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A guide to Schizophrenia

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

Researcher & Writer: Nisa JASROTIA

Illustrator: Mia YUNG

Schizophrenia affects over 24 million people worldwide, however, less than a third of people receive treatment to combat it. There are many common misconceptions surrounding the cause of schizophrenia and how people act. A survey has found that almost 75% of Hong Kongers believe that schizophrenia is caused by psychological or personality issues, with about half believing that people with schizophrenia are more violent. To prevent these misunderstandings it is important to educate people and raise awareness so we can support those who are suffering.

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that mainly affects how a person thinks, acts and expresses emotions, understands reality and interacts with others. It often requires lifelong treatment as it can be disabling to those who have it.

Some of the most common symptoms include delusions which are false ideas and have no reality behind them. An example of this is being convinced that a major life-threatening event is about to happen. Another symptom includes hallucinations, which typically means that people may see or hear things that appear to be real but only exist in their heads. To the patient, it can feel extremely real and mimic a daily experience. These can occur in any of the 5 senses but the most common one is hearing voices. A person with schizophrenia may also communicate in a disorganised manner. They may not be able to articulate sentences properly and may place random mismatched words together. They may also have abnormal motor behaviour which can range from childlike goofiness to unpredictable rage or may manifest as aimless, repetitive movements. Negative thoughts and decreased desire to engage socially or take part in activities may also occur in a person suffering from schizophrenia.

Sadly, the exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. Psychiatrists think it’s caused due to a broad combination of environmental, physical, psychological and genetic factors. A study has found that if one twin has schizophrenia, there is a 1 in 2 chance that the other twin will also have schizophrenia, suggesting genetics could play a role and it could be possible to inherit schizophrenia. Looking more at the nurture side, stress and drug abuse can also be a possible trigger of schizophrenia.

The most common treatments for schizophrenia include antipsychotic medications which aim to control symptoms by altering dopamine and serotonin levels. Dopamine and serotonin levels mainly affect mood, movement, how we respond to rewards and how we experience pleasure. Another form of treatment is psychosocial therapy, in which therapists help teach patients and families coping mechanisms that can be used in social situations, at home, at work or in relationships, Therapists also discuss the common challenges that come with suffering from schizophrenia. Another form of therapy which can be used to treat schizophrenia is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT helps provide problem solving skills and better social skills to patients with schizophrenia. This helps reduce the intensity of symptoms and lower the possibility of a relapse.

There are also many ways in which we can support someone suffering from schizophrenia. Some of them can be really simple tasks such as trying to actively listen and understand someone while they may be having hallucinations or delusions. Small acts such as encouraging them to take their medications also go a long way. It is important to pay attention to symptoms, and it is always advisable to seek medical help if we notice someone’s symptoms get worse.


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