Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental health disorder characterized by a combination of cognitive, behavioral and emotional dysfunctions and impairment in social, self-care and vocational areas of functioning. People typically develop schizophrenia between their late 20s to early 30s, although it sometimes develops among children and older adults.
Young males and people with a history of violence, substance abuse and impulsivity are at a higher risk of developing schizophrenia. Although the underlying causes of schizophrenia are unclear, research has attributed a large genetic component and risk factors during pregnancy in the development of schizophrenia.
The earlier symptoms of schizophrenia are usually less severe, but symptoms progress and become worse over time. Early signs may include unusual or odd beliefs or perceptual experiences (e.g., seeing someone who is not really there), vague speech, unusual behavior (e.g., mumbling in public) and social withdrawal.
Over time, people with schizophrenia may have difficulty keeping friends, working and caring for themselves. As the disorder progresses, schizophrenia can lead to problems in thinking, emotions and behavior such as:
- Hostility and aggression
- Motor impairments
- Sensory integration problems
- Social isolation
- Reduced or inappropriate expression of emotion
- Depressed mood
- Feelings of being unreal (derealization)
- Feelings of detachment from self (depersonalization)
- Attention problems
- Slow processing speed
- Interpreting irrelevant stimuli as meaningful
- Lacking insight or awareness
- Speech or language that does not make sense
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental illness that is characterized by the following symptoms over a six-month period:
- Positive psychotic symptoms (at least one):
- Strongly held beliefs that do not change regardless of conflicting evidence for the belief (delusions)
- Perception of sensory experiences that are not actually there (hallucinations)
- Disorganized speech (e.g., unable to understand their speech)
- Grossly disorganized or catatonia (i.e., slowed or freezing of motor behavior)
- Negative symptoms
- Diminished emotional expression
- Avolition (i.e., decreased motivation to initiate activities with purpose)
Schizophrenia is often comorbid with substance-related disorders, depressive symptoms, adjustment problems, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and panic disorder and is associated with a heightened risk for suicide and suicidal thoughts. People are considered to be more likely to develop schizophrenia when they have been previously diagnosed with schizotypal or paranoid personality disorders.
The outlook for people with schizophrenia is difficult to predict. Most of the time, medications are useful for improving symptoms, but many people continue to have trouble functioning and need housing, job training and other community support programs. People with schizophrenia are at risk of repeated episodes, particularly during the early phase of the illness, and when they have difficulty adhering to their medication treatment. When medications are stopped, the symptoms are very likely to return. People with the most severe symptoms have difficulty taking care of themselves and are unable to live alone.
Sovereign Health of Florida
Sovereign Health of Florida offers behavioral treatment programs for adult men and women affected by mental disorders such as schizophrenia, as well as substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. Upon admission, patients are thoroughly assessed by our professional staff to identify any underlying conditions which may accompany the patient’s primary condition, including medical conditions, substance abuse or other mental health disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression).
Upon admission, patients are assessed via medical, biopsychosocial and psychiatric evaluations to accurately diagnose the patient’s condition, any co-occurring medical or psychiatric conditions and to create an individualized treatment plan specific to his or her needs. A psychiatric evaluation is conducted to rule out certain mental disorders and determine the patient’s need for prescription medications to reduce or eliminate the patient’s symptoms.
Patients at Sovereign Health of Florida receive evidence-based therapy and interventions such as individual psychotherapy, group therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which can benefit patients by teaching them how to cope with and manage their symptoms. In addition, alternative therapeutic activities such as equine therapy, meditation, biofeedback and exercise are included in our programs to provide patients with effective ways to deal with and manage stress and improve their cognitive functioning and overall health and well-being. Patients may also learn effective social, vocational, self-care and interpersonal skills through psychoeducational groups, which can help them to function better in everyday life, work and social situations.
Family members and caregivers are also essential in the treatment of schizophrenia. For that reason, we integrate family members into our patient’s treatment programs through family groups, family therapy and an intensive family program. It can be very difficult living with a person with schizophrenia, and family members can receive support and learn valuable skills that can help them understand the symptoms and prognosis of schizophrenia, the importance of medication management and resources for support. When it is time to return home, continuing care is also provided for patients and their families to receive support and encouragement in recovery.
If you would like more information about the treatment options available for schizophrenia at Sovereign Health of Florida, please call our 24/7 helpline to speak with a member of our team.
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