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Late adolescence and early adulthood are peak years for the onset of schizophrenia. These are critical periods in a young adult’s social and vocational development, and they can be severely disrupted by disease onset. A person experiencing schizophrenia may demonstrate symptoms such as disorganized thinking, auditory hallucinations, and delusions. In severe cases, the person may be largely mute, remain motionless in bizarre postures, or exhibit purposeless agitation. Social isolation commonly occurs and may be due to a number of factors. Impairment in social cognition is associated with schizophrenia, as are the active symptoms of paranoia from delusions and hallucinations, and the negative symptoms of apathy . Many people diagnosed with schizophrenia avoid potentially stressful social situations that may exacerbate mental distress. People have written books and made films on this problem. Nobel laureate mathematician John Nash’s life has been captured in book and film “A Beautiful Mind”. Another such book is “Tell me I’m Here” ,written by Australian journalist Anne Deveson. In this book the authoress tells the story of her son’s battle with schizophrenia. This book too was later made into a movie. There is a Marathi film “Devrai” that tries to portray a schizophrenia patient’s behavior, mentality and struggle along with that of his loved ones. Medication, dedication and patience of close relatives finally treats the patient.
Though schizophrenia seems to have genetic origin, its exact cause is still not understood by the medical fraternity. Besides there are no pathological lab tests
to diagnose schizophrenia. Doctors have to rely on accounts of patients and close ones to affirm schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is most likely to manifest itself
in boys in the age group of 20-26 and girls in 24-32 years.
Though schizophrenia can’t be diagnosed by lab tests, still psychiatrists do recommend some pathological tests to patient to confirm the disease. There have also been findings of differences in the size and structure of certain brain areas in schizophrenia, starting with the discovery of ventricular enlargement in those for whom negative symptoms were most prominent. However, this has not proven particularly reliable on the level of the individual person, with considerable variation between patients. More recent studies have shown various differences in brain structure between people with and without diagnoses of schizophrenia. While brain structure changes have been found in people diagnosed with schizophrenia who have never been treated with antipsychotic drugs there is evidence that the medication itself might cause additional changes in the brain’s structure. However, as with earlier studies, many of these differences are only reliably detected when comparing groups of people, and are unlikely to predict any differences in brain structure of an individual person with schizophrenia. This is because, there are other diseases that have symptoms that can be confused as those of schizophrenia.
Living in an urban environment has been consistently found to be a risk factor for schizophrenia. Social disadvantage has been found to be a risk factor, including poverty and migration related to social adversity, racial discrimination, family dysfunction, unemployment or poor housing conditions. Childhood experiences of abuse or trauma have also been implicated as risk factors for a diagnosis of schizophrenia later in life. Parenting is not held responsible for schizophrenia but unsupportive dysfunctional relationships may contribute to an increased risk.
Till date, medical science has not been able to come out with any definite and sure-shot cure of schizophrenia. This is basically because, unlike other
‘diseases’, schizophrenia is not caused by any virus or bacteria or any other microorganism. In fact , even diagnosis of schizophrenia is a highly debatable
issue with psychiatrists facing lot of criticism over this issue. According to one study, when diagnosis of two psychiatrists were compared, they were found
to be agreeing in only 65% of the cases.
Still, there is a ray of hope. There are medicines that can control schizophrenia to some extent. These medicines when coupled with love of near ones can go a long way in fighting schizophrenia.