By Ahmed Saeed, Psychologist
Mental Health and mental illnesses have been kept behind the curtains for a long time. It’s time that we bring the same out of the shadows and openly talk about it. People going through any mental illness are merely not “Pagal” people, who have lost track of their lives. Mental illness can take away someone’s cognitive abilities, ability to perceive the world, life satisfaction, and finally mental peace and will to be alive.
Schizophrenia is of serious mental illness, which can affect an individual’s complete life. It affects how a person sees themselves, feel, think, and even behave. The three basic functionalities of a human, which are their thoughts, emotions, and behavior, are majorly affected by this mental disorder. Schizophrenia can make its survivor seem like they have lost touch with reality which can be very confusing and at the same time, very distressing for them and also for their family and friends. Common misconceptions about this type of mental disorder include making the patient feel, they are making up their symptoms and implying that “it’s just a phase”. That is why it becomes the responsibility of people in the Mental Health world to address these issues and clear out such innumerable misconceptions.
Schizophrenia includes various problems which the patient has to deal with such as memory and attention difficulties, and difficulty with thinking(cognition). Also, recognizing their own emotions and expressing those, all of these symptoms may vary in their severity. People who are experiencing psychotic symptoms may lose their sense of reality with others. Have distorted perceptions of the outside world. These symptoms may come and go for some people. Others experience symptoms that gradually stabilize with time. Symptoms in schizophrenia are widely classified into two main groups- positive symptoms and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized behavior.
Symptoms of schizophrenia
- Delusions – Delusions are a strong set of beliefs that are not true and may seem very irrational to others. On the other hand, these very strong beliefs are ideas and thoughts. Which the patient believes to be entirely and completely true. There are various kinds of delusions. In some, patients might believe that people are conspiring against them. They are trying to harm them or their loved ones. Patients might also believe that their thoughts are not their own. Someone else is planting those thoughts into their minds, or someone is stealing their thoughts. They might also feel like people on the radio or television are sending them. Some secret messages are showing or telling whatever the patient is thinking. Patients might also have the belief that they have some superpower or supernatural abilities or are great personalities. Who has been sent to save the world and protect people?
- Hallucinations – Hallucinations are false perceptions. For example, for any other person, the five sense organs (Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin) in our body take in information only when there is a stimulus. When there is something to see, something to hear, something to smell, taste, and feel. In patients with schizophrenia, these senses perceive the information even. When there is no stimulus in the environment or in the surrounding. The hallucinations can happen in the form of hearing voices, seeing things, smelling weird objects which are not present, and feeling sensations on their skin. The most common are auditory hallucinations or hearing voices or sounds.
The negative symptoms may include a lack of drive or motivation, losing delight or interest in daily activities, and withdrawal from social interactions. And, having trouble expressing emotions, and having trouble carrying out basic tasks. A few of the signs of negative symptoms are mentioned below:
- Having problems organizing and completing tasks, like grocery shopping,
- Unable to anticipate or experience joy in daily life,
- Speaking in a monotone and displaying little facial expression,
- Avoiding or appearing awkwardly around people in social situations,
- Spending a lot of time on inactive tasks and having very little energy. Extreme cases of the rare disorder known as catatonia may cause a person to temporarily stop moving or speaking.
Living with Schizophrenia is not an easy task. People spend their whole lives to even start to comprehend the amount of distress this disorder causes to the patients and to their caregivers. Schizophrenia is not a made-up imaginary world by the patient to stay away from problems. The symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations are not imaginary, they are very much real. These symptoms cause patients to change the way they see the world, feel and behave. Patients get scared because of their own symptoms and might get agitated as well. It’s time we shorten the steps between such symptoms and the required treatments. This can only happen when common people like us become more and more aware of mental disorders and understand how important mental health is.