Hi, I'm Dr. David Goldblum, senior medical advisor at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and I'm here to talk to you today about schizophrenia—a serious, sometimes long-term, mental disorder that can have a range of symptoms.
There's no single cause for schizophrenia but we do know that there is a genetic connection as well as evidence of disturbances in brain chemistry and brain function.
Social and environmental factors may also play a contributing role.
What we do know is that schizophrenia is not split personality. And when people use the term casually, for instance describing the weather as schizophrenic because it's warm in the morning and chilly in the afternoon, then that really trivializes the meaning of the illness for people who have it—and for their families.
About one in 100 people develop schizophrenia.
Men and women are affected equally. However, men tend to have their first episode of schizophrenia in their late teens or early twenties. For women, the onset is usually a few years later.
People with schizophrenia can have a range of symptoms including periods of psychosis where they have trouble distinguishing what's real from what they are thinking or feeling. Indeed, schizophrenia has the potential to seriously disturb people's abilities to think, to feel and to interact with other people.
Symptoms may include:
- Delusions: These are false beliefs that are not based in reality. They can be very frightening, like the belief that people you don't know are trying to hurt you or monitor you.
- Hallucinations: These usually involve seeing or hearing things that don't exist.
- Thought disorder: This is a disruption in the logical flow of thinking that can make it very difficult for other people to understand what the process is.
Other symptoms may include difficulty in taking care of the basics of everyday living. Some people may appear emotionally flat or they seem to have more trouble planning and carrying out daily activities. They might be more socially isolated or they may neglect their own personal hygiene.
The vast majority of people with schizophrenia are treated as outpatients but sometimes when people's illness worsens, they need to be hospitalized just like any other illness.
Treatment for people with schizophrenia typically involves anti-psychotic medication as well as a combination of psychosocial interventions. Things like cognitive behavioral therapy or family counselling, social and life skills training, housing and supportive employment.
Schizophrenia strikes at young people at the very age when they're routinely acquiring the skills necessary for independent living. Early intervention represents our best hope for young people with schizophrenia, in terms of changing how they experience their illness, helping them fulfill their potential and optimizing their quality of life.
It's difficult to predict how well someone will recover after their first experience with schizophrenia. However, some people have only one episode of symptoms. But most people will experience recurring episodes of symptoms. Nevertheless, most people with schizophrenia can live independently and experience recovery in a whole variety of ways. And most people will require medication and various levels of support from the healthcare system, from their communities and from their families for the rest of their lives.
The good news is that research is improving our understanding of schizophrenia—what causes it and how to treat it, while minimizing the side effects.
If you're looking for more information about schizophrenia services, you can contact access CAMH at 416 535-8501 and press option 2.
I'm Dr. David Goldblum. Thanks for watching