What causes schizophrenia and how is it diagnosed?

Schizophrenia is a serious, chronic mental health condition that can cause delusions and psychoses. It usually appears during early adulthood and is more common in men, but it can happen at any age to anyone. There is no cure for schizophrenia, but with medications and behavioral health services , it can be managed. Getting an early diagnosis can help people with schizophrenia prevent serious complications.

What exactly is schizophrenia?
As the video explains, schizophrenia is a biological disorder of the brain. This means that it response to medication. Therapy is sometimes helpful for treatment management, but therapy alone is not effective for treating the disease.

People with schizophrenia often start by displaying symptoms of depression, and then later go on to develop disordered thinking, hallucinations, and inappropriate behaviors. They may become paranoid, develop unusual beliefs, or become irrationally angry.

What causes schizophrenia?
The exact cause of the disease is not known. However, physicians do have some ideas about factors that can play a role. These include:

  • Genetics —Having a family member with schizophrenia increases the risk of developing it.
  • Environment—Physicians believe that being exposed to viruses before birth during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy can add to the risk of schizophrenia later in life.
  • Brain chemistry—Dopamine, glutamate, and neuron networks may all play a role in schizophrenia.
  • Substance abuse—Marijuana use, particularly at a young age, may increase the risk of schizophrenia and may cause the disease to occur earlier in life.

How is it diagnosed?
The process of diagnosing schizophrenia is challenging. Many people with schizophrenia symptoms do not recognize them, which can make it difficult for doctors to know that someone is experiencing signs of the disease.

Schizophrenia is diagnosed when other causes of symptoms, such as brain tumors, drug-induced psychosis, and other mental illnesses, are ruled out. Patients who are diagnosed with schizophrenia have at least two of these symptoms happening on an ongoing basis for an extended period of time:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganized speech
  • Disorganized/catatonic behavior
  • Negative symptoms (symptoms that diminish abilities, such as dull or flat emotions)

Good Samaritan Hospital provides inpatient and outpatient behavioral health treatments for diagnosis and management of a wide range of mental illnesses. To request a referral to one of our behavioral health specialists in San Jose, call (888) 724-2362.

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