There are few words that can describe the amount of heartache, helplessness and loss a family experiences when dealing with a loved one who struggles with schizophrenia. It is one of the most complex mental and emotional illnesses that can have a life changing effect on not only the individuals, but their loved ones.
EARLY SIGNS OF SCHIZOPHRENIA
Schizophrenia generally starts off with a change in one’s behavior. This change typically starts to occur in the adolescent years (ages 12-18); however, signs of this illness can manifest earlier than that or later in life.
In the early onset of schizophrenia people will have a change in their behavior and thoughts. They can go from living a normal life, being a good student, having friends, participating in sports activities to showing unusual behavior, such as:
✓ Being withdrawn and secretive
✓ Isolating themselves from family and friends
✓ Being extremely depressed
✓ Being excessively pre-occupied with religion or spirituality
✓ Talking or muttering to themselves
✓ Show signs of alcohol or drug use
✓ Trouble with authorities – getting arrested, suspended from school
✓ Expressing paranoid thoughts – thinking people want to harm him
✓ Expressing conspiracy theories about the police or government
Schizophrenia is a very complex disorder and experts in the field have yet to determine its cause. However, it has been shown that genetic factors appear to play a role, so people with family history of this illness may be more likely to develop the illness themselves.
Unfortunately, correctly diagnosing schizophrenia is not an easy task for even the most experienced psychiatrist. For one reason, there are other medical conditions such as, head injuries, strokes, brain tumors or dementia that can create symptoms commonly seen with schizophrenia. Therefore it is critical to have an evaluation to rule out these other possibilities.
Additionally, the individual may mask or hide their behaviors in front of other or when confronted. As a result, this process can take time and patience to come up with the right diagnosis which includes extensive interviews, discussions with loved ones and other medical professionals.
Currently there are over a dozen anti-psychotic medications that have been approved by the FDA to treat schizophrenia. The common prescribed ones are Abilify®, Zyprexa®, Latuda®, Seroquel® and Risperidal®. These medications are not a cure; they are prescribed to reduce some of the common symptoms associated with this illness. Unfortunately, almost all of these medications have significant side effects and may not work well for each patient.
Thus, it is imperative to continue the research and development of medications that are more precise and better tolerated.