Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Schizophrenia?
- What causes schizophrenia?
- Can it be cured?
- What are some of the Schizophrenia Treatment Options?
- Why may there be resistance to taking medication?
- What are your chances of getting schizophrenia?
- Why is it important to get mental health help early?
- What happens if proper medical care is not provided?
- What are the early warning signs?
- Why don’t people with schizophrenia seek help for themselves?
- In addition to good medical care, what other kinds of support can help a person recover and improve his/her quality of life?
- What are some of the challenges facing individuals with Schizophrenia?
- How are families affected by the illness?
- How can I help dispel the myths and reduce the mental disorders stigma?
- Where can I get more information, mental health resources and support?
Schizophrenia is an extremely complex mental illness: in fact it is probably many illnesses masquerading as one. A biochemical imbalance is believed to cause symptoms.
The precise cause of schizophrenia remains unknown. Changes in key brain functions, such as perception, emotions, and behaviour, indicate that the brain is the biological site of schizophrenia. Some researchers suspect neurotransmitters (the substances through which cells communicate) may be involved. There may be changes in dopamine, serotonin, or other neurotransmitters. The limbic system (an area of the brain involved with emotion), the thalamus (which coordinates outgoing messages), and several other brain regions may also be affected.
There is as yet no cure, but there are good and effective schizophrenia treatment options, and recovery of a quality of life is possible.
Currently, there is no method for preventing schizophrenia and there is no cure. Minimizing the impact of the illness depends mainly on early diagnosis and, appropriate psychosocial treatment and medication.
People with schizophrenia sometimes lack insight into their illness, thus do not see the need for medication or other mental health help. Also, medication sometimes has unpleasant side effects and this may discourage individuals from continuing to follow their prescription.
Approximately one in 100 people, or 1% of the population, is affected by schizophrenia.
Even if full mental health recovery is not yet possible, the earlier someone is stabilized on medication, the better the outcome for the illness. Early schizophrenia treatment can prevent unnecessary suffering and hospitalization.
The illness gets worse. With proper medical care, recovery is possible.
Marked personality and behavior changes that last a period of time are signs of a person in need of mental health help. When a combination of symptoms persists it is crucial to seek medical attention.
Early warning signs may include:
- Withdrawal from activities and social contacts
- Irrational, angry, or fearful responses to friends and family
- Sleep disturbances
- Deterioration in studies or work
- Inappropriate use of language—words do not make sense
- Sudden excesses, such as extreme religiosity, extreme activity
- Deterioration in personal hygiene
- Difficulty controlling thoughts, difficulty concentrating
- Hearing voices or sounds others don’t hear
- Seeing people or things others don’t see
- A constant feeling of being watched
- Inability to turn off the imagination, delusions, off-the-wall ideas
- Mood swings, increased anxiety
- Somatic symptoms: weakness, pains, bizarre body sensations
There may be a variety of reasons why a person with schizophrenia does not seek mental health help, including lack of insight due to the illness; the brain is not functioning as it should; it cannot “tell” the person what is wrong. Also, society’s prejudices about mental illness discourage people from disclosing their symptoms and seek schizophrenia treatment. There is fear of the mental disorders stigma and subsequent rejection and isolation.
11. In addition to good medical care, what other kinds of support can help a person recover and improve his/her quality of life?
Friends and family who are supportive; acceptance and understanding from society; education, rehabilitation and counseling to help cope with the illness; support to continue education; housing; and community supports and services.
Accepting having to take medication; overcoming mental disorders stigma and prejudice caused by ignorance; avoiding stress; having a social life; continuing going to school; finding a job and a place to live, establishing and maintaining relationships, and the challenges of mental health recovery.
The family is often in chaos. Bewildered by the symptoms, they may be in denial about the seriousness of the changes. They may be exhausted and emotionally drained from trying to get mental health help for their loved one, especially if there is a lack of appropriate information and mental health resources in the community.
Be tolerant of people who are obviously ill; don’t perpetuate old stereotypes; avoid hurtful language; get the real facts about the biological causes of mental illness; access up-to-date mental health resources as books and web sites; help educate others. All this will help in reducing mental health stigma in Canada.
Your local Schizophrenia Society or CMHA office can provide you with more mental health resources and information about schizophrenia treatment and so on. In addition, your local provincial office or chapter/branch has a variety of programs and initiatives that will help you and your ill loved one better understand this disorder and provide much need support.