Many of us are used to dealing with physical illness, but dealing with mental illness is an entirely differing thing all together. Even though psychology has been around for decades, it is still a relatively new science and diagnostic criteria are still changing and improving. Mental illness, such as schizophrenia, is becoming more commonplace and is easier to treat thanks to these advances, but that doesn’t mean it has been reduced to an exactly science. However, in an effort to demystify some of the rumors about schizophrenia and help you learn how to understand and treat it, we’re going to talk about the history and potential causes of the disease as well as some options that you have when seeking treatment.

Schizophrenia has been called many names over the centuries. In some cases, it has been mistaken for being possessed by devils while in other cases it is thought to be a result of brain damage. The truth is that schizophrenia results from a fragmented mind, one that has been damaged by either physical or mentally traumatic events.

In some ways, schizophrenia can be seen as the brain’s way of dealing with severe trauma. It does this by refusing to associate with the experience and creating another identity to do so. This allows the person to keep themselves from harm by disassociating with the event. It also rarely occurs on its own, meaning that it is often accompanied by bouts of depression and anxiety. There are some studies that suggest recreational and even some prescription drugs worsen the condition and its symptoms.

Although there is a class of drugs called antipsychotics that are useful in treating schizophrenia, treatment is far from easy. Since there are still several different methods of psychological treatment being used even today, some therapists might prefer treatment without the use of drugs. Since many drugs simply mask the symptoms and do not treat the underlying condition, a good therapist will try to talk the patient through the condition in an attempt to better understand it.

Some people that suffer from schizophrenia feel that they are controlled by an outside force or personality and doctors might notice one dominating personality with several others that are subservient. Some of the diagnostic criteria in this case are delusions, hallucinations, lack of coherent speech patterns, and other accompanying mental illness. Obviously people suffering from schizophrenia have difficulty in social settings and probably struggle at work as well. When the symptoms last for longer than 6 months, the condition is considered serious enough to be labeled as a full blown mental disorder.

Aside from prescription antipsychotics, there are other types of treatment available to the therapist. Psychotherapy is one of the more popular alternatives and involves deeply analyzing the condition via a course of interview and cognitive tests. Behavioral therapy is also very popular because it focuses on specific behaviors that arise as a result of schizophrenia. Behavioral therapy can be used to help someone battle the disease in order to be able to function normally in work or social settings.

Although some doctors suggest that schizophrenia is a hereditary disease, there are simply too many cases of differing etiology to say that this is 100% accurate. Although a person’s risk for developing mental illness is certainly greater if their parents have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety disorders, schizophrenia is just too complex to be able to pin it down to one cause. As research continues and more case studies help to reveal some of the internal mechanisms involved in schizophrenia, maybe someday we’ll understand it enough to know both where it comes from and how to cure it for good.

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Last updated on Apr 24th, 2009 and filed under Mental Health. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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