Schizophrenia is a severe, chronic, disabling mental disorder known to mankind throughout its history. Schizophrenia affects about 1% of Americans.
People with schizophrenia hear voices that other people cannot hear; they are sure that someone is reading and controlling their thoughts or they are plotting to harm them. These experiences strike terror in them, giving rise to a feeling of fear, strong anxiety or isolation. People with schizophrenia talk nonsense, can sit still and silent for hours, or appear to be completely normal until they start talking about what they really think. Since many people with schizophrenia find it difficult to work or take care of themselves, the disease weighs heavily on their families and society.
The methods of treatment available in the arsenal of today’s medicine can ease many of the symptoms of the disease, but in most cases people with schizophrenia have to live with some residual symptoms of the disease for the rest of their lives. And yet, our time is a time of hope for schizophrenic patients and their families. Today, many patients lead a decent and meaningful life. Scientists are developing more effective drugs and using new tools and research methods, looking for the causes of schizophrenia and ways to prevent and treat the disease.
This booklet contains information about the symptoms of schizophrenia, about when they appear, about the course of the disease, modern methods of treatment, about supporting patients and their families, as well as about new areas of research.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three categories:
- Positive symptoms. These include abnormal thoughts and judgments, including hallucinations, delusions, thought disorders, and motor disorders.
- Negative symptoms, which are expressed in the loss or decrease in the ability to plan, communicate, express emotions, or enjoy everyday life. These symptoms are more difficult to recognize as manifestations of schizophrenia, they can be mistaken for a manifestation of laziness or depression.
- Cognitive symptoms (or cognitive impairment) – problems with concentration and attention, certain types of memory and control functions responsible for our ability to plan and organize. Cognitive impairment is also hardly recognized as a symptom of the disease, but at the same time it has the greatest effect on the ability to lead a normal life.
Cognitive symptoms are invisible and often are detected only as a result of neuropsychological tests. The cognitive symptoms include:
- weakness of “control functions” (ability to assimilate and process information and make decisions based on this information),
- inability to concentrate attention and
- problems with “working memory” (ability to memorize recently received information and immediately apply it)
- Cognitive impairment often makes it difficult for the patient to live and support themselves. They can cause severe emotional distress.
How are these cognitive abnormalities treated?
In general, it is recommended to apply cognitive adjustment, when it is obvious that cognitive deficit will have negative consequences for human functional abilities. New studies have shown that adjusting cognitive functions using a computer, which consists in training attention, memory, language skills and / or problem solving skills, leads to improved neurocognitive functions and can also affect the symptoms and working functionality of schizophrenic patients.
Cognitive stimulation can be included as an essential part of a wider psychiatric rehabilitation program.
The necessary cognitive stimulation depends on the key characteristics of the person being treated. The main cognitive functions, which, as a rule, are aimed at adjustment, include auditory memory, visual memory, long-term concentration, visual scanning, verbal and visual memory, sequencing and organization, initiation, goal setting and problem solving.
To learn more about schizophrenia, check out the Wikipedia article.