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To many of us the thought of losing your mind, to think critically, to lose touch with reality is so scary that we don’t want to think about it. But we must understand schizophrenia that of the 1.2% Americans living with schizophrenia, the vast majority are not receiving treatment. That’s about 3.2 million people. So understanding the treatable disease of the brain will go a long way to early diagnosis and care.
There is currently no physical or lab test that can absolutely diagnose schizophrenia – a psychiatrist usually comes to the diagnosis based on clinical symptoms. What physical testing can do is rule out a lot of other conditions (seizure disorders, metabolic disorders, thyroid dysfunction, brain tumor, street drug use, etc) that sometimes have similar symptoms.
According to the Diagnosticand Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR, schizophrenia is
characterized by profound disruption in cognition and emotion, affecting the most fundamental human attributes: language, thought, perception, affect, and sense of self. The wide ranging symptoms, frequently include psychotic manifestations, such as hearing internal voices or experiencing other sensations not connected to an obvious source (like an hallucination) and assigning unusual significance or meaning to normal events or holding fixed false personal beliefs (e.g. delusions).
A brief summary of negative symptoms in which to be aware:
- Lack of emotion – inability to enjoy regular activities as much as before
- Low energy – the person tends to sit around and sleep much more than normal
- Affective flattening – a blank, blunted facial expression, flat voice (lack of normal intonations and variance) or physical movements
- Alogia (difficulty or inability to speak)
- Inappropriate social skills or lack of interest or ability to socialize with other people
- Inability to make friends or keep friends, or not caring to have friends
- Social isolation – person spends most of the day alone or only with close family
Cognitive symptoms that can impact concentration and memory include:
- Disorganized thinking
- Slow thinking
- Difficulty understanding
- Poor concentration and poor memory
- Difficulty expressing thoughts
- Difficulty integrating thoughts, feelings and behavior
There are reliable resources available to assist you and/or your family if you need them. Online try, schizophrenia.com/ and Schizophrenics Anonymous offers support groups for people with schizophrenia. To find out about Schizophrenics Anonymous support groups in your area, contact your local Mental Health America affiliate mentalhealthamerica.net.