“Schizophrenia” may refer to an isolated psychiatric problem, or possibly a spectrum or group of psychiatric disorders which involve psychotic symptoms. These may include, but are not limited to, auditory hallucinations, such as hearing voices, delusional ideas, such as the belief that one is the object of persecution, or negative symptoms, such as withdrawal from interpersonal communication.
The frank sypmtoms of schizophrenia typically follow a so-called prodromal period, in which rapid deterioration of of the mind occurs. This includes bizarre or unusual thought patterns and behavior, withdrawal from social life, strange speech patterns, lack of hygiene, apathy, and so on. Those familiar with the individual report that the individual’s personality has rapidly and profoundly changed. Ultimately, the individual’s ability to function normally becomes rapidly impaired.
After this, the more serious symptoms with which schizophrenia is typically associated begin. These symptoms include bizarre or delusional ideas, oftentimes involving the belief that one is being persecuted, positive hallucinations such as hearing voices. This second phase, following the prodromal period, is known as the “acute phase,” and is typically followed by a “chronic phase,” according to which symptoms may be alleviated. Negative symptoms, following this mitigation in severity of symptoms, may remain, however. This chronic phase may endure for several years, and the individual may relapse repeatedly during this period.
Occasionally, individuals may recover completely following the initial, acute period. Some individuals likewise exhibit no prodromal phase. 14-20 percent of schizophrenics recover fully after this first episode, whereas others typically improve by struggle with subsequent relapses into psychosis. Stress, social isolation and interpersonal problems may aggravate or exacerbate the disorder.
According to a European study of 6 countries, 80 percent of schizophrenic adults exhibit continual interpersonal difficulties, sometimes severe. Likewise, 80 percent of schizophrenics struggle with continual unemployment. Those who were most at risk for continual struggle with interpersonal problems were those who exibited the most problems during the first 3 years after initial diagnosis.
Schizophrenia is a devastating disorder. Those diagnosed with it exhibit 50 percent increased mortality, and a 10 percent suicide rate. Schizophrenics are especially at risk of diabetes, obesity and nicotine addiction. While mental health professionals commonly give schizophrenia a poor prognosis, there is a major variability among different individual schizophrenics. 75 percent of schizophrenics relapse and half of schizophrenics have a “moderately good” outcome. Some relapse for a long period of time. However, the prognosis of schizophrenia remains somewhat good as long as the individual receives proper support and treatment.
Fortunately, antipsychotic medications are highly effective in treating schizophrenia. Unfortunately, 80 percent of schizophrenics nonetheless suffer from a relapse within 5 years of the initial episode. The probability of relapse is greatly exacerbated by the cessation of the appropriate medication.