Early schizophrenia diagnosis can make all the difference

Schizophrenia affects nearly 1 in every 100 people. Healthcare professionals are constantly researching ways to deal with this relatively misunderstood disorder as many people living with schizophrenia and their caregivers always look for help with the stifling symptoms.

Healthcare professionals agree that early intervention is crucial to assisting people living with schizophrenia to live a fulfilled life. Symptoms can appear in an individual's late teens or early 20s, making the disorder immensely disruptive, challenging to treat and long-lasting.

By diagnosing schizophrenia early, doctors can effectively treat symptoms that may include delusional behaviour, hallucinations of auditory and visual nature and impaired cognitive ability.

The early signs

Healthcare professionals have identified these early signs,

1. Depression and social withdrawal

People living with undiagnosed schizophrenia, often have “down-days”, which leaves them feeling emotionally vulnerable and makes them withdraw from their social commitments or support systems.

2. Hostility, suspiciousness and extreme reaction to criticism

The early signs of delusional behaviour include doubting people close to them, reacting aggressively to simple forms of criticism. Hostility may arise when a person with early signs of schizophrenia is questioned about their lifestyle choices. A well-meaning question such as, “are you lonely?”, could trigger an overreaction.

3. Deterioration of personal hygiene

When a person begins showing signs of schizophrenia, they become depressed and socially withdrawn and may take less care of themselves, which negatively affects their personal hygiene.

4. Flat, expressionless reactions

From a blank gaze in their eyes to the lack of emotion in their voice, a person showing early signs of schizophrenia often appears numb to emotion and expression.

5. Forgetfulness and inability to concentrate

Another early sign of schizophrenia is delusions and hallucinations, resulting in forgetting important matters and reduced concentration. This often leads to the inability to hold down a job or maintain regular responsibilities.

Should you recognise these early symptoms in yourself or a loved one, make an appointment to see a doctor before the onset of that first psychotic episode. By doing so, a person experiencing these symptoms can receive effective treatment. Early treatment allows them to be productive and live a fulfilled life. This, and other schizophrenia symptoms can only be treated by ongoing therapy and medical treatments such as daily oral medication or long-term injections.

Treatment options for people living with schizophrenia

Only a doctor can diagnose schizophrenia and will prescribe a treatment plan best suited to the individual. Treatment options include

  • Therapy with a psychiatrist

  • A daily oral medication, which a caregiver will need to ensure is taken every day to be effective

  • Or a monthly injection that is administered by a healthcare professional. This treatment option effectively reduces the symptoms of schizophrenia for up to 30 days and reduces the stress of having to keep up with a daily oral medication.

While these treatment options are effective, it is important to remember that people living with schizophrenia need additional support from family members, friends and caregivers.

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