What Is Schizophrenia and How Does It Relate to Addiction?
Schizophrenia is a complex mental illness that impairs a person’s ability to manage emotions, make logical decisions and relate to the world around him or her. According to the American Psychiatric Association, just 1 percent of the U.S. population is currently struggling with schizophrenia.
It’s no surprise then that misinformation regarding this mental illness is so prevalent in popular culture. Many Americans associate schizophrenia with violent criminals seen on the big screen. Others confuse the symptoms of other mental illnesses, such as dissociative identity disorder, with the symptoms of schizophrenia.
In reality, most individuals struggling with schizophrenia are able to manage their illness and see improvements with consistent treatment. Unfortunately, misinformation is not the only barrier preventing those with schizophrenia from getting the treatment they need.
When Schizophrenia and Addiction Collide
The National Institute of Mental Health noted that substance use disorder is the most common type of mental illness to co-occur with schizophrenia. While researchers continue to debate the connection between these disorders, it is widely acknowledged that having a substance use disorder will limit the effectiveness of schizophrenia treatment.
The task of treating schizophrenia may seem daunting, but those who are able to control their illness through therapy and education are often able to lead healthy, normal lives.
Common Symptoms of Schizophrenia
The symptoms of schizophrenia can begin at any age, but most cases are diagnosed while the individual is in his or her late teens or 20s. Diagnosing schizophrenia via individual symptoms can be difficult, in part because the list of symptoms is so long and each one tends to fluctuate in severity.
Additionally, many of the symptoms of schizophrenia mimic behaviors common among anyone in their teens or early-to-mid 20s, such as changes in personality, new interests or sudden mood swings.
Grouping Together the Many Symptoms
The multitude of symptoms associated with schizophrenia can be organized into the following distinct categories:
- Hallucinations and Delusions. The most apparent cognitive problems associated with schizophrenia are the tendency for individuals to develop beliefs (delusions) or take in sensory information (hallucinations) that are not based in reality. An individual interpreting a typical social gesture, like a hand wave, as a personal threat is an example of a delusion. Seeing images that don’t exist or hearing voices are both common examples of hallucinations experienced by schizophrenia patients.
- Disorganization. Humans communicate effectively by sorting ideas and phrases into a logical flow that can be understood by others. Schizophrenia patients may struggle to perform the same type of mental organization, leading to difficulties in communication. In some cases, schizophrenia patients may even string together nonsensical words in an attempt to communicate.
- Negative Behaviors. Negative symptoms occur when a schizophrenia patient’s mental illness prevents him or her from performing everyday tasks or social behaviors. An inability to complete daily hygiene tasks or difficulties in making eye contact during conversation are both examples of negative symptoms.
- Limited Cognition: Schizophrenia patients often struggle to stay focused and maintain their concentration. As a result, declines in educational or work performance are common among those dealing with the mental illness. Likewise, sudden and troubling gaps in memory typify the cognition problems associated with schizophrenia.
Risk Factors for Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a rare disorder, and researchers are still working to define the exact conditions that increase an individual’s risk of developing the mental illness. However, a few factors have been identified as common among individuals who have developed schizophrenia.
The risk factors for schizophrenia include:
- Family history of mental illness
- Father’s age
- Consumption of mind-altering drugs during adolescence
- Complications during childbirth
- Chronic inflammation or autoimmune disease
Finding Schizophrenia and Addiction Treatment
As noted before, substance use disorder is the mental illness that most commonly co-occurs with schizophrenia. Unfortunately, the abuse of certain psychoactive drugs can actually worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia. Likewise, the use of other illegal drugs can also interfere with treatment. The most effective way for a schizophrenia patient escape this vicious cycle is to seek treatment for both forms of mental illness at the same time.
At The Treatment Center by The Recovery Village, we recognize the need for patients to receive treatment from a certified psychiatrist and an experienced physician. By offering dual diagnosis treatment to patients who are battling addiction and schizophrenia, we provide these individuals with the tools they need to successfully live a normal, healthy life.
Call us today at (866) 295-6003 if you have more questions about treatment for schizophrenia and drug or alcohol addiction. Our admissions counselors are standing by 24/7 to help you with the answers you need.