What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a disorder in which a person’s perception is out of touch with reality and the result is that they experience hallucinations, delusions and severely disordered thinking and behaviour. This disorder can be disabling and affect daily functioning. The cause of Schizophrenia is unknown but has been linked to genetics, altered brain structure, an imbalance of the brain chemicals or neurotransmitters, and family history. Although it is a lifelong diagnosis, early treatment and management of the disorder can prevent further complications and aid those diagnosed in living a fulfilling life.
How do I know I have Schizophrenia?
In some cases, Schizophrenia may develop slowly and may come in cycles. The early signs may include feelings of being watched, seeing things that aren't there, change in personality, deterioration of work performance, bizarre behaviour and withdrawal from socialising.
The symptoms of schizophrenia are categorised by positive and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms refer to disturbances that are "added" such as:
- False ideas about oneself or others (Delusions)
- Seeing, feeling, smelling or hearing things that aren't there (Hallucinations)
- Bizarre and disorganised behaviours related to routine, habits, hygiene, outbursts and anxiety
- Disordered and nonsense thinking
- Speaking in riddles and making up words
Negative symptoms refer to disturbances that are "taken away" from the person such as:
- Withdrawal from socialising
- Lack of drive
- Lack of interest
- Emotional flatness
- Oddly quiet
Similar symptoms may be present for the Schizophreniform disorder. This type of disorder affects the way in which an individual is able to identify reality. If the above symptoms have been present for less than six months, you may be diagnosed with schizophreniform disorder rather than schizophrenia.
A brief psychotic disorder is caused by trauma and has similar symptoms to schizophrenia such as delusions, hallucinations, and confusion, but does not indicate a chronic mental disorder. A temporary psychotic episode may last anything from one day to one month; however, behaviour during this episode may be severely abnormal and lead to violent behaviour or suicide. With her expertise in this field, Dr Mhlane will be able to diagnose what disorder may be present and how best to treat it.
Because schizophrenia, schizophreniform disorder and brief psychotic disorder, when left untreated, have been known to lead to social isolation, homelessness, depression, self-harm and often suicide, treatment is vital. If you experience any of these early symptoms or notice a loved one experiences such symptoms, it is essential to seek the help of a mental health professional such as Dr Mhlane.
How can Dr Tsepiso Mhlane help?
As a compassionate psychiatrist who strives for a person-centred approach to care, Dr Mhlane offers her expertise and guidance in treatment to aid mental wellness and fulfilling life for her patients. A combination of medication, psychosocial interventions and rehabilitation are required to treat and manage patients diagnosed with schizophrenia. Antipsychotic medications are able to treat the biochemical imbalances that cause schizophrenia as well as decrease the chances of relapse. In addition, individual and family therapy may be advised to normalise thought patterns, enhance communication with loved ones and help identify early signs of relapse. Rehabilitation is often needed to aid those with schizophrenia in aspects related to housing, jobs, self-help support groups and crisis situations. Whether therapy is done by herself or by a specialised psychologist, she aims to aid her patients towards rehabilitation and how to manage this lifelong diagnosis.