How common is schizophrenia and what are its symptoms?
20 million people in the world have schizophrenia. But when the symptoms for schizophrenia include isolation from friends and family, sleep problems, and irritability–how do we know the difference between mental illness and everyday reality? Moreover, with COVID-19, wouldn’t we all qualify for a diagnosis?
Yes, we’re all suffering, and all need help. For that reason, mental health clinics are overflowing, and therapists are booking months ahead. Our teenagers are silently depressed and none of us are getting regular sleep.
But what brings people into a therapist or psychologist’s office? It is the same thing that brings people into an Emergency Room–a preventable incident that’s now an urgent matter. In other words, trauma, or crisis.
As for me, I’m become overly transparent with my psychologist–for better or worse. For starters, I tell her I’m okay with death. Second, I’m also interested in acid/LSD. But she tells me, “your boat isn’t quite ready to sail out of the bay into the rough ocean.”
The point is, open up to your health care providers–physical and mental. They can help you prevent a disease from getting out of control. But remember, having a disease doesn’t define you as a person. It literally means you are “not at ease.”
Symptoms for schizophrenia
But what about schizophrenia? What are the symptoms for schizophrenia and how does it differ from other mental diagnoses? First, we’ll cover the initial symptoms, then the positive and negative symptoms, and finally the differences from other mental diseases. (Again, being “not at ease” mentally.)
According to Healthline, the initial symptoms for schizophrenia are:
- isolating oneself from friends and family
- changing friends or social groups
- a change in focus and concentration
- sleep problems
- irritability and agitation
- difficulties with schoolwork, or poor academic performance
But, really, don’t we all have some of these symptoms? Aren’t we all a bit irritable, have trouble sleeping, and have difficultly focusing? Or is it just me?
However, the symptoms for schizophrenia become more pronounced. Also, there are different forms of it: positive, negative, and cognitive. First, positive symptoms are things that differ from “normal healthy” individuals. Second, negative symptoms are what disrupt everyday life. Finally, cognitive symptoms are mental symptoms, which are difficult to detect and diagnose.
Again, from Healthline, these are the symptoms for schizophrenia:
- Thought disorders
- Movement disorders
- Disorganized thinking or speech, where the person changes topics rapidly when speaking or uses made-up words or phrases
- Trouble controlling impulses
- Odd emotional responses to situations
- Trouble experiencing pleasure
- Disorganized thinking, such as trouble focusing or paying attention
- Poor “executive functioning,” or understanding information and using it to make decisions
- Problems learning information and using it
- Lack of insight or being unaware of their symptoms
Degrees of mental health
The symptoms for schizophrenia make me realize it’s more common than we think. In other words, currently, 1% of the population is diagnosed as schizophrenic, but it should be more. But how much more?
Moreover, cognitive symptoms are so difficult to distinguish and diagnose that the professionals are challenged. Then what can we do? Because of this question, Robert Kolker (Twitter) wrote several articles and a book about a family with 12 children, six of whom had a schizophrenic diagnosis.
Furthermore, Matthew Dickson wrote an article about living with schizophrenia–he didn’t have hallucinations. Because the symptoms for schizophrenia are so common with everyday living, it can be all that more frustrating for people living with it.
Symptoms for schizophrenia triggered by environment
Symptoms for schizophrenia can increase with environmental triggers. Also, some say that environment can cause schizophrenia. Because of this, anyone concerned needs to seek professional help.
Remember, hallucinations are NOT symptoms for schizophrenia that show up in all people. Because symptoms like irritation, odd emotional responses to situations, and disorganized thinking, are common–especially during current living conditions–it is imperative to have regular mental checkups. Similarly, people get physical checks, so they should also get mental checkups.
Artists, writers, musicians with schizophrenia
Many people in history showed the symptoms for schizophrenia. Examples include Einstein’s son, Zelda Fitzgerald, and John Nash (the mathematician featured in the movie A Beautiful Mind). Interestingly, a large portion of people on that list are creative types. In other words, they are artists, writers, and musicians.
One example of a famous musician with schizophrenia is Syd Barrett, one of Pink Floyd’s co-founders. Because he was in the spotlight, it made it easier for psychologists to analyze his life. However, despite diagnosing Barrett with schizophrenia, the cause was up for debate. For instance, were his symptoms caused by or, instead, increased by his use of acid.
This reminds me of my conversations with my mental health care provider. Perhaps my boat isn’t ready for the ocean. But this doesn’t mean that I have schizophrenia or any other diagnosis. However, that’s not up to me to decide. Not fully.
Symptoms for schizophrenia you absolutely can’t ignore
Because so many symptoms for schizophrenia coincide with stressors of everyday life, some symptoms stand out as clear indicators for help. For instance, seeing hallucinations or having paranoia are things that you should talk about with a professional. But it doesn’t mean you have schizophrenia. Nor does it mean that you should hide from a diagnosis.
Unfortunately, there is a stigma for mental health treatment. Therefore, the best strategy to get past this stigma is to normalize it. We must allow ourselves to accept help, just as we would if we were in medical dis-ease.
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