Schizophrenia is a very serious mental disorder which can be devastating to those affected and their families. It is thought to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and is estimated to affect between 0.5% and 1% of the population. Because of its debilitating effects, Schizophrenia often goes hand-in-hand with Substance Abuse Disorder.
Movies and TV shows have created a lot of misconceptions when it comes to Schizophrenia which we’d like to clear up. People with Schizophrenia do not all live in mental hospitals. Not all of them are homeless and they do not have multiple personalities.
Treatment is possible and typically includes medication and psychiatric support on a long-term and often lifelong basis. However, it is important to note that because Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Disorder are very closely linked, addiction treatment is often needed to improve outcomes.
Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia
- Seeing, smelling, or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
- Paranoia and delusions
- The “flat effect” wherein the patient loses the ability to feel emotions
- Trouble with logical thinking
- Disordered thoughts and speech
- Problems with attention, concentration and/or memory
- Self isolation and social withdrawal
- Loss of personal hygiene
- Unexplained fears of basic things like eating or drinking
Four Subtypes of Schizophrenia
There are four types of Schizophrenia which bear the name of their dominant symptom. They are follows:
People with Paranoid Schizophrenia are consumed by the idea that they are being persecuted, threatened, or controlled by people or even inhuman forces. As a result of this paranoia, Paranoid Schizophrenics are usually socially isolated and can act with hostility, irritability and be perpetually afraid of others. They may often hear voices telling them to harm themselves or others. Hallucinations and delusions are very prominent in this type of Schizophrenia.
Disorganized Schizophrenics often exhibit bizarre behaviors, incoherent speech, chaotic thought patterns, and unusual emotional reactions. As a result, they tend to have trouble holding a job, taking care of themselves, and interacting with others.
Residual Schizophrenia is when someone has been affected by the disorder in the past but is no longer exhibiting obvious symptoms. For example, a patient may not experience the more debilitating aspects of the disorder such as hallucinations or paranoia, but are still affected by some of the less severe symptoms.
This form of Schizophrenia typically defies categorization, as symptoms don’t fit specifically into one of the other subtypes. They might have a milder experience than is clear for diagnosis, or only show some of the symptoms for diagnosis.
Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse
Therapists often consider substance abuse to be a side effect of Schizophrenia. Studies have shown substance abuse rates among people with Schizophrenia is 50% higher than that of the general population.
For example, the use of alcohol is common among people with Schizophrenia. Because alcohol dampens neurotransmitter activity in the brain, it slows things down. For people with Schizophrenia, this slowing can temporarily quiet the noise of a brain that runs on high speed all day long.
Unfortunately, abusing a substance like alcohol doesn’t actually help treat the problem. Instead, it can actually exacerbate some symptoms. For example, alcohol can make hallucinations more pronounced. Furthermore, the lowering of inhibition from alcohol use also makes the erratic behaviors associated with Schizophrenia much harder to control.
Proper treatment of both Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Disorder together can help patients have the best chance at long term recovery and a normal life.
Treatment for Addiction and Schizophrenia
Medication in combination with Psychological therapy is an important aspect of Schizophrenia treatment. While it cannot cure the disorder, medication can help mitigate symptoms so that patients can lead normal lives. Furthermore, therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Family Systems Therapy, and Trauma Therapies can be very helpful in working through the emotional and psychological trauma caused Schizophrenia.
If you or a loved one are suffering with Co-occurring Disorders like Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Disorder, contact us today. We are here to help.