Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is one of the more severe mental health disorders as the people with it have periods where they cannot interpret reality normally. People with schizophrenia absolutely need lifelong medical treatment and the earlier treatment is received, the more likely you are to get symptoms under control before serious complications develop. Signs of schizophrenia include a combination of delusions, hallucinations and extremely disordered thinking that can be debilitating.

One study finds that black people have been disproportionately misdiagnosed as schizophrenic when suffering from severe depression. So it’s important to have accurate information on the signs and symptoms of it, as well as always getting a second and even a third opinion after being given a serious diagnosis.

Schizophrenia can also be confused with what’s called schizotypal personality disorder. People with this disorder are often deemed odd or eccentric and that don’t understand how relationships form or the impact of them. They also often suffer from extreme paranoia due to misinterpreting others motivations when the relationship is unable to form.

According to the DSM-5 (the diagnostic manual for mental health professionals) to be diagnosed with schizophrenia one has to exhibit two or more of the following for at lease a one-month period of time and at least one of them must be one of the first three symptoms listed:

  1. Delusions
  2. Hallucinations
  3. Disorganized speech
  4. Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior
  5. Diminished emotional expression
  6. Impairment in one of these major areas of functioning for a significant period of time: Work, interpersonal relations or self-care
  7. Schizoaffective, bipolar and depressive disorders have already been ruled out
  8. Disturbances are not caused by substance abuse or as a side effect of medication 
  9. Autism is ruled out

Schizophrenia can occur at any age but on average the symptoms manifest in ones early 20s for men and early 30s for women. It’s not very common to diagnosed before age 12 or after age 40.

Someone with schizophrenia may not realize that anything is wrong. As someone who loves them, if you see these signs manifesting, gently encourage them to see a therapist for their general well-being. You can find a list of black mental health professionals here.

Caring for sometime with schizophrenia can be taxing. If you’re feeling too overwhelmed or even suicidal you can immediately text ‘HELP’ to 741741 to speak with a crisis counselor. 

Other ways to help include educating yourself. There are many things your loved one may do that are out of their immediate control. Knowing what they can and cannot do will help you make more informed decisions on how to care for them. Stress exacerbates the symptoms of schizophrenia. If possible, keep your immediate environment calm and loving. Lastly, take care of yourself.

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