Disease: Schizophrenia

    Schizophrenia facts

    • Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, debilitating mental illness that affects about 1% of the population, more than 2 million people in the United States alone.
    • With the sudden onset of severe psychotic symptoms, the individual is said to be experiencing acute psychosis. Psychotic means out of touch with reality or unable to separate real from unreal experiences.
    • There is no known single cause of schizophrenia. As discussed later, it appears that genetic and other biological factors produce a vulnerability to schizophrenia, with environmental factors contributing to different degrees in different individuals.
    • There are a number of various schizophrenia treatments. Given the complexity of schizophrenia, the major questions about this disorder (its cause or causes, prevention, and treatment) are unlikely to be resolved in the near future. The public should beware of those offering "the cure" for (or "the cause" of) schizophrenia.
    • Schizophrenia is one of the psychotic mental disorders and affects an individual's thoughts, behaviors, and social functioning.
    • Symptoms of schizophrenia may include delusions, hallucinations, catatonia, negative symptoms, and disorganized speech or behavior.
    • While schizophrenia used to be divided into different types of the disorder, it is now considered to have various symptoms of one inclusive disorder.
    • Children as young as 6 years of age can be found to have all the schizophrenia symptoms as their adult counterparts and to continue to have those symptoms into adulthood.
    • Although the term schizophrenia has only been in used since 1911, its symptoms have been described throughout written history.
    • Schizophrenia is considered to be the result of a complex group of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors.
    • Health-care professionals diagnose schizophrenia by gathering comprehensive medical, family, mental-health, and social/cultural information.
    • The practitioner will also either perform a physical examination or request that the individual's primary-care doctor perform one. The medical examination will usually include lab tests.
    • In addition to providing treatment that is appropriate to the diagnosis, professionals attempt to determine the presence of mental illnesses that may co-occur.
    • People with schizophrenia are at increased risk of having a number of other mental-health conditions, committing suicide, and otherwise dying earlier than people without this disorder.
    • Medications that have been found to be most effective in treating the positive symptoms of schizophrenia are first- and second-generation antipsychotics.
    • Psychosocial interventions for schizophrenia include education of family members, assertive community treatment, substance-abuse treatment, social-skills training, supported employment, cognitive behavioral therapy, and weight management.
    • Cognitive remediation, peer-to-peer treatment, and weight-management interventions remain the focus topics for research.

    What is the definition of schizophrenia?

    Sometimes colloquially but inaccurately referred to as split personality disorder, schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, debilitating mental illness. It affects about 1% of the population, corresponding to more than 2 million people in the United States alone. Other statistics about schizophrenia include that it affects men about one and a half times more commonly than women. It is one of the psychotic mental disorders and is characterized by symptoms of thought, behavior, and social problems. The thought problems associated with schizophrenia are described as psychosis, in that the person's thinking is completely out of touch with reality at times. For example, the sufferer may hear voices or see people that are in no way present or feel like bugs are crawling on their skin when there are none. The individual with this disorder may also have disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, physically rigid or lax behavior (catatonia), significantly decreased behaviors or feelings, as well as delusions, which are ideas about themselves or others that have no basis in reality (for example, the individual might experience paranoia, in that he or she thinks others are plotting against them when they are not).

    Given that an individual can have various predominant symptoms of schizophrenia at different times as well as at the same time, the most recent Diagnostic Manual for Mental Disorders has done away with what used to be described as five types of schizophrenia.

    How common is schizophrenia in children?

    Although there have been fewer studies on schizophrenia in children compared to adults, researchers are finding that children as young as 6 years old can be found to have all the symptoms of their adult counterparts and to continue to have those symptoms into adulthood.

    What is the history of schizophrenia?

    The term schizophrenia has only been in use since 1911. Soon before that, it was deemed a separate mental illness in 1887 by Emil Kraepelin. Despite that relatively recent history, it has been described throughout written history. Ancient Egyptian, Hindu, Chinese, Greek, and Roman writings described symptoms similar to the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. During medieval times, schizophrenia, like other illnesses, was often viewed as evidence of the sufferer being possessed by spirits or evil powers.

    A number of accomplished individuals suffer from schizophrenia. The film A Beautiful Mind depicts the life of John Nash, a noted scientist, and his struggles with paranoid schizophrenia. The film The Soloist explores the challenges faced by Juilliard-trained musician Nathaniel Ayers as a result of schizophrenia. Despite those prominent portrayals of people with schizophrenia, this condition, like most mental illnesses, usually remain shrouded in secrecy and shame that goes beyond maintaining confidentiality.

    What are schizophrenia causes? Is schizophrenia hereditary?

    One frequently asked question about schizophrenia is if it is hereditary. As with most other mental disorders, schizophrenia is not directly passed from one generation to another genetically, and there is no single cause for this illness. Rather, it is the result of a complex group of genetic and other biological tendencies, as well as psychological and environmental risk factors. Biologically, it is thought that people who have abnormalities in the brain neurochemical dopamine are at higher risk for developing the disorder. Genetically, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have much in common, in that the two disorders share a number of the same risk genes. However, the fact is that both illnesses also have some genetic factors that are unique. There are some genetic commonalities with schizophrenia and epilepsy as well.

    Learn more about: dopamine

    Environmentally, the risks of developing schizophrenia can even occur before birth. For example, the risk of schizophrenia is increased in individuals whose mother had one of certain infections during pregnancy. Difficult life circumstances during childhood, like the early loss of a parent, parental poverty, bullying, witnessing parental violence; being the victim of emotional, sexual, or physical abuse or of physical or emotional neglect; and insecure attachment have been associated with increased risks of developing this illness. Even factors like how well represented an ethnic group is in a neighborhood can be a risk or protective factor for developing schizophrenia. For example, some research indicates that ethnic minorities may be more at risk for developing this disorder if there are fewer members of the ethnic group to which the individual belongs in their neighborhood.

    What are schizophrenia symptoms and signs?

    According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), symptoms of schizophrenia include the following:

    Positive, more overtly psychotic symptoms
    • Delusions: beliefs that have no basis in reality
    • Hallucinations: hearing (for example, hearing voices), seeing, feeling (for example, feeling like bugs are crawling on the skin), smelling, or tasting things that have no basis in reality
    • Disorganized speech
    • Disorganized behaviors
    Negative symptoms, potentially less overtly psychotic
    • Inhibition of facial expressions
    • Catatonic behaviors: difficulty moving, resistance to moving, excessive movement, abnormal movements, and/or repeating what others say or do
    • Self-neglect, poor grooming and lack of good hygiene
    • Lack of speech
    • Lack of motivation

    Prior to the development of the full-blown disorder, people who go on to develop schizophrenia often exhibit more subtle and/or less specific symptoms, also called prodromal symptoms. Some such symptoms may include lower cognitive functioning, mood problems, social isolation, self-centeredness that borders on narcissism, and other problems socializing.

    How is schizophrenia diagnosed? Are there particular tests that detect schizophrenia?

    As is true with virtually any mental-health diagnosis, there is no one test that definitively indicates that someone has schizophrenia. Therefore, health-care professionals diagnose this disorder by gathering comprehensive medical, family, and mental-health information. Patients tend to benefit when the professional takes into account their client's entire life and background. This includes but is not limited to the person's gender, sexual orientation, cultural, religious and ethnic background, and socioeconomic status. The symptom sufferer might be asked to fill out a self-test that the professional will review if the person being evaluated is able to complete it. The practitioner will also either perform a physical examination or request that the individual's primary-care doctor perform one. The medical examination will usually include lab tests to evaluate the person's general health and to explore whether or not the individual has a medical condition or has been exposed to certain medications (for example, amphetamines like methylphenidate [Ritalin or Concerta] or amphetamine and dextroamphetamine [Adderall] in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or corticosteroids for the treatment of severe asthma) that might produce psychological symptoms.

    Learn more about: Ritalin | Concerta | Adderall

    In asking questions about mental-health symptoms, mental-health professionals are often exploring if the individual suffers from hallucinations or delusions, depression and/or manic symptoms, anxiety, substance abuse, as well as some personality disorders (for example, schizotypal personality disorder) and developmental disorders (for example, autism spectrum disorders including the condition that was formerly called Asperger's disorder). Since some of the symptoms of schizophrenia can also occur in other mental illnesses, the mental-health screening is to determine if the individual suffers from schizoaffective disorder or other psychotic disorder, depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, or a substance-abuse (for example, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, or psychedelic drugs) or personality disorder. Any disorder that is associated with bizarre behavior, mood, or thinking, like borderline personality disorder or another psychotic disorder, as well as dissociative identity disorder (DID), also known as multiple personality disorder (MPD), may be particularly challenging to distinguish from schizophrenia. In order to assess the person's current emotional state, health-care professionals perform a mental-status examination, as well.

    Learn more about: cocaine

    In addition to providing treatment that is appropriate to the diagnosis, determining the presence of mental illnesses that may co-occur (be comorbid) with schizophrenia is important in improving the life of individuals with schizophrenia. For example, people with schizophrenia are at increased risk of having a substance-abuse, depressive, or anxiety disorder and committing suicide.

    What are treatments for schizophrenia and the side effects of those treatments?

    Medications

    Given the seriousness and chronic nature of schizophrenia, home remedies are not deemed appropriate treatment for this condition. There is currently not thought to be a cure for schizophrenia, but there are a number of helpful treatments available, of which medication remains the cornerstone of treatment for people with this condition. These medications are often referred to as antipsychotics since they help decrease the intensity of psychotic symptoms. Many health-care professionals prescribe one of these medications, sometimes in combination of one or more other psychiatric medications, in order to maximize the benefit for the person with schizophrenia.

    Medications that are thought to be particularly effective in treating positive symptoms of schizophrenia include olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), ziprasidone (Geodon), aripiprazole (Abilify), paliperidone (Invega), asenapine (Saphris), lurasidone (Latuda), and iloperidone (Fanapt). These medications are the newer group of antipsychotic medications, also called second-generation antipsychotic drugs. They are known for having the ability to work quickly compared to many other psychiatric medications. As a group of medications, side effects that occur most often include sleepiness, dizziness, and increased appetite. Weight gain, which may be associated with higher blood sugar levels, elevated blood lipid levels, and sometimes increased levels of a hormone called prolactin, may also occur. Although older antipsychotic medications in this class like haloperidol (Haldol), perphenazine (Trilafon), and molindone (Moban) are more likely to cause muscle stiffness, shakiness, and very rarely uncoordinated muscle twitches (tardive dyskinesia) that can be permanent, health-care professionals appropriately monitor the people they treat for these potential side effects as well. Also, more recent research regarding all antipsychotic medications seems to demonstrate that the older (first-generation) antipsychotics are just as effective as the newer ones, both in the management of current symptoms and prevention of future symptoms, and have no higher rate of people stopping treatment because of any side effect the medications cause. Not all medications that treat schizophrenia in adults have been approved for use in treating childhood schizophrenia.

    Learn more about: Zyprexa | Risperdal | Seroquel | Geodon | Abilify | Invega | Saphris | Latuda | Fanapt | Haldol | perphenazine | Moban

    Mood-stabilizer medications like lithium (Lithobid), divalproex (Depakote), carbamazepine (Tegretol), and lamotrigine (Lamictal) can be useful in treating mood swings that sometimes occur in individuals who have a diagnosable mood disorder in addition to psychotic symptoms (for example, schizoaffective disorder, depression, in addition to schizophrenia). These medications may take a bit longer to work compared to the antipsychotic medications. Some (for example, lithium, divalproex, and carbamazepine) require monitoring of medication blood levels, and some can be associated with birth defects when taken by pregnant women.

    Learn more about: Depakote | Tegretol | Lamictal

    Antidepressant medications are the primary medical treatment for the depression that can often accompany schizophrenia. Examples of antidepressants that are commonly prescribed for that purpose include serotonergic (SSRI) medications that affect serotonin levels like fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), and escitalopram (Lexapro); combination serotonergic/adrenergic medications (SNRIs) like venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta), as well as bupropion (Wellbutrin), which is a dopaminergic (affecting dopamine levels) antidepressant medication.

    Learn more about: Prozac | Zoloft | Paxil | Celexa | Lexapro | Effexor | Cymbalta | Wellbutrin

    Despite its stigmatized history, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be a viable treatment for people whose schizophrenia has inadequately responded to a number of medication trials and psychosocial interventions.

    When treating pregnant individuals with schizophrenia, health-care professionals take great care to balance the need to maintain the person's more stable thoughts and behavior while minimizing the risks that medications used to treat this disorder may present. While some medications that treat schizophrenia may carry risks to the fetus in pregnancy and during breastfeeding, careful monitoring of how much medication is administered and the health of the fetus and of the mother can go a long way toward protecting the fetus from any such risks, while maximizing the chance that the fetus will grow in the healthier environment afforded by an emotionally healthy mother.

    Psychosocial interventions

    Family psycho-education: In addition to educating family members about the symptoms, course, and treatment of schizophrenia, this form of treatment consists of providing family support, problem-solving skills, and access to care providers during times of crises. When this intervention is consistently provided for at least several months, it has been found to decrease the relapse rate for the individual with schizophrenia and improve the person's social and emotional outcomes. Also, the burden that family members experience as a result of having a loved one with schizophrenia is lessened, family members tend to be more knowledgeable about the disorder and feel more supported by the professionals involved, and family relationships are improved.

    Assertive community treatment (ACT): This intervention consists of members of the person's treatment team meeting with that individual on a daily basis, in community settings (for example, home, work, or other places the person with schizophrenia frequents) rather than in an office or hospital setting. The treatment team is made up of a variety of professionals. For example, a psychiatrist, nurse, case manager, employment counselor, and substance-abuse counselor often make up an ACT team. ACT tends to be successful in reducing how often people with schizophrenia are hospitalized or become homeless.

    Substance abuse treatment: Providing medical and psychosocial interventions that address substance abuse should be an integral part of treatment as about 50% of individuals with schizophrenia suffer from some kind of substance abuse or dependence.

    Social skills training: Also called illness management and recovery programming, social-skills training involves teaching clients ways to handle social situations appropriately. It often involves the person scripting (thinking through or role-playing) situations that occur in social settings in order to prepare for those situations when they actually occur. This treatment type has been found to help people with schizophrenia resist using drugs of abuse, as well as improve their relationships with health-care professionals and with people at work.

    Supported employment: This intervention provides supports like a work coach (someone who periodically or consistently counsels the client in the workplace), as well as instruction on constructing a résumé, interviewing for jobs, and education and support for employers to hire individuals with chronic mental illness. Supported employment has been found to help schizophrenia sufferers secure employment, earn more money, and increase the number of hours they are able to work.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a reality-based intervention that focuses on helping a client understand and change patterns that tend to interfere with his or her ability to interact with others and otherwise function. Except for people who are actively psychotic, CBT has been found to help individuals with schizophrenia decrease symptoms and improve their ability to function socially. This intervention can be done either individually or in group sessions.

    Weight management: Educating people with schizophrenia about weight gain and related health problems that can be a side effect of some antipsychotic and other psychiatric medications has been found to be helpful in resulting in a modest weight loss. That is also true when schizophrenia sufferers are provided with behavioral interventions to assist with weight loss.

    What are potential complications of schizophrenia? What is the prognosis for schizophrenia?

    Possible complications for schizophrenia range from more medical illnesses (morbidity) or shortened life span (mortality) to negative impacts on their family members as well. For example, women with schizophrenia are thought to be more likely to suffer from complications during their pregnancies, at delivery and during their children's newborn period.

    Individuals with schizophrenia have more than twice the rate of death than those without the disorder. Almost half of people with schizophrenia will suffer from a substance-use disorder (for example, alcohol, marijuana, or other substance) during their lifetime. Research shows that people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder have a better quality of life if their family members tend to be more supportive and less critical of them.

    What research is being done on schizophrenia?

    Cognitive remediation continues to be an experimental treatment that addresses the cognitive problems that are associated with schizophrenia (for example, memory problems, learning problems). Studies using this intervention in combination with vocational rehabilitation to improve work functioning have shown some promise, but more research is needed, particularly that which focuses on improving how well the person with schizophrenia functions in real-world situations as a result of this treatment.

    Peer-to-peer treatment is a promising possible intervention since it promotes active constructive involvement from people who have schizophrenia, provides role models for individuals whose functioning is less stable, and may be accessible in individual and group settings, in person as well as by telephone or through the Internet. However, further research is necessary to demonstrate its effectiveness in decreasing symptoms or otherwise clearly improving functioning for people with schizophrenia.

    In terms of weight management, more research is needed to explore how to best help people with schizophrenia retain the weight loss they achieve and even to prevent weight gain in the first place.

    What is the definition of schizophrenia?

    Sometimes colloquially but inaccurately referred to as split personality disorder, schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, debilitating mental illness. It affects about 1% of the population, corresponding to more than 2 million people in the United States alone. Other statistics about schizophrenia include that it affects men about one and a half times more commonly than women. It is one of the psychotic mental disorders and is characterized by symptoms of thought, behavior, and social problems. The thought problems associated with schizophrenia are described as psychosis, in that the person's thinking is completely out of touch with reality at times. For example, the sufferer may hear voices or see people that are in no way present or feel like bugs are crawling on their skin when there are none. The individual with this disorder may also have disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, physically rigid or lax behavior (catatonia), significantly decreased behaviors or feelings, as well as delusions, which are ideas about themselves or others that have no basis in reality (for example, the individual might experience paranoia, in that he or she thinks others are plotting against them when they are not).

    Given that an individual can have various predominant symptoms of schizophrenia at different times as well as at the same time, the most recent Diagnostic Manual for Mental Disorders has done away with what used to be described as five types of schizophrenia.

    How common is schizophrenia in children?

    Although there have been fewer studies on schizophrenia in children compared to adults, researchers are finding that children as young as 6 years old can be found to have all the symptoms of their adult counterparts and to continue to have those symptoms into adulthood.

    What is the history of schizophrenia?

    The term schizophrenia has only been in use since 1911. Soon before that, it was deemed a separate mental illness in 1887 by Emil Kraepelin. Despite that relatively recent history, it has been described throughout written history. Ancient Egyptian, Hindu, Chinese, Greek, and Roman writings described symptoms similar to the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. During medieval times, schizophrenia, like other illnesses, was often viewed as evidence of the sufferer being possessed by spirits or evil powers.

    A number of accomplished individuals suffer from schizophrenia. The film A Beautiful Mind depicts the life of John Nash, a noted scientist, and his struggles with paranoid schizophrenia. The film The Soloist explores the challenges faced by Juilliard-trained musician Nathaniel Ayers as a result of schizophrenia. Despite those prominent portrayals of people with schizophrenia, this condition, like most mental illnesses, usually remain shrouded in secrecy and shame that goes beyond maintaining confidentiality.

    What are schizophrenia causes? Is schizophrenia hereditary?

    One frequently asked question about schizophrenia is if it is hereditary. As with most other mental disorders, schizophrenia is not directly passed from one generation to another genetically, and there is no single cause for this illness. Rather, it is the result of a complex group of genetic and other biological tendencies, as well as psychological and environmental risk factors. Biologically, it is thought that people who have abnormalities in the brain neurochemical dopamine are at higher risk for developing the disorder. Genetically, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have much in common, in that the two disorders share a number of the same risk genes. However, the fact is that both illnesses also have some genetic factors that are unique. There are some genetic commonalities with schizophrenia and epilepsy as well.

    Learn more about: dopamine

    Environmentally, the risks of developing schizophrenia can even occur before birth. For example, the risk of schizophrenia is increased in individuals whose mother had one of certain infections during pregnancy. Difficult life circumstances during childhood, like the early loss of a parent, parental poverty, bullying, witnessing parental violence; being the victim of emotional, sexual, or physical abuse or of physical or emotional neglect; and insecure attachment have been associated with increased risks of developing this illness. Even factors like how well represented an ethnic group is in a neighborhood can be a risk or protective factor for developing schizophrenia. For example, some research indicates that ethnic minorities may be more at risk for developing this disorder if there are fewer members of the ethnic group to which the individual belongs in their neighborhood.

    What are schizophrenia symptoms and signs?

    According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), symptoms of schizophrenia include the following:

    Positive, more overtly psychotic symptoms
    • Delusions: beliefs that have no basis in reality
    • Hallucinations: hearing (for example, hearing voices), seeing, feeling (for example, feeling like bugs are crawling on the skin), smelling, or tasting things that have no basis in reality
    • Disorganized speech
    • Disorganized behaviors
    Negative symptoms, potentially less overtly psychotic
    • Inhibition of facial expressions
    • Catatonic behaviors: difficulty moving, resistance to moving, excessive movement, abnormal movements, and/or repeating what others say or do
    • Self-neglect, poor grooming and lack of good hygiene
    • Lack of speech
    • Lack of motivation

    Prior to the development of the full-blown disorder, people who go on to develop schizophrenia often exhibit more subtle and/or less specific symptoms, also called prodromal symptoms. Some such symptoms may include lower cognitive functioning, mood problems, social isolation, self-centeredness that borders on narcissism, and other problems socializing.

    How is schizophrenia diagnosed? Are there particular tests that detect schizophrenia?

    As is true with virtually any mental-health diagnosis, there is no one test that definitively indicates that someone has schizophrenia. Therefore, health-care professionals diagnose this disorder by gathering comprehensive medical, family, and mental-health information. Patients tend to benefit when the professional takes into account their client's entire life and background. This includes but is not limited to the person's gender, sexual orientation, cultural, religious and ethnic background, and socioeconomic status. The symptom sufferer might be asked to fill out a self-test that the professional will review if the person being evaluated is able to complete it. The practitioner will also either perform a physical examination or request that the individual's primary-care doctor perform one. The medical examination will usually include lab tests to evaluate the person's general health and to explore whether or not the individual has a medical condition or has been exposed to certain medications (for example, amphetamines like methylphenidate [Ritalin or Concerta] or amphetamine and dextroamphetamine [Adderall] in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or corticosteroids for the treatment of severe asthma) that might produce psychological symptoms.

    Learn more about: Ritalin | Concerta | Adderall

    In asking questions about mental-health symptoms, mental-health professionals are often exploring if the individual suffers from hallucinations or delusions, depression and/or manic symptoms, anxiety, substance abuse, as well as some personality disorders (for example, schizotypal personality disorder) and developmental disorders (for example, autism spectrum disorders including the condition that was formerly called Asperger's disorder). Since some of the symptoms of schizophrenia can also occur in other mental illnesses, the mental-health screening is to determine if the individual suffers from schizoaffective disorder or other psychotic disorder, depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, or a substance-abuse (for example, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, or psychedelic drugs) or personality disorder. Any disorder that is associated with bizarre behavior, mood, or thinking, like borderline personality disorder or another psychotic disorder, as well as dissociative identity disorder (DID), also known as multiple personality disorder (MPD), may be particularly challenging to distinguish from schizophrenia. In order to assess the person's current emotional state, health-care professionals perform a mental-status examination, as well.

    Learn more about: cocaine

    In addition to providing treatment that is appropriate to the diagnosis, determining the presence of mental illnesses that may co-occur (be comorbid) with schizophrenia is important in improving the life of individuals with schizophrenia. For example, people with schizophrenia are at increased risk of having a substance-abuse, depressive, or anxiety disorder and committing suicide.

    What are treatments for schizophrenia and the side effects of those treatments?

    Medications

    Given the seriousness and chronic nature of schizophrenia, home remedies are not deemed appropriate treatment for this condition. There is currently not thought to be a cure for schizophrenia, but there are a number of helpful treatments available, of which medication remains the cornerstone of treatment for people with this condition. These medications are often referred to as antipsychotics since they help decrease the intensity of psychotic symptoms. Many health-care professionals prescribe one of these medications, sometimes in combination of one or more other psychiatric medications, in order to maximize the benefit for the person with schizophrenia.

    Medications that are thought to be particularly effective in treating positive symptoms of schizophrenia include olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), ziprasidone (Geodon), aripiprazole (Abilify), paliperidone (Invega), asenapine (Saphris), lurasidone (Latuda), and iloperidone (Fanapt). These medications are the newer group of antipsychotic medications, also called second-generation antipsychotic drugs. They are known for having the ability to work quickly compared to many other psychiatric medications. As a group of medications, side effects that occur most often include sleepiness, dizziness, and increased appetite. Weight gain, which may be associated with higher blood sugar levels, elevated blood lipid levels, and sometimes increased levels of a hormone called prolactin, may also occur. Although older antipsychotic medications in this class like haloperidol (Haldol), perphenazine (Trilafon), and molindone (Moban) are more likely to cause muscle stiffness, shakiness, and very rarely uncoordinated muscle twitches (tardive dyskinesia) that can be permanent, health-care professionals appropriately monitor the people they treat for these potential side effects as well. Also, more recent research regarding all antipsychotic medications seems to demonstrate that the older (first-generation) antipsychotics are just as effective as the newer ones, both in the management of current symptoms and prevention of future symptoms, and have no higher rate of people stopping treatment because of any side effect the medications cause. Not all medications that treat schizophrenia in adults have been approved for use in treating childhood schizophrenia.

    Learn more about: Zyprexa | Risperdal | Seroquel | Geodon | Abilify | Invega | Saphris | Latuda | Fanapt | Haldol | perphenazine | Moban

    Mood-stabilizer medications like lithium (Lithobid), divalproex (Depakote), carbamazepine (Tegretol), and lamotrigine (Lamictal) can be useful in treating mood swings that sometimes occur in individuals who have a diagnosable mood disorder in addition to psychotic symptoms (for example, schizoaffective disorder, depression, in addition to schizophrenia). These medications may take a bit longer to work compared to the antipsychotic medications. Some (for example, lithium, divalproex, and carbamazepine) require monitoring of medication blood levels, and some can be associated with birth defects when taken by pregnant women.

    Learn more about: Depakote | Tegretol | Lamictal

    Antidepressant medications are the primary medical treatment for the depression that can often accompany schizophrenia. Examples of antidepressants that are commonly prescribed for that purpose include serotonergic (SSRI) medications that affect serotonin levels like fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), and escitalopram (Lexapro); combination serotonergic/adrenergic medications (SNRIs) like venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta), as well as bupropion (Wellbutrin), which is a dopaminergic (affecting dopamine levels) antidepressant medication.

    Learn more about: Prozac | Zoloft | Paxil | Celexa | Lexapro | Effexor | Cymbalta | Wellbutrin

    Despite its stigmatized history, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be a viable treatment for people whose schizophrenia has inadequately responded to a number of medication trials and psychosocial interventions.

    When treating pregnant individuals with schizophrenia, health-care professionals take great care to balance the need to maintain the person's more stable thoughts and behavior while minimizing the risks that medications used to treat this disorder may present. While some medications that treat schizophrenia may carry risks to the fetus in pregnancy and during breastfeeding, careful monitoring of how much medication is administered and the health of the fetus and of the mother can go a long way toward protecting the fetus from any such risks, while maximizing the chance that the fetus will grow in the healthier environment afforded by an emotionally healthy mother.

    Psychosocial interventions

    Family psycho-education: In addition to educating family members about the symptoms, course, and treatment of schizophrenia, this form of treatment consists of providing family support, problem-solving skills, and access to care providers during times of crises. When this intervention is consistently provided for at least several months, it has been found to decrease the relapse rate for the individual with schizophrenia and improve the person's social and emotional outcomes. Also, the burden that family members experience as a result of having a loved one with schizophrenia is lessened, family members tend to be more knowledgeable about the disorder and feel more supported by the professionals involved, and family relationships are improved.

    Assertive community treatment (ACT): This intervention consists of members of the person's treatment team meeting with that individual on a daily basis, in community settings (for example, home, work, or other places the person with schizophrenia frequents) rather than in an office or hospital setting. The treatment team is made up of a variety of professionals. For example, a psychiatrist, nurse, case manager, employment counselor, and substance-abuse counselor often make up an ACT team. ACT tends to be successful in reducing how often people with schizophrenia are hospitalized or become homeless.

    Substance abuse treatment: Providing medical and psychosocial interventions that address substance abuse should be an integral part of treatment as about 50% of individuals with schizophrenia suffer from some kind of substance abuse or dependence.

    Social skills training: Also called illness management and recovery programming, social-skills training involves teaching clients ways to handle social situations appropriately. It often involves the person scripting (thinking through or role-playing) situations that occur in social settings in order to prepare for those situations when they actually occur. This treatment type has been found to help people with schizophrenia resist using drugs of abuse, as well as improve their relationships with health-care professionals and with people at work.

    Supported employment: This intervention provides supports like a work coach (someone who periodically or consistently counsels the client in the workplace), as well as instruction on constructing a résumé, interviewing for jobs, and education and support for employers to hire individuals with chronic mental illness. Supported employment has been found to help schizophrenia sufferers secure employment, earn more money, and increase the number of hours they are able to work.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a reality-based intervention that focuses on helping a client understand and change patterns that tend to interfere with his or her ability to interact with others and otherwise function. Except for people who are actively psychotic, CBT has been found to help individuals with schizophrenia decrease symptoms and improve their ability to function socially. This intervention can be done either individually or in group sessions.

    Weight management: Educating people with schizophrenia about weight gain and related health problems that can be a side effect of some antipsychotic and other psychiatric medications has been found to be helpful in resulting in a modest weight loss. That is also true when schizophrenia sufferers are provided with behavioral interventions to assist with weight loss.

    What are potential complications of schizophrenia? What is the prognosis for schizophrenia?

    Possible complications for schizophrenia range from more medical illnesses (morbidity) or shortened life span (mortality) to negative impacts on their family members as well. For example, women with schizophrenia are thought to be more likely to suffer from complications during their pregnancies, at delivery and during their children's newborn period.

    Individuals with schizophrenia have more than twice the rate of death than those without the disorder. Almost half of people with schizophrenia will suffer from a substance-use disorder (for example, alcohol, marijuana, or other substance) during their lifetime. Research shows that people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder have a better quality of life if their family members tend to be more supportive and less critical of them.

    What research is being done on schizophrenia?

    Cognitive remediation continues to be an experimental treatment that addresses the cognitive problems that are associated with schizophrenia (for example, memory problems, learning problems). Studies using this intervention in combination with vocational rehabilitation to improve work functioning have shown some promise, but more research is needed, particularly that which focuses on improving how well the person with schizophrenia functions in real-world situations as a result of this treatment.

    Peer-to-peer treatment is a promising possible intervention since it promotes active constructive involvement from people who have schizophrenia, provides role models for individuals whose functioning is less stable, and may be accessible in individual and group settings, in person as well as by telephone or through the Internet. However, further research is necessary to demonstrate its effectiveness in decreasing symptoms or otherwise clearly improving functioning for people with schizophrenia.

    In terms of weight management, more research is needed to explore how to best help people with schizophrenia retain the weight loss they achieve and even to prevent weight gain in the first place.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

    Given the seriousness and chronic nature of schizophrenia, home remedies are not deemed appropriate treatment for this condition. There is currently not thought to be a cure for schizophrenia, but there are a number of helpful treatments available, of which medication remains the cornerstone of treatment for people with this condition. These medications are often referred to as antipsychotics since they help decrease the intensity of psychotic symptoms. Many health-care professionals prescribe one of these medications, sometimes in combination of one or more other psychiatric medications, in order to maximize the benefit for the person with schizophrenia.

    Medications that are thought to be particularly effective in treating positive symptoms of schizophrenia include olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), ziprasidone (Geodon), aripiprazole (Abilify), paliperidone (Invega), asenapine (Saphris), lurasidone (Latuda), and iloperidone (Fanapt). These medications are the newer group of antipsychotic medications, also called second-generation antipsychotic drugs. They are known for having the ability to work quickly compared to many other psychiatric medications. As a group of medications, side effects that occur most often include sleepiness, dizziness, and increased appetite. Weight gain, which may be associated with higher blood sugar levels, elevated blood lipid levels, and sometimes increased levels of a hormone called prolactin, may also occur. Although older antipsychotic medications in this class like haloperidol (Haldol), perphenazine (Trilafon), and molindone (Moban) are more likely to cause muscle stiffness, shakiness, and very rarely uncoordinated muscle twitches (tardive dyskinesia) that can be permanent, health-care professionals appropriately monitor the people they treat for these potential side effects as well. Also, more recent research regarding all antipsychotic medications seems to demonstrate that the older (first-generation) antipsychotics are just as effective as the newer ones, both in the management of current symptoms and prevention of future symptoms, and have no higher rate of people stopping treatment because of any side effect the medications cause. Not all medications that treat schizophrenia in adults have been approved for use in treating childhood schizophrenia.

    Learn more about: Zyprexa | Risperdal | Seroquel | Geodon | Abilify | Invega | Saphris | Latuda | Fanapt | Haldol | perphenazine | Moban

    Mood-stabilizer medications like lithium (Lithobid), divalproex (Depakote), carbamazepine (Tegretol), and lamotrigine (Lamictal) can be useful in treating mood swings that sometimes occur in individuals who have a diagnosable mood disorder in addition to psychotic symptoms (for example, schizoaffective disorder, depression, in addition to schizophrenia). These medications may take a bit longer to work compared to the antipsychotic medications. Some (for example, lithium, divalproex, and carbamazepine) require monitoring of medication blood levels, and some can be associated with birth defects when taken by pregnant women.

    Learn more about: Depakote | Tegretol | Lamictal

    Antidepressant medications are the primary medical treatment for the depression that can often accompany schizophrenia. Examples of antidepressants that are commonly prescribed for that purpose include serotonergic (SSRI) medications that affect serotonin levels like fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), and escitalopram (Lexapro); combination serotonergic/adrenergic medications (SNRIs) like venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta), as well as bupropion (Wellbutrin), which is a dopaminergic (affecting dopamine levels) antidepressant medication.

    Learn more about: Prozac | Zoloft | Paxil | Celexa | Lexapro | Effexor | Cymbalta | Wellbutrin

    Despite its stigmatized history, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be a viable treatment for people whose schizophrenia has inadequately responded to a number of medication trials and psychosocial interventions.

    When treating pregnant individuals with schizophrenia, health-care professionals take great care to balance the need to maintain the person's more stable thoughts and behavior while minimizing the risks that medications used to treat this disorder may present. While some medications that treat schizophrenia may carry risks to the fetus in pregnancy and during breastfeeding, careful monitoring of how much medication is administered and the health of the fetus and of the mother can go a long way toward protecting the fetus from any such risks, while maximizing the chance that the fetus will grow in the healthier environment afforded by an emotionally healthy mother.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

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