THE MIND OF A SCHIZOPHRENIC — Schizophrenia is a mental problem that affects brain functions. People with schizophrenia usually experience psychotic symptoms, which means they may have problems thinking clearly and are unable to differentiate what is real and not.
This may include seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations) and having strange beliefs that are not true (delusions). Individuals with schizophrenia may find it hard to understand other people’s emotions, feel depressed or appear irritable.
But what does really go on in the mind of a person with schizophrenia? How do they behave? What is their perception of the world? If you have a loved one or a friend diagnosed with schizophrenia, this is an excellent article to read to understand them better. Knowing what’s going on in their mind, you can help in their treatment and recovery and eventually control brain functions.
Myths And Facts About People With Schizophrenia
Before anything else, let us clear up the facts and myths about schizophrenia. Here’s what you need to know about mental illness:
Myth: People with schizophrenia have different or multiple personalities.
Fact: No, people with schizophrenia do not have multiple personalities. The mental health disorder with multiple personalities is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD).
Myth: People with schizophrenia are violent to themselves or the people around them.
Fact: No, not all people with schizophrenia are violent. However, there may be episodes of agitation or irritability when there are triggering factors. With proper medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, patients with schizophrenia may act and think like themselves again.
Myth: Bad parenting is the main cause of schizophrenia.
Fact: No, there are several reasons that contribute to the risk of developing schizophrenia, not only bad parenting. Schizophrenia is a mental health illness with many risk factors involved, like genetic factors, traumatic childhood experiences, and substance abuse.
Myth: If the parent has schizophrenia, the children can have schizophrenia too.
Fact: Genetic factors can contribute to developing schizophrenia. But it doesn’t mean that having one parent with schizophrenia, the children may have schizophrenia too.
It is essential to know that schizophrenia is different for each individual. Not all life experiences are the same, not all symptoms are the same, but there are common factors. People with schizophrenia perceive the world differently. Far different from a person without it.
Schizophrenia cannot be cured, there is no known treatment to recover from the illness completely, but it can be controlled. A person may require life-long treatment and support from their loved ones and mental health counselor. There is no laboratory test to diagnose schizophrenia. Doctors may recommend imaging studies to rule out the presence of other physical illnesses.
Causes of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental illness with unknown causes. However, research shows there are known risk factors that can contribute to the development of schizophrenia.
- Family history of schizophrenia
- Pregnancy complications (Exposure to virus and toxins that may affect the brain development of the fetus)
- Substance abuse during teen years or young adulthood
- Stress, violence, abuse
- Biochemical factors in the brain
Schizophrenia is related to biochemical factors imbalance in the brain, especially the neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter that plays a significant role in feeling pleasure. Mental health research shows that people with schizophrenia have overactive or abnormal levels of dopamine in the brain.
Symptoms Of Schizophrenia
Psychiatry research shows that schizophrenia is a complex mental health illness that affects 1.5 million people in the U.S. The illness may impair judgment, disorganized thoughts, behavior, social interactions, or the ability to function well every day.
Schizophrenia symptoms are divided into three categories: negative, positive, and cognitive. With these symptoms, you can understand more about what goes on in the brain of a person with schizophrenia, including their behavior and feelings.
Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia’s negative symptoms are also known as the “take away,” as in minus (-). Because it seems like schizophrenia takes away the person’s true essence, it seems like the person may have something missing. The negative symptoms are:
- Loss of interest in the things enjoyed before
- Apathy or unable to feel emotions
- Does not like to be around other people
- Lost their ability to perform everyday tasks (work, school, household chores)
- Lack of motivation: Slacks off or not do anything, lack of initiative
- Does not like to participate in social activities
- Anhedonia: Unable to feel excitement, pleasure, or joy
- Unable to concentrate well
- Poor verbal fluency (e.g., stutters words, unable to form sentences well)
These types of symptoms are experiences that are out of the normal. It is called positive or plus (+) because there are added symptoms associated with psychosis like hallucinations and delusions. The positive symptoms are:
- Hallucinations: Seeing, feeling, or hearing objects that do not exist. Examples are psychosis, such as hearing voices of someone telling them what to do (auditory hallucinations) or seeing ghosts (visual hallucinations)
- Delusions: These are false beliefs that conflict with reality. Not all delusions are the same because some may have beliefs influenced by their religion or upbringing. Examples of psychological delusions are paranoid tendencies like someone is following them or paranoid that their food has poison, which is not true.
- Disorganized speech and thought: Confused thinking, talking to self, poor speech, poor memory, speaking words that do not make sense (e.g., jumps from one topic to another without any association)
- Disorganized or Unusual movements: Repetitive, ritualistic, and actions inappropriate for their age. There are also catatonic movements, where the person appears dazed or frozen.
The symptoms involve problems in concentration, attention, and memory. For some, these symptoms may be subtle, but for some, it is obvious. For some, it may be a side effect from the medication prescribed by the doctor. It could show in their activities, in learning new things, conversing, and everyday life.
- Difficulty in processing information
- Poor decision-making
- Inability to stay focused or pay attention
- Unable to process the information they learned
What Happens In The Mind Of A Person With Schizophrenia?
If you have a family member or loved one diagnosed with schizophrenia disorder, it may be challenging, but it is manageable. Now that you’re aware of the symptoms that may show, you have a better insight into what goes on in their mind. It will help if you know what’s going in their mind, the expected behavioral changes, and how they may react to situations around them.
Family members and support networks should aim to adjust living situations, choose the right approach when communicating, how to manage medication, and help with managing the symptoms. The bottom line is to be a part of the solution of treatment. Remember that a person with schizophrenia need to receive the appropriate support and treatment they need for schizophrenia management. To know more about how they feel and think, read further:
What They Feel
Someone with schizophrenia finds it hard to express their emotions and communicate clearly, which they can’t control. Others may perceive this as not being able to feel love, which is not the case. Others may appear catatonic or dazed, but research and evidence show they do feel love.
If they feel frightened or sad, they may cry, like when a loved one dies. Others may hide their feelings and cry alone. They feel happiness, in fact, most of the time. Some may appear to laugh most of the time due to altered mental states such as mania. Paradoxical laughter indicates an unstable mood, which can quickly switch to anger and back to laughter again.
What They Hear or See
People with schizophrenia who have auditory hallucinations hear multiple voices. Some say they hear multiple voices of a male, with nasty commands, repetitive words, asking them questions that require an answer. Some stories say they hear voices whispering or murmuring. Others are paranoid that someone is after them or following them.
What do they see? Someone with schizophrenia may experience visual hallucinations. Some claim they see lights, patterns, or objects that are not really there. Some stories include seeing loved ones who are dead. For some people, they are not there, but for persons with schizophrenia, they see it.
Can Therapy Help With Schizophrenia?
Yes, therapy with a mental health professional can help manage the symptoms of the illness. It is important to know that early diagnosis and early intervention is the key to a productive life with a person with schizophrenia. Aside from psychiatric medication, mental health therapy is needed. The example of the therapies are:
- Individual Therapy: Psychiatric therapy helps in normalizing thoughts, psychosis, and patterns. This type of therapy can also help with learning coping mechanisms, how to deal with stress, and how to manage the symptoms.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a mental health therapy that can help with psychosis (hallucinations or delusions). Also, on how to cope with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts if these feelings are present.
- Family or Group Therapy: Family therapy is beneficial for family members of a person with schizophrenia. To learn how to cope with the situation and how to deal with the situation to help with recovery.
Schedule an appointment with a mental health professional at Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC). KCC caters to residents from Ohio and Kentucky.