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Schizophrenia: causes, signs, symptoms and prevention

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Schizophrenia is a mental disorder, which is characterised by abnormal social behaviour, delusions, cognitive challenges and hallucinations. A person affected by Schizophrenia also suffers from paranoia, nervousness  and may hear voices that are actually not there. People suffering from Schizophrenia often have additional mental disorders like depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders.
The factors that are responsible for this mental illness are environmental and genetic factors. Some environmental factors may include certain infections and lack of nutrition during pregnancy. Genetic factors include a variety of rare and some common genetic variants. Experts also say that
Schizophrenia is also a result of chemical imbalances in the brain.
Dopamine, a neurotransmitter is involved in the onset of Schizophrenia. Imbalance of some other neurotransmitters such as serotonin can also lead to Schizophrenia.

Depending on the individual, the symptoms of Schizophrenia may vary. The signs and symptoms are classified into four categories:· Positive symptoms, Negative symptoms, Cognitive symptoms, Emotional symptoms.
Positive symptoms are also referred to as psychotic symptoms. They include hallucinations, thought disorders anddelusions.
Negative symptoms include the absence of facial expressions and lack of drive to do things. The third type of symptom is cognitive symptoms. Cognitive symptoms affect person’s thinking ability, for example, poor concentration while working or studying.
Emotional symptoms are usually negative symptoms – it may include blunted emotions.Schizophrenia is diagnosed by observing actions of the patient.
A few tests may include blood test, evaluating person’s mental state by asking some questions, assessing suicidal traits, moods, hallucinations, violent tendencies. The doctor also observes patient’s appearance and attitude.

Schizophrenia Causes

Doctors attribute the multi-factorial risk factors to certain biological, molecular and psychosocial issues at some points in life, which can be linked to later development of Schizophrenia.
Elaborating on the risk factors, Dr N N Raju, medical superintendent of Government Hospital for Mental Care and general secretary of the Indian Psychiatric Society said, “These include genetic factors such as a family history of Schizophrenia, pre-natal exposures to certain infections, stress and nutrition, low birth weight babies, childhood trauma, adolescent drug abuse and epilepsy.”
“Schizophrenia is caused mainly by disturbances in brain hormones like dopamine and other neurotransmitters along with genetic and psychosocial factors.
It generally affects individuals in their formative years, especially 15-25 years of age. Treatment is done mainly by medication and psycho-social support and reintegrating these people into society,” added Dr Raju.
“Compared to normal people, first-degree relatives (such as father, mother, sister, brother and children) of Schizophrenia patients performed poorly on individual neurocognitive domains including short-term memory, auditory verbal memory on measures of immediate recall and recognition, visuospatial working memory, verbal working memory, and executive functions,” said the study conducted by Sawai Man Singh (SMS) Hospital’s psychiatric centre professor Dr R K Solanki.
Schizophrenia Prevention
The only way to diagnose Schizophrenia is through its symptoms. Some signs to watch out for if you suspect a loved one may have the illness are following.
The symptoms can be of three types: Positive (unusual psychotic behaviour), Negative (abnormal behaviour) and Cognitive (changes in memory and thinking).
1. Hearing imaginary voices
2. Delusions
3. Movement disorders
4. Staring into empty space for hours
5. Reduced expressions of emotions
6. Severe headaches
7. Inability to sleep at night
8. Loss of appetite
9. Difficulty in concentration
10. Inability to maintain personal hygiene.

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