According to the American Psychiatric Association, schizophrenia, a mental health problem, is characterized by delusions and hallucinations as a result of the difficulty in thinking and focusing. Patients have trouble distinguishing between actual experiences and imagination. Thought it is just a common mental illness? Think again. Here are five interesting discoveries about schizophrenia in recent years:
More People Than You Think Has Schizophrenia
People have sidelined schizophrenia as a somewhat rare disease, affecting only 1% of the world’s population. However, 12% of all suicide cases are related to schizophrenia. “Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between 14 and 25, and about 30,000 people in the United States commit suicide each year.” Torey C. Richards, LMHC said. What is more alarming is that those with schizophrenia who commit suicide are becoming younger and younger, at 25% of people aged 25 to 34. Statistics from mental health institutions reveal that more than half of schizophrenic patients actually seek medical intervention few weeks before they commit suicide.
Schizophrenia May Have Something To Do With The Genes
“Schizophrenia is a thought disorder,” says Simon Rego, PsyD. For the longest time, scientists have not been able to pinpoint what causes schizophrenia as it appears to be a result of a myriad of factors, including a person’s environment. Years of research has led scientists to the discovery of C4, a schizophrenia risk gene that causes the “synaptic pruning,” or the decaying and dying off, of neural connections. Higher levels of C4 activity were found among schizophrenic patients compared to those who did not experience it.
Machines Can Now Predict The Incidence Of Schizophrenia
Early diagnosis of schizophrenia would be a great help for both patients and doctors alike, but it remains to be a continuous challenge. A machine-learning algorithm is now able to identify patients with schizophrenia at 78% accuracy. It does so by looking at neural connections in the superior temporal cortex to the other areas of the brain through magnetic resonance imaging or MRI images. Identification is the first step towards recovery and building the resilience in living with schizophrenia.
Haphazard Treatment Of Schizophrenia Is A No-No
In one clinical trial in Europe, 446 patients with schizophrenia received treatment for four weeks with up to 800 mg per day dosage of amisulpride. Soon after, some of those who did not experience remission were given a different antipsychotic, the olanzapine, for six more weeks. After ten weeks, there was nothing that improved for these patients. The additional and differing medications proved ineffective to at least temper the effects of schizophrenia. It means treatment for schizophrenia cannot simply be mixed and matched, more so, done in a hasty aggressive manner.
A Food Preservative Can Help Alleviate Symptoms
According to a new randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled test, the addition of sodium benzoate, a common food preservative, to clozapine has an effect of improving negative symptoms among patients who have not achieved remission using other medications. Sodium benzoate increases a person’s cognitive function and takes down schizophrenia’s adverse side effects. It is said to improve the patient’s mood, motivation, and overall outlook.
Aside from these, there have been a lot of recent studies about schizophrenia, its possible causes, and even hints about how we can finally cure it. The ultimate goal is that as the years pass by, scientists will eventually learn the ins and outs of the mental disease and work around to help more people overcome schizophrenia.
“Often psychotherapy is not considered to be effective with individuals dealing with schizophrenia spectrum disorders. But a cognitive-relational psychotherapy approach helps form a warm, trusting and detached relationship, conveys an understanding and concern for one’s client, and involves the therapist telling that individual their own empathic views about what that individual is dealing with.” – Ann Reitan, PsyD