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Understanding Paranoid Schizophrenia: What You Must Know
Despite the advancements in the medical profession and greater mental health awareness, disorders such as Schizophrenia are still very much misrepresented in popular culture and film leading to myriad misunderstandings.
The lack of accurate information and knowledge about the subject matter makes it easier for everyone to speculate and eventually leads to the social ostracization of Schizophrenia patients. In this blog, we explore Paranoid Schizophrenia, its symptoms, causes, and risk factors.
What is Paranoid Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health condition that impairs an individual's ability to think, feel, and behave. Before revisions were made by the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5), schizophrenia was considered to be a spectrum disorder with paranoid schizophrenia being a distinct type. This subtype was characterized by paranoia, a prominent symptom of schizophrenia defined by a pattern of behavior where a person is constantly suspicious of their surroundings. Typically paranoia presents itself in the form of hallucinations and delusions.
In the latest edition of DSM-5, the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia has been dropped and paranoia is now considered to be a symptom rather than a subtype of the disorder.
What are the signs & symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia?
The symptoms of schizophrenia tend to fall under three main categories- positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and disorganized behavior. These symptoms present themselves in the following ways:
- Positive symptoms- These refer to thoughts, feelings, and actions that are abnormally present. Hallucinations and delusions are two prominent positive symptoms. The former involves sensory experiences and the latter involves false beliefs, both of which are not based on reality.
- Negative symptoms- These involve a deficit of thoughts, feelings, and actions. For instance, a person with negative symptoms can face difficulties expressing emotions, feeling pleasure, or socializing.
- Disorganized symptoms- These symptoms involve odd or disordered thinking, speech, and movements.
It is essential to keep in mind that such symptoms can vary in type and severity.
What are the causes of paranoid schizophrenia? Does it have any triggers?
Now that we have a clear understanding of the symptoms, let’s take a look at the causes of paranoid schizophrenia. Research suggests that the causes of schizophrenia cannot be traced to particular physiological or psychological factors, however, genetics, brain chemistry, and the environment play a major role in developing this condition.
Irregularity with the production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain (dopamine and glutamate), differences in brain structure, and structural changes in the nervous system are also characteristic of people diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Further, several triggers including chronic stress, drug abuse, assault, and more can contribute to the development of schizophrenia.
Who does it affect?
Depending on the gender, the age of onset of schizophrenia can vary. Usually, the condition begins around the ages of 15 to 25 for men and 25 to 35 for women. Although it may be rare, children below the age of 18 years can also develop schizophrenia. Unfortunately, such cases are a lot more severe and harder to treat. This is why our experts recommend seeking early diagnosis and intervention.
How common is this condition in India?
With a population strength of approximately 1.1 billion, around 3/1000 individuals are diagnosed with schizophrenia. Studies suggest that a majority of this population consists of men. Despite the number of people struggling with symptoms of schizophrenia, most cases go undiagnosed and untreated.
How does this condition affect my body?
Although schizophrenia is commonly considered to be a disorder of the mind, there are several ways it can affect the body. Simply put, organs other than the brain are also subject to change for those with schizophrenia.
Research suggests that if you or your loved one are diagnosed with schizophrenia, the vulnerability of contracting physical illnesses is higher. This also means that the rates of premature deaths are higher than the general population.
Further, your body is also affected by the side effects of medications used to treat schizophrenia. For instance, antipsychotic drugs are associated with weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
Finally, since the symptoms of this condition impair general functioning, aspects of exercise and nutrition also take a major hit.
Risk factors associated with the condition
Although the exact symptoms of the condition are not entirely known, several risk factors can increase the chances of developing schizophrenia. These include-
- Family history
- Pregnancy or birth complications (malnutrition, exposure to toxins or viruses)
- Psychoactive or psychotropic drug abuse
How is this condition diagnosed?
If you’re suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, your diagnosis will depend on your psychiatric evaluation, your past medical history, physical examination, and other laboratory examinations.
In most cases, if you’re showing two or more signs of schizophrenia for more than a month, you need to get yourself diagnosed. Additional factors include – continuously showing schizophrenia symptoms for nearly half a year, minimal interest in academics, daily tasks, social isolation, etc.
What tests are done to diagnose this condition?
Among the different diagnostic measures, the prominent ones to confirm the symptoms of schizophrenia include blood tests, MRI or CT Scan, and EEG (Electroencephalogram) which can help your doctor better understand your mental state.
These tests help rule out conditions similar to schizophrenia which include epilepsy, stroke, tumors, brain injuries, heavy metal toxicity, or infection.
How is this condition treated?
Schizophrenia is a chronic illness. With early diagnosis and treatment, the symptoms of the condition can be managed. Typically a combination of medications and psychotherapy are used to effectively deal with schizophrenia. The former includes antipsychotic medications that regulate the level of dopamine in the brain, hence managing psychotic symptoms. In addition to these medications, anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants can also be prescribed by the psychiatrist.
Further, psychosocial interventions in the form of individual therapy, social skills training, family therapy, and rehabilitation are also recommended. These approaches work in conjunction with medications to facilitate a holistic form of recovery.
For those with severe symptoms, hospitalization may be necessary. This helps ensure the safety of both the individual and their loved ones.
Is it safe to live with a schizophrenic?
Unlike the misconception, most people with schizophrenia are not violent or aggressive. Hence it is safe to live with an individual diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Can a paranoid schizophrenic live a normal life?
With early diagnosis and intervention, the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia can be effectively managed.
What can trigger paranoid schizophrenia?
Here are a few factors that may trigger paranoid schizophrenia-
- Family history
- Pregnancy and birth complications
- Drug abuse
Can schizophrenics be successful?
Studies indicate that half to two-thirds of people diagnosed with schizophrenia are capable of living a productive and fulfilling life. This is only possible with early diagnosis and intervention.
Can paranoid schizophrenia be cured?
There is no permanent cure for schizophrenia. However, a combination of medications and psychosocial intervention can go a long way in managing the symptoms and improving one's well-being.
Can you recover from schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia does not have a permanent cure, but a combination of medications and psychosocial support can greatly help in controlling the symptoms and enhancing the overall quality of life.
How long can I live with schizophrenia?
Studies suggest that people with schizophrenia are prone to several physical illnesses which increases their premature death rate. Hence they show a life expectance reduction of 10-20 years.
Can someone with schizophrenia get married?
With early diagnosis and intervention, people with schizophrenia can live a fully functional life. This also entails accomplishing certain milestones of their life which can include marriage.
What are good coping skills for schizophrenia?
Here are a few coping techniques that are effective to manage schizophrenia-
- Be consistent with therapy and medications
- Avoid consuming alcohol or drugs
- Practice self-care
- Follow a consistent routine
- Join a support group