Schizophrenia and psychosis

What is it? 

Schizophrenia and psychosis, often misunderstood and feared, are mental health disorders marked by symptoms like hallucinations and delusions. These symptoms can impair daily functioning and lead to self-care difficulties, prompting individuals or their loved ones to seek help. Hallucinations often involve hearing voices or seeing images that others don’t, while delusions are fixed, often paranoid beliefs. These experiences can cause distraction and social disconnection, leading to feelings of isolation, fear, anxiety, and depression. While psychosis rarely leads to violence, when it does, it garners attention, perpetuating the misconception that those with psychosis are violent. In reality, they’re socially disconnected and preoccupied with their very real-seeming symptoms. 

Symptoms 

Symptoms of schizophrenia and other psychoses may vary, but usually include: 

  • Delusions: False beliefs that are not based in reality 
  • Hallucinations: Sensory experiences that are not real, such as hearing voices 
  • Disorganized thinking (speech): Effective communication can be impaired, and answers to questions may be partially or completely unrelated 
  • Disorganised or abnormal motor behaviour: This may show in a number of ways, from childlike silliness to unpredictable agitation 
  • Negative symptoms: Reduced or lack of ability to function normally. For example, the person may neglect personal hygiene or appear to lack emotion 
  • Decreased speech output: The person may speak less than usual 

Causes 

Schizophrenia and other psychoses can have multiple causes. These include biological factors such as brain chemistry and genetics, where abnormal neurotransmitter function and hereditary factors can predispose an individual to these conditions. Environmental factors, such as complications during pregnancy and birth, can also contribute. Psychological aspects, including trauma and mental health conditions, are additional risk factors. The interplay of these elements makes these disorders multifaceted, requiring a comprehensive approach to understanding and treatment. 

Interventions 

Gaining trust and developing a care plan that offers social support as part of  the intervention is at the centre of helping people with psychosis. Interventions for schizophrenia and other psychoses are personalised and multifaceted. They include medical care for managing physical symptoms, psychotherapy techniques like cognitive behavioural therapy and motivational interviewing, lifestyle changes to develop healthier habits and a supportive network, and intervention meetings organised by loved ones to help the individual recognise their problem and the need for help.