Just about schizophrenia

With a diagnosis of “schizophrenia” in Russia live about half a million people – that is, of the three hundred of your friends (friends on facebook, business contacts), one is likely to suffer from the disorder.       

Sick people in our country lack not only material assistance (medicines, hours of appointment with doctors) – others do not understand them, they are ashamed, afraid, they are removed from them, they cease to see people in them. You need to know and talk about schizophrenia , so we asked Doctor of Medical Sciences, Professor Irina Valentinovna Shcherbakova to answer the most common questions.              

Who can get schizophrenia? We often hear about her “hereditary disease” – so if all the relatives of a person are healthy, he will not get sick?   

Schizophrenia may start in any age, including in children, but most often manifests in adolescence and young adulthood. Cases of schizophrenia in the family, that is, “burdened heredity” – is common in patients, but the disease can develop with a completely “healthy” heredity.           

Any person is likely to get schizophrenia , regardless of whether he has sick relatives or not.   

What have you learned about schizophrenia in the last 5-15 years?   

Progress in schizophrenia research is not as rapid as we would like. Least is known about the causes of the disorder.    

That said, for the past 15 years scientists have proved the multifactorial nature of schizophrenia: a disease or a predisposition to it arise not only because of genetic abnormalities, but and for the account of developmental disorders of the nervous system during pregnancy, abnormalities in the neurochemical processes in the brain, as well as disorders of the immune system.            

How do doctors diagnose? A person without medical education may suspect schizophrenia in himself or in a loved one?  

The initial manifestations of schizophrenia are often nonspecific and can resemble neurosis, depression, and hysterical reactions. A person without medical education may pay attention to them and suspect mental ill-being in himself or a loved one. However , only a psychiatrist can understand the essence of these conditions, make a correct diagnosis, including schizophrenia.         

Take an online schizophrenia test.

Is there a quick and accurate way to confirm the diagnosis? 

The main diagnostic method is the clinical method: a conversation with a doctor, examination, a thorough analysis of the data provided by family members. Schizophrenia has a wide variety of clinical variants – sometimes it takes months to establish a diagnosis.   

The doctor uses additional methods to confirm schizophrenia. For example, pathopsychological examination is a study of basic mental functions by a clinical psychologist. Whenever possible, clinics use the results of modern scientific advances – special neurophysiological or immunological studies (scientists have already learned how to determine a predisposition to schizophrenia by certain blood parameters and by eye movement – editor’s note).          

What to do if clearly not everything is in order with a loved one , and he refuses to go to the doctor?      

Show patience, do not stop trying to persuade the sick person. This usually succeeds when the patient’s condition temporarily improves and makes it possible to realize the need to see a doctor.   

It is more likely to get a person’s consent to consult a psychiatrist or psychotherapist if his attention is focused not on the psychological state, but on somatic disorders – insomnia, weight loss, appetite, or loss of working capacity.      

How is schizophrenia treated? Necessarily whether to go to the hospital?  

Therapy for schizophrenia should be comprehensive and include special medications in combination with psychotherapy and social rehabilitation. The choice of these means and methods depends on the symptoms, the course of the disease, the social activity of a particular patient. Most patients, especially those with mild forms of schizophrenia, are treated on an outpatient basis.       

The decision on hospitalization of a patient is made only by a psychiatrist after assessing the clinical condition of a person (symptoms and their severity) and on the basis of the law on psychiatric care adopted in the Russian Federation .       

It is better to be examined and treated for the first time in a hospital, but if the sick person observes the doctor’s recommendations and regularly visits the dispensary, most likely they will not have to be hospitalized .     

Is schizophrenia a sentence? Will the person be able to lead a “normal”, habitual life after treatment? 

Schizophrenia is not a sentence! The main condition for confronting the disease is that a person should not hesitate to contact a specialist so that the doctor prescribes therapy in a timely manner, can prevent exacerbations of the disease and, together with the patient and family, support his social functioning.         

Modern psychotropic drugs in most cases provide the patient with control over the symptoms of the disease, allow maintaining a sufficiently high level of quality of life. 

Is every person with schizophrenia dangerous? Possible whether he drive a car or to stay with the children at home?   

Of course not. The likelihood of socially dangerous actions on the part of the patient increases during an exacerbation of the disease if there are psychotic symptoms – delirium (persistent beliefs of a person that do not correspond to reality and cannot be dissuaded – editor’s note), hallucinations. Such conditions weaken the critical abilities of patients (the person does not understand that he is sick) and require inpatient treatment.          

In remission, against the background of supportive, preventive therapy, patients return to their usual way of life. Specific issues related to driving vehicles, staying with small children are individually decided by a psychiatrist or a group of expert psychiatrists.     

How to behave with relatives and friends How can I help someone with schizophrenia?  

Family members should seek the advice of a psychiatrist or psychotherapist. If the patient is receiving outpatient treatment, the specifics of the disease and symptoms should be discussed with the doctor .   

This usually happens during family therapy sessions, where relatives learn about the signs of a worsening mental state, possible side effects of drugs. This knowledge will help to quickly provide medical assistance to the patient.  

An important task of loved ones is to help a person acquire new contacts, interests; involve the sick person in feasible work processes, teach them to independently solve everyday problems.  

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