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Recent times have witnessed a manifold rise in people’s mental health awareness. Owing to easier access to information, we are gradually overcoming the taboo and stigma associated with mental illnesses and supporting their discussion in the public sphere.
The ramifications of ignoring a mental health disorder are now being understood, and mental disorders have started to receive as much attention as physical ones.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness a lot of us have a fair idea about, mainly due to its representation in psychological thrillers.
Irrespective of its status in pop culture, we should not forget that schizophrenia and every other schizophrenia spectrum disorders are serious mental illnesses that can hurt the patient’s life.
So how much do we know about schizophrenia? What are its symptoms? Is schizophrenia a personality disorder? How does one develop schizophrenia? Moreover, how much of what we know about this mental illness is true?
Well, we researched for you and found the answers to these questions. Here’s an overview with all the legit information you need to know to understand this mental illness better.
1. What is Schizophrenia?
First things first. What exactly is schizophrenia? Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that affects people’s ability to interpret reality.
Psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions are common among patients with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses like schizoaffective disorder.
A psychotic episode as such, more often than not, affects brain function and behavioral abilities and the severe symptoms become unmanageable and debilitating in the long run without proper treatment.
It might also lead to a schizophrenic phenotype, which can be defined as a chronic form of psychosis.
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, this disorder needs proper diagnosis by mental health professionals and treatment using antipsychotic medications.
Such a psychotic disorder, if wrongly diagnosed, can take a more severe form and have catastrophic consequences.
While schizophrenia is a chronic illness, schizophreniform is a shorter illness that can last anywhere between one and six months.
The symptoms are similar to schizophrenia, and this disorder also adversely impacts one’s ability to perceive reality for what it is.
Schizophreniform is more common among the younger population, ages 18 to mid-30s. Men are believed to have this disorder at a younger age than women.
This disorder increases the risk factor of psychotic illnesses, and more than half of the people suffering from schizophreniform develop chronic schizophrenia.
As it is more common among the young population, motivation difficulties caused by this disorder might lead to depression and suicidal thoughts.
An individual suffering from these disorders experiences symptoms of both psychotic and mood disorders. It might either take a bipolar form or a depressive form.
While individual suffering from bipolar schizoaffective disorder oscillates between episodes of mania and depression, the depressive form only involves periods of major depression. These symptoms are seen alongside the psychotic ones.
Most of the psychotic symptoms are similar to those of schizophrenia, like hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech, episodes of mania with sudden bursts of energy, and difficulty carrying out daily tasks and personal care.
2. How does one Develop Schizophrenia?
Generally, the cause behind a physical disorder can be clearly understood and explained by professionals. However, this might not always be the case with a mental health disorder.
Schizophrenia can be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. While genetics and brain structure might be risk factors, environmental agents act as the trigger that flares up the disorder.
According to studies, the neurological cause behind this mental health illness might be an imbalance between dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters.
3. Schizophrenia Symptoms
Being a psychotic disorder, schizophrenia symptoms have to be managed with proper antipsychotic medication. They can adversely affect the daily routine of the patient and those around them if not tended to.
Delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, and severe anxiety are common psychotic symptoms associated with schizophrenia. These symptoms are common in almost psychotic episodes faced by schizophrenic people.
Hold up, don’t let the name confuse you. Positive symptoms do not imply that they would make your life better in any way.
These are the class of symptoms that cause additional changes in one’s behavior and exhibit a distorted thinking ability.
Delusions (false beliefs about the world around them), paranoia, and visual and auditory hallucinations fall under this category. These are some things a patient with schizophrenia experiences that are absent before.
Apart from this, disorganized symptoms are also an inherent part of schizophrenia. The false beliefs held by schizophrenic people cause distorted thinking patterns.
Schizophrenia affects the ability to express one’s thoughts coherently and use self-invented words.
This phenomenon of disorganized speech is known as neologism and acts as the gateway to distorted thinking processes.
Along with disorganized speech and thought, disordered behavior is also one of the common psychotic symptoms. Owing to distorted thinking, the actions undertaken by a schizophrenic person do not seem to have any set goal.
Another common disorganized symptom is catatonic behavior. This involves assuming bizarre postures, unusual restlessness or agitation, and not responding to one’s surroundings.
Negative symptoms, as opposed to positive ones, consist of deficits or reductions in abilities one faces when suffering from a psychotic disorder.
Such symptoms include social skill deficits, such as not making eye contact and speaking apathetically.
Schizophrenia also makes people lose interest in most pleasurable activities and causes difficulty in carrying out their daily tasks.
Mood symptoms are also a part of this category. If a person suffers from both schizophrenia and mood disorders, it is known as schizoaffective disorder.
People suffering from schizoaffective disorder, along with the common schizophrenia symptoms, also exhibit symptoms of major depression and bipolar disorder.
4. Is Schizophrenia a Personality Disorder?
True, schizophrenia is one of the most common, serious psychotic disorders. However, is it a personality disorder?
Well, the most direct answer to this question is “no.” Schizophrenia, per se, is not a personality disorder as it mainly falls into psychotic disorders.
But then, what is the confusion all about? Now that we know quite a bit about psychotic disorders, let’s try to understand personality disorders.
What are Personality Disorders?
A personality disorder also involves distorted patterns of thinking and behaving and mood disorders to a debilitating extent. But then, how is a personality disorder and schizophrenia (or any other psychotic disorder) different from each other?
Personality disorders generally surface during early adulthood but escape early diagnosis as the patient does not find their behavior unusual. These have more to do with specific personality traits than cognitions and emotions.
Unlike psychotic disorders, personality disorder does not involve hallucinations or delusions.
Despite beginning in early adulthood, the symptoms subside considerably as one reaches middle age. However, symptoms of schizophrenia are chronic and might fluctuate lifelong.
Borderline Personality Disorder
When discussing personality disorders, borderline personality disorder is considered a commonly occurring mental health disorder and one that most people are aware of.
Borderline personality disorder symptoms include emotional turmoil, impulsiveness, and impairment of social relationships.
Again, borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia differ in the sense that the effects of the former are related more to the external world, as it impacts social relationships.
Schizophrenia, on the other hand, involves the dysfunctioning of behaviors, cognitions, and emotions.
5. Schizophrenia Spectrum Personality Disorders
If schizophrenia and personality disorders are so different, then what’s all the confusion about? Well, here we clarify a few things for you.
So some mental disorders that depict combined symptoms of psychotic and personality disorders fall under schizophrenia spectrum personality disorders. Here are some of the personality disorders that fall into the schizophrenia spectrum.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder vs. Schizophrenia
A schizotypal personality disorder affects a person’s ability to form relationships with others as they fail to grasp the impact of their behavior on other people.
Due to this, people with schizotypal personality disorder avoid social situations, harbor irrational impressions of others, and face difficulty understanding basic social cues.
Schizotypal personality disorder symptoms mainly include poor interpersonal relationships, apathy, paranoia, false beliefs, and disorganized speech.
The word schizotypal sounds might sound similar, but as opposed to schizophrenia, schizotypal personality disorder symptoms do not include hallucinations, delusions, or disordered thinking as it is a personality disorder and not a psychotic disorder.
However, people with a schizotypal personality disorder might also experience psychosis but different from the kind of chronic psychotic episodes faced by schizophrenic people.
Schizoid Personality Disorder and Schizophrenia
A schizoid personality disorder is a disorder that causes people to prefer solitude and appear detached in social relationships. They also face difficulty in expressing emotions.
Loss of pleasure in activities and interpersonal relationships, aloofness, and excessive fantasizing are some symptoms of schizoid personality disorder. Anxiety disorders or mood disorders might accompany it in many cases.
Unlike schizophrenia, whose psychotic nature can be debilitating, schizoid personality disorder causes minimal hindrance to people’s daily lives.
6. Schizophrenia Treatment
Schizophrenia is a chronic psychotic disorder. Therefore, it is important to identify early warning signs and seek treatment as soon as possible to manage it effectively, as in the case of other medical illnesses.
The diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia involve the presence of psychotic symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, and disordered cognitions.
However, it is also important to ensure that the symptoms are not caused by some pre-existing mental health condition, substance abuse, or other prescribed medication.
The diagnosis involves a combination of physical and psychiatric tests and is made according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) criteria.
Once the disorder is diagnosed, the treatment process commences. Being a chronic disorder, the treatment for schizophrenia can last lifelong to make the psychotic episodes manageable.
Treatment generally involves a combination of antipsychotic medication and psychotherapy, but hospitalization might be required for severe cases.
The medications help to regulate neurotransmitter levels in the brain to control the symptoms but might also have side effects. Alongside managing the psychosis with medication, psychotherapy might prove helpful in coping with the disorder.
Individual therapy and social skills training go a long way in improving the daily life and functioning of schizophrenic people. Apart from this, therapy for family members makes them better equipped to deal with the patient.
Schizoaffective Disorder Treatment
The diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder is made in the same way as schizophrenia. A thorough examination of the symptoms through physical and psychiatric evaluation ensures that other reasons do not cause them.
The treatment demands the use of antipsychotic medications along with therapy to make the disorder more manageable. Prescription of other medications depends upon the type of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar or depressive.
Therefore, the medication regimen involves a combination of antipsychotics for schizophrenia-related symptoms, mood-stabilizing medications for manic-depressive episodes, and antidepressants for feelings of sadness.
Along with such medications, therapy also helps in managing the disorder. It helps to develop adaptive thought patterns and makes the individual suffering from the disorder more aware and sensitive to cope with the difficulties better.
Such therapy sessions aim to solve the daily problems faced by people suffering from this disorder concerning their daily interactions and lifestyle and make the process of coping with the disorder easier.
7. Schizotypal Personality Disorder Treatment
People with a schizotypal personality disorder often suffer from symptoms like anxiety and depression. Diagnosis depends on the medical history and proper examination of symptoms.
Due to the absence of specific medications, the medications prescribed for schizotypal personality disorder include antidepressants that provide symptomatic relief.
Other treatment methods include cognitive-behavioral therapy and supportive therapy. These help the patient modify maladaptive thoughts and behaviors and learn skills to help them adapt to social situations.
Unlike a psychotic disorder, the treatment process of a personality disorder is more therapy-oriented and less dependent on medications.
Family therapy also plays an important role in effectively managing such disorders due to their close interpersonal relationships with the patient.
8. Schizoid Personality Disorder Treatment
The diagnosis of schizoid personality disorder is made by thoroughly examining the symptoms present in the patient according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – 5.
The treatment largely involves various psychotherapy techniques along with antidepressants and other medications for symptomatic relief.
Talk therapy is generally the most effective form of therapy in this case. The therapist understands the client’s difficulty establishing a trusting relationship with anybody.
A therapist is trained to form a meaningful professional relationship and provide a non-judgemental space for the client to open up without feeling unduly pressurized or uncomfortable.
Group therapy, as opposed to individual therapy, is also an effective approach. This helps the client interact with others and work on their social skills with others who also have the same aim.
The Bottom Line
Despite the similar-sounding names, schizophrenia, schizotypal personality disorder, and schizoid personality disorder are not similar.
While schizophrenia is a more severe psychotic disorder, the other two falls under personality disorders involving unusual behavior patterns and have more effect on interpersonal relationships.
Now that you have the answer to the question, ‘is schizophrenia a personality disorder?’ Share this article with your friends and raise their awareness about personality disorders and psychotic ones.
Don’t forget to share with us what more you know about this topic.