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Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness most people don’t fully understand. Society has shunned those suffering from the condition for decades due to the symptoms and abnormal behavior associated with the disease. Discrimination has left a significant stigma around the illness.
With so little public knowledge about the warning signs of the condition, many people don’t even realize they have schizophrenia. Mental health awareness is crucial to destigmatizing these severe illnesses.
Increase your awareness and broaden your perspective with these 17 interesting facts about schizophrenia.
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17 Interesting Facts About Schizophrenia
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You must be ready to learn more information about the condition by now. Whether you or a loved one struggles with schizophrenia, you’ll benefit from these valuable facts.
1. There Used to Be Subtypes of Schizophrenia
To understand the condition better, you should know psychiatrists used to diagnose schizophrenia under specific subtypes. That was the standard practice until the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 came out in 2013.
The DSM-4 was the last edition to use subtypes for the condition. Since everyone’s experience with the disease varies, having rigid categories in a diagnosis became impossible.
Because schizophrenia has many symptoms that people experience individually, the manual was updated. For interest sake, the five subtypes of schizophrenia included: paranoid, disorganized, catatonic, undifferentiated, and residual.
2. Every Individual Has Their Own Set of Symptoms
As you can guess, the DSM-5 has changed how mental health practitioners approach the disorder. Before, people were categorized by clusters of symptoms and were offered specific treatments in line with those subtypes.
Now, a more individual approach is taken when diagnosing schizophrenia because no one person shares the same symptoms. That’s right, signs of the disease can be present in various combinations and severities.
The way people experience the condition is different from person to person. In addition, not all the symptoms are present at the same time. Some symptoms include: disorganized thinking, auditory hallucinations, and changed sleep patterns, for example.
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3. There Are Three Stages of Schizophrenia
If the disease seems confusing to you, don’t worry, some universal traits of schizophrenia make it easier to identify. Everyone with the condition goes through three stages as their schizophrenia progresses.
The first is the prodromal phase, where the early warning signs of schizophrenia often go undetected. This is because the symptoms aren’t severe or appear like other common mental illnesses.
The active phase follows, where the characteristic symptoms of the illness are present. Patients are usually diagnosed at this point as they experience a psychotic break, and their bizarre behavior causes concern.
Finally, the residual stage shows how symptoms change after the active phase. During this stage, a person will be relieved of some of their symptoms or have less severe symptoms.
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4. Schizophrenia Is Hard to Diagnose
Many factors make schizophrenia hard to diagnose. The age of onset can complicate identifying the disease as it could be confused for teenage angst, for example.
The prodromal phase can also make recognizing the illness tough. People often misdiagnose the early stages of schizophrenia for other mental conditions such as depression.
Schizophrenia doesn’t have a diagnostic test like other mental illnesses. Family history, observed behavior, and the patient’s experiences help form a diagnosis.
The result is that most people don’t get a diagnosis until they show full-blown characteristics of the illness.
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5. Men and Women Develop Schizophrenia at Different Ages
You might be surprised to know that men develop the condition earlier than women. Men are also more likely to be affected by the disease. The general population tends to develop schizophrenia in their adolescence and young adulthood.
However, men are more likely to present symptoms in their teens and 20s, while women develop symptoms in their late 20s and early 30s.
6. You’re More Likely to Develop Schizophrenia if a Family Member Has It
While having a family member with the disorder can increase the risk of having schizophrenia, there’s more to the story. Genetics plays a role in developing the condition, especially if a parent or close relative has it.
But there isn’t a specific cause. Scientists trace risk factors to both genetics and your environment. Your childhood, substance abuse, brain development, and chemical imbalances can affect your chances of getting schizophrenia.
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7. Psychosis Is a Defining Symptom of the Disease
Psychosis and schizophrenia are two different conditions. You don’t necessarily need to have schizophrenia to have a psychotic episode. However, most patients with schizophrenia have had a period of psychosis, which signals a loss of touch with reality.
The defining traits of a psychotic episode are hallucinations and delusions. These are some of the most well-known features of schizophrenia. When hallucinating, patients see, hear, taste, or feel things that aren’t there.
Hallucinations paired with delusions, which are false beliefs not shared by others, can be incredibly debilitating.
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8. People With Schizophrenia Have a Lower Mortality Rate
This condition sees a higher rate of suicide than other mental disorders. According to statistics, up to 40% of people with the illness will attempt to take their lives. Other factors that lower the mortality rate of schizophrenic patients are addiction, diabetes, heart problems, and discrimination.
Many people with the disorder are predisposed to abuse harder substances, with nicotine being the most used substance. They’re also more likely to suffer from health conditions like diabetes and heart problems due to poor health care.
Another big reason is discrimination. Society shuns people with schizophrenia making them vulnerable to neglect and abuse.
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9. There Are Positive and Negative Symptoms of the Disorder
You can categorize the traits of schizophrenia into positive and negative types. Negative expressions of the illness refer to an absence of normal mental functions. This can include a lack of pleasure, trouble speaking, a monotone voice, isolation, and the inability to cope with daily life.
Positive manifestations merely mean the presence of certain symptoms. You’ve already seen hallucinations and delusions, which are positive symptoms. However, there are also confused thoughts, lack of concentration, and movement disorders.
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10. Substance Abuse Can Increase the Risk of Developing the Condition
Abusing substances can indeed trigger people at risk of developing schizophrenia. Various studies have indicated that certain drugs are more likely to cause the condition’s onset.
This study shows the association between substance abuse and schizophrenia. The abuse of cannabis, alcohol, hallucinogens, and sedatives all increased the risk of developing schizophrenia. These substances were more likely to cause a psychotic episode in at-risk individuals.
Studies also find that teenagers and young adults who use cannabis frequently are more likely to develop the illness later in life.
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11. Schizophrenia Is Often Confused With Dissociative Identity Disorder
If you’ve seen any media surrounding “split personalities,” you’ll understand why these two conditions are often confused. The origin of the name ‘schizophrenia’ comes from the Greek words skhizein, which means ‘to split,’ and phrēn meaning ‘mind.’ The term likely suggests a removal from reality.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) was previously known as split personality disorder. DID is a dissociative condition caused by intense childhood trauma. The diseases share similarities, such as losing touch with reality, delusions, suicidal ideation, and hallucinations.
However, DID is characterized by the patient having two or more identities they switch from. While schizophrenia deals with false beliefs and delusions, it isn’t known for different personality states.
12. Schizophrenia Has Been Stigmatized by Movies and Television
The way pop culture has portrayed schizophrenia in film and TV has negatively affected how the illness is seen by society. Many films and shows exaggerate and misrepresent the symptoms of schizophrenia, adding to the stigma of the disease.
Media portrays the illness as violent, painting those with the disorder as a danger to themselves or others. When in reality, few schizophrenic people are violent.
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13. Schizophrenia in Young Children Is Very Rare
Some children can develop schizophrenia before adolescence, but it’s extremely rare. Only 0.4% of children will likely develop schizophrenia under the age of 13.
Early-onset schizophrenia is more likely to happen in children with brain structure issues, an older father, and a family history of the disorder.
It’s even harder to diagnose childhood schizophrenia. Many of the symptoms mimic the typical behavior of children, such as imaginary friends or tantrums.
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14. Schizophrenia Can Be Accompanied by Other Illnesses
Another reason schizophrenia is so hard to diagnose is that people often live with more than one mental illness. This is the case for most patients with OCD, depression, and anxiety alongside schizophrenia.
This is what doctors call comorbidity in schizophrenia. Simply put, comorbidity is the existence of two or more diseases or medical conditions in a patient. So you can assume that most people won’t have “pure” schizophrenia, just like most people aren’t entirely healthy.
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15. Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder Are Different Conditions
You’ll be interested to know that schizoaffective disorder isn’t related to schizophrenia but rather the psychosis associated with it.
Affect is your mood or emotional state. An affect disorder is simply a mood disorder like depression or bipolar disorder. Pair it with psychosis, and you have schizoaffective disorder.
This condition is characterized by severe mood episodes such as mania and typical symptoms of psychosis like hallucinations, delusions, and erratic behavior. The episode must last for a substantial period to meet the criteria of schizoaffective disorder.
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16. People With Schizophrenia May Have Abnormal Fingerprints
A surprising feature of schizophrenia is the suspected correlation between unusual fingerprints and an increased risk of developing the condition. The development of your fingerprints and your central nervous system happen at the same time in the womb.
If the whorls and loops of your fingers look abnormal, there may be a strong argument for a higher risk of schizophrenia. This scientific breakthrough could predict neurodegenerative diseases at birth in the future.
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17. Many People With Schizophrenia Suffer From Anosognosia
To make it even harder for early diagnosis, schizophrenia can cause another neurological condition called anosognosia. This disorder is troubling as it makes your brain unable to recognize some or all of your health conditions.
Anosognosia makes it extremely difficult for patients with schizophrenia to admit to their condition. But it’s more than denial. The disorder stops your brain from processing what your senses tell it.
Schizophrenic patients with this condition can be challenging as they don’t believe they need medication. This can also cause paranoia in schizophrenic patients with delusions that people are out to harm them.
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