how is it treated?

Ramiro Guzman
7 min read
On schizophrenia: What is it, and how is it treated? – What is it
Schizophrenia affects millions of people around the world

Among mental disorders, schizophrenia is one of the most complex that exists. The variability in which it occurs and the diversity in its clinical manifestations is another current public health problem.

Fortunately, the science of medicine has advanced to the point where it can be successfully treated. The problem is that your diagnosis is not being addressed as it should be. What is known about it?

The impact of schizophrenia is greater than thought

It is one of the most serious diseases that the human mind can suffer. Around 20 to 25 million people in the world are latent carriers of this particular disorder.

What is striking about the figure is that it does not take into account those cases that, due to disparities in medical criteria, have not been diagnosed. Therefore, the described digit is expected to be much higher than imagined.

But, compared to other common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, its presentation is sporadic. That is, it is not so common for a person to develop schizophrenia such as anxiety and depression.

On schizophrenia: What is it, and how is it treated? – What is it
Depression and anxiety are other more common mental disorders

For its part, schizophrenia is preferred in men, especially in early adulthood.

What is schizophrenia ?: According to the medical literature

In general, it is a pathology that completely distorts the cognitive and behavioral field. Thought, perception of the environment, consciousness, language and everything that derives from it reaches dysfunctional layers incompatible with the daily routine.

Psychosis secondary to schizophrenia triggers hallucinations, delusions, bipolar events and even psychopathic aggressive behaviors. In essence, the patient's relatives refer to a state of "total disconnection" from the true self.

As such, the designated consensus states that schizophrenia is the product of a biochemical imbalance in the brain. Neurotransmitters such as dopamine are in an alarming state of hyperactivity, modifying the correct synapse between neuronal connections.

Paraphrasing, the central nervous system fails in these connections, so its normal functions are disturbed. As a consequence, the somatic (physical) and cognitive compartments are severely altered.

Causes or factors that predispose to the appearance of schizophrenia

Like depression, its causes are structured into specific groups to facilitate analysis. In essence, biochemical, brain and genetic / environmental alterations are highlighted as such.

1. Biochemical alterations emphasize the imbalance of the dopaminergic system. This neurotransmitter is exacerbated, triggering a poor function in neuronal connections.

2. The most common brain disorders are related to problems in the anatomy of the brain. Either a decreased size of the encephalic, hypothalamic, thalamic or prefrontal cortex.

3. The genetic and environmental factor is important to consider since it is known that 80% of the disease is of hereditary origin. On the other hand, drug addiction, viral infections and neonatal complications represent the environmental component.

On schizophrenia: What is it, and how is it treated? – What is it
Disruption of the dopaminergic system compromises neural connections

Among brain alterations, the one where there is a "hypofunction" of the prefrontal cortex is the most successful. In this area the areas responsible for logical reasoning are housed, causing schizophrenia to progressively display.

Symptoms and treatment of schizophrenia

The American Psychiatric Society, as well as other certified Spanish associations, describe signs and symptoms of complexity. In fact, the large number of them makes the accurate diagnosis of the disease even more difficult.

Main positive symptoms

Positive symptoms give the first impression of the alarm of the disease, appearing in its early stage. They are those that family members express and refer with greater latency, knowing three of them are extremely essential:

  1. Delusions

  2. Hallucinations

  3. Disruption of behavior and thinking.

With respect to the third clinical manifestation, thinking is altered to the point of not being able to express clear ideas. Over time, speech becomes incomprehensible with no apparent logical or articulate meaning.

In contrast, the behavior can range from restlessness to violence, being aggressive with their environment. If they do not receive immediate help, it is possible that the patient threatens not only his life, but that of others.

Relevant negative symptoms

Comparing negative symptoms with positive ones, these tend to go unnoticed or little noticed. Being less bulky or outstanding than those explained above, it is difficult to differentiate them at first glance.

  1. Inability to feel emotions or pleasure.

  2. Progressive loss of motivation.

  3. Tendency to lack both physical and verbal expression.

Appearance of emotional / affective symptoms

They are the result of constant hallucinations and delusions where the schizophrenic is outside his space-time-person sphere. They are characterized by being identical to depression, with sadness, apathy and anxiety as the main banners.

Additionally, when the patient regains his logical reasoning and becomes aware of his condition, he contributes to the appreciation of these symptoms. With the passage of time, frustration and derived emotions also come into play.

Major cognitive deficits

It is that grouping of symptoms that definitely incapacitate the schizophrenic, the loss of memory, confusion, absence of thought or intellectual abilities, are proof of this.

On schizophrenia: What is it, and how is it treated? – What is it
The cognitive deficit presents with a high variability

As a consequence, getting around in a work environment can quickly become uphill. Unable to perform his normal motor and cognitive functions, he evidently ceases to be active in society.

Treatment of schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a serious disease, but if well attacked with the designated treatment, it is capable of being controlled immediately. In contrast to other mental disorders, it requires extensive pharmacological care.

1. Antipsychotic drugs are used as the basis for the therapy of the disease. They are the ones that mainly decrease the dopaminergic action by blocking the receptors predisposed for said neurotransmitter.

2. The therapy is complemented with antidepressant medications, since the biochemical deficit can generate depression. If it is diagnosed correctly, the prescription of these drugs is immediately considered.

3. As an addition, anxiolytics and mood stabilizers, counteract symptoms of relevance in mental disorders. Calming anxiety, stress states and keeping impulsive behaviors at bay is key.

Medical science has evolved and optimized each of the treatments for schizophrenia. It is more than scientifically proven that they are medicines with long-term action, safer and less addictive effects.

Within the same order of ideas, the treatment of schizophrenia must be structured in two parts. The onset is characterized by the prescription of antipsychotic drugs and, when there is a good response with marked improvement, it is switched to the complement.

On schizophrenia: What is it, and how is it treated? – What is it
Good treatment prevents the occurrence of relapses

Complementation is nothing more than focusing on relapse prevention, encompassing a wide margin of action. Regulating brain activity so that the cognitive apparatus remains functionally optimal is the key to success.

What is the true prognosis of the patient? It will depend on clinical care

For more than 5 decades, the evolution of the disease and its treatment has made it possible to predict the prognosis of schizophrenics. The famous "three-thirds rule" has even been repealed, which states:

1. One third of patients, with good treatment, will only experience one relapse in their lifetime. Therefore, you are out of risk when it comes to suffering sequelae or permanent disability.

2. Another third of the cases will repeat two more schizophrenic episodes in the course of their lives. However, the quality to highlight is that you will recover from the possible consequences of falling into disability.

3. The last third will constantly relapse in psychotic moments until developing important consequences. The final scenario is their total inability and dependence to survive.

However, the problem lies in the fact that, according to the WHO, more than 50% of schizophrenics do not receive adequate clinical care. At the other extreme, there is a number of up to 90% of patients whose access to treatment is limited by their socioeconomic status.

In conclusion, it is a paradoxical context that further emphasizes the complexity of the disease. Under these circumstances, a true call is made to give absolute prominence to the issue of schizophrenia.