Schizophrenia: Is it Curable? Causes and Diagnosis

Schizophrenia is a psychotic disease that is affecting over 20 million individuals globally. The condition is characterized by impaired thinking, distorted perceptions, emotional distress, and strange social behavior associated with withdrawal, delusions, and misbeliefs. Depending on the determined symptoms, schizophrenia may be classified into schizoaffective, catatonia, hebephrenia, paranoid schizophrenia, and childhood-onset schizophrenia disorders. The condition may be considered as a severe disability because it limits functional ability in work, education, parenting, interpersonal relationships, self-care, and independent living. Efforts to find a cure for schizophrenia have been met by limited success. However, novel advances in genetic engineering and pharmacology promise a new direction to the treatment and management of the condition. This essay describes the grounds for vulnerability, diagnosis, treatment approaches, and clinical impressions of the existing medication.

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Causes

The particular causes of schizophrenia have not been discovered up to date. However, numerous studies have shown that a combination of psychological, genetic, physical, and environmental factors can expose an individual to the psychotic condition. According to research, some people are more susceptible to the ailment as compared to others. From a genetic point of view, psychotic illnesses tend to run in families, but no particular genes can be associated with the development of schizophrenia. It is perceived that different groupings of genes make individuals more disposed to the condition (Rasool et al., 2018).

Nonetheless, this thought does not imply that persons with such genes will necessarily develop schizophrenia. It has also been observed that if one twin in a monozygotic matching acquires the disorder, the other has a 50% chance of exposure. This phenomenon has been proved correct even in cases where the twins are brought up separately. Contrastingly, when one twin in a dizygotic make-up develops the psychotic disorder, the other has 1 out of 8 probability of becoming schizophrenic.

Another factor that has been thought to influence the susceptibility to schizophrenia is brain development. Some studies indicate that individuals with this condition have indefinable variations in brain structure. These differences are not common among people with schizophrenia, which means that the disorder can also occur in persons without any record of mental illness.

Diagnosis

Without a biological marker, the diagnosis of schizophrenia hinges on the analysis of the mental conditions of individuals with psychological illnesses through clinical interviews and direct observation of the patient’s physical and cognitive behavior. Approaches to the examination of people suspected to suffer from this condition take into account modern operationalized diagnostic systems, which have proven to be effective (Olajossy & Soroka, 2017). However, from a scientific viewpoint, the validity of this method is questionable since it cannot be validated; this situation makes it a provisional diagnostic approach, leaving room for future research and development of alternative examination biotechniques. The difference between schizophrenia and other psychotic conditions is vague, which makes its distinction at early stages extremely challenging.

There are no defined schizophrenic signs, and, thus, the diagnosis demands the assessment of many symptoms over a long time. Although this analytic approach is standardized, its relevance in clinical practice is imprecise. The diagnosis of schizophrenia lacks sufficient medical information to support a perfect treatment plan since its symptoms are evident in numerous neurological and psychiatric disorders (Kane et al., 2018). For this reason, a differential approach is necessary for ruling out pathological differences among patients suffering from psychotic disorders. Some of the distinguished schizophrenic signs that are considered in this approach include temporal lobe epilepsy, frontal and limbic central nervous system (CNS) neoplasms, CNS traumas, cerebrovascular accidents, acute transient psychosis, affective and delusional disorders, and other CNS-related diseases, including malaria, neurosyphilis, herpes encephalitis, leukodystrophy, and systemic lupus erythematosus, among others.

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Treatment

Currently, there is no known cure for schizophrenia despite much clinical efforts to discover a permanent remedy. However, effective treatment prescriptions play a critical role in the management of symptoms and the prevention of relapses, which averts hospitalization. Responses to prescribed drugs vary across patients; therefore, doctors provide tailored treatments that suit their medical needs (Kane et al., 2018). Many medical professionals avoid addressing this condition in terms of cure but instead promise recovery to the patients. Finding a perfect remedy to this condition is challenging because it is believed that tremendous damage occurs to the patient’s brains for each psychotic episode (Kane et al., 2018). The complexity of this disorder arises where some schizophrenic patients show persistent symptoms while functioning normally, whereas others show no indications of the ailment but are unable to execute their usual duties.

Nevertheless, recovery from schizophrenia is possible through the management of symptoms. In a psychiatric perspective, the term recovery is used to mean that the individual suffering from a schizophrenic condition can regain the ability to perform various functions such as work, education, engage in family and relationships, and carry on any other duties with little or no limitations (Kane et al., 2018). Undergoing a diagnosis for schizophrenia can distress patients since they may be struggling to think, manage their feelings, relate to other individuals, and even conduct themselves usually.

Despite the prevalent delusion that people living with schizophrenia may never recover or show improvement, new scientific discoveries in the field of medicine have given more hope to them. Although there is no cure, patients can be treated and taught how to manage their symptoms with medication, self-help tips, and supportive therapies. Studies have proved that people with schizophrenia get better with continuous management of the disorder (Kane et al., 2018). The condition is often episodic, and the time at which one breaks from experiencing the severest symptoms provides the best chance to commence self-help control measures to limit the duration and frequency of future incidents. Further research has also indicated that many people with schizophrenia show improved health over time as opposed to deterioration.

Coping with Schizophrenia

Coping with most psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia, is a lifetime process. Although patients may recover, it does not imply that they will not experience further difficulties or symptoms from the condition. For this reason, they should learn to manage signs and develop good support while focusing on a rewarding, purpose-driven life. An effective schizophrenic treatment strategy blends medication with self-help, supportive aid, and therapy sessions.

Treatment for schizophrenia is deemed effective when the disorder is identified early enough by a psychoanalyst. Timely diagnosis allows for better chances of gaining improved health. The treatment of schizophrenia is a multidisciplinary approach based on a combination of therapeutic factors, as medication alone is inadequate (Ners & Yulitasari, 2020). Patients are, therefore, advised to seek practical knowledge about the illness from doctors, therapists, and other informational sources. They are also supposed to build a supportive system, devise self-help measures, and ensure holistic adherence to the prescribed treatment procedure. Individual-level steps such as relieving stress, seeking social support, and change of diet are often underestimated in the management of schizophrenia (Ners & Yulitasari, 2020). However, many studies show that such measures play a critical role in determining the rate of recurrence and severity of symptoms, improvement of one’s emotional state, and self-esteem. In most cases, doctors may reduce medication when the patients stick to the suggested treatment plan. While the specialists do a great job to tailor treatments that suit individual needs, the patients have to ensure that they make part of the process by taking medications and therapy procedures as prescribed.

Personal attitude towards diagnosis and treatment is a vital factor in the management of schizophrenia. Patients are encouraged to accept the health examination results and take a proactive role in the efforts towards recovery. It requires one to sacrifice favorite ways of life and adopt a healthier lifestyle, take prescribed antipsychotic drugs, and observe counseling sessions (Ners & Yulitasari, 2020). Furthermore, patients should shun away from the stigma of schizophrenia as may fears created about the disorder are idealistic. They should also ensure constant communication with their doctors and therapists to ascertain that they are receiving the recommended medicine in the right dosage. Any side effects, concerns, and arising treatment matters should be raised to the appropriate specialist to allow them to take the next course of action in advance. Besides, patients are encouraged to pursue personal-level therapy to assist them in managing schizophrenic symptoms and regain control over their well-being. Self-support is essential because it trains patients to disregard delusional beliefs, protect themselves against relapse, and focus on positive activities that trigger motivation and bring about happiness.

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Recent Developments in Medication

The most recent advancement in the treatment of schizophrenia is the innovation of third-generation or D2/D2 partial agonistic drugs such as cariprazine, brexpiprazole, and aripiprazole. Also known as dopamine-serotine stabilizers, these medicines increase the signals in areas where dopamine and serotine activity is low and vice versa. They correct the imbalance of particular signal pathways in the patient’s brain in a way that improves their condition. A low dosage of the drugs, about 10ml to 30ml a day, has become a popular choice for the treatment of schizophrenia (Kane et al., 2018). Third-generation drugs, especially aripiprazole, induce insignificant changes in the functioning of the bodily systems, thereby reducing the need for close monitoring of the patients. Nonetheless, it should be noted that prolonged use of the drugs may interfere with the heart’s electrical rhythm, blood pressure, and body temperature, among other effects associated with psychotic medications.

Conclusion

Despite concerted efforts to find a cure, medical researchers have been challenged by the vague distinctiveness between the symptoms of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. As a result, the treatment of the condition requires a multidisciplinary approach starting from the initial signs of a psychotic episode. Early diagnosis of the disease is vital to allow enough time for doctors to tailor suitable medication plans. Professionals in this field must take into account the possible side-effects that may result from nonadherence by developing an all-inclusive treatment plan. Patients should also take medical instructions and therapy with seriousness to speed up the process of recovery. Despite the fact patients can achieve improved health through existing pharmacological and nonpharmacological approaches to ensure substantial patient recovery, future studies in this area should address various gaps in the treatment and, perhaps, a cure for schizophrenia.

References

Kane, J. M., Agid, O., Baldwin, M. L., Howes, O., Lindenmayer, J. P., Marder, S.,… & Correll, C. U. (2019). Clinical guidance on the identification and management of treatment-resistant schizophrenia. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 80(2).

Ners, M., & Yulitasari, B. I. (2020). Self-efficacy and the quality of life of schizophrenia caregivers. Jurnal Ners dan Kebidanan Indonesia, 7(2), 79-85.

Olajossy, M., & Soroka, E. (2017). Can the symptoms of schizophrenia be reset? Current Problems of Psychiatry, 18(4), 264-271.

Rasool, S., ZeeshanZafar, M., Ali, Z., & Erum, A. (2018). Schizophrenia: an overview. Clinical Practice, 15(5), 847-851.

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