Schizophrenia and Psychoses

Psychoses and reality

Psychosis is a term used to broadly describe conditions in which an individual has lost touch with reality. Schizophrenia forms the prototype of all psychotic problems. The picture of schizophrenia embraces a very diverse range of disturbance in perception, thought, motivation, emotion and movement. Schizophrenia is considered as an illness in which there are frank periods of disturbed behavior in the individual’s life; set upon a background of emotional disturbance and disability which gets expressed in almost every walk of life.

What indeed happens

Schizophrenia is different from what is usually construed as multiple personality. It is really a ‘schism’ between thought, feeling and action. Usually these three are in synch. Appropriate thoughts generate apposite emotions, which in turn engender acceptable behaviors. That is what makes people ‘normal’, the fact that they are in control of themselves and their lives, and they influence their environment positively and gain form it.

Why it occurs

Schizophrenia is caused due to chemical changes in specific areas of the emotional brain. To a large extent this can be genetic too. Relatives of people with psychoses have higher chances of acquiring the same. The brain’s chemical imbalance interferes with normal thoughts, emotions and behavior. Social and psychological factors also contribute to this change. Some people are in better control of their mind than others. A susceptible mind; one that is lacking in trust, suggestible to external forces, low on confidence, truncated in faith, poorly aware of reality; when placed in a troubling stressful environment sometimes loses track of reality. It’s not a simple change. Genetically vulnerable individuals need to undergo a significant level of stress to have the neurotransmitter imbalance that culminates in a psychotic breakdown.

Psychotic phenomena

People afflicted with psychoses are not in touch with reality. They have imagined beliefs, unrealistic fears and irrational emotions. They hear voices that do not exist; see imaginary figures and faces; and occasionally also converse with them. However, for the one who’s feeling this, it is real. The voices they claim to hear are authentic to them and the fear of persecution they experience is genuine. These beliefs precipitate irrelevant anger and aggression, even assault. That is the reason they act out and seem to do bizarre crazy things. They may lash out at their own family members with the pretext of self defense. They live in their own world, a world that is quite different from the world of the other normal people surrounding them.

Effect on life in totality

Psychotics cannot cope well with stress, have difficulty in organizing their thoughts, and in extreme cases, they cannot even care for themselves. Their attention and memory gets impaired and they are unable to focus on any task at hand. Holding a job, maintaining social relationships and caring for themselves becomes almost impossible for these people. Life becomes strange and mysterious in the eyes of others.

Control and Cure

Schizophrenia may not be curable but it is treatable. Medication helps symptom control while social and vocational skills training enables self-reliance. MINDFRAMES offers medication for symptom control as well as psychotherapy and social skills training through one-to-one counseling. Group psycho education programs are organized for relatives of schizophrenic patients to reduce the stigma associated with the illness; and information about the causality as well as the treatment options is given, so that patients receive the best possible care. The target is to improve the quality of life as much as possible.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is schizophrenia the same thing as ‘split personality disorder’?
No. Schizophrenia involves a splitting of the mind i.e. there is a split between thought, emotion and behavior. Split personality is also known as a multiple personality disorder. Here the person has 2 personas within the same entity. These people switch between these 2 identities and have lapses of memory pertaining to each other. In Schizophrenia there is bizarre and unexplained behavior and it doesn’t occur in phases like does in split personality disorder.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are all schizophrenic patients dangerous? Should we be afraid?
Certainly not! The incidence of unprovoked violence seen in the schizophrenic patients is almost the same as general population. They can get aggressive in response to some voices that they hear but they are not violent and assaultive once on treatment. If at all they attack people around them, it is because they falsely believe that they are in danger. They are calm when doctors talk to them convincingly. They want to trust people so people need to be nice to them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a schizophrenic patient lead a normal lifestyle? Is there a cure?
Schizophrenia is an illness, which can be controlled with regular medication; just like diabetes or hypertension. Once symptoms subside, the individual is capable of a normal and productive life just like any other normal person. If the problem returns it will need the same treatment that it needed in the first outbreak. But it is better to maintain the state with medicines and prevent an an exacerbation of symptoms.