Often mistaken as a disorder of split personalities, schizophrenia is actually a disorder of fragmented mental process.
Sufferers may present positive or negative symptoms, or both.
Positive symptoms reflect a distortion or exaggeration of functions that are normally present. This includes hallucinations – voices, smells, or tastes that do not exist – delusions of being persecuted or controlled, and disorganised or bizarre behaviour.
Negative symptoms reflect a deficiency of a mental function that is normally present. The symptoms include social withdrawal, apathy, and lack of motivation and drive.
Although schizophrenia can affect anyone at any age, the onset of this major psychotic condition is usually in adolescence or young adulthood.
If left untreated, patients are at a higher risk of suicide, aggression and drug abuse.
Antipsychotic medication remains the main treatment method to normalise the biochemical imbalances in the brain, which often cause schizophrenia.
The medication can relieve the hallucinations, delusions and thinking problems associated with schizophrenia.
These antipsychotic medicines are also important in reducing or eliminating the chances of a relapse.
Another effective form of treatment is psychotherapy, which helps the patient make sense of his illness and come to terms with it.
Rehabilitation and counselling help the patient function in society.
Social skills training, which can be provided in group, family or individual sessions, helps to build social relationships and independent living skills.
Source: Institute of Mental Health
– Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
– Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
– Institute of Mental Health’s Mobile Crisis Service: 6389-2222
– Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
– Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928
A version of this article first appeared in The New Paper.