Schizophrenia - Medical Malpractice Lawyers

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Schizophrenia - Medical Malpractice

Schizophrenia is a chronic and disabling mental disorder with origins in the brain functioning. About one percent of the population goes on to develop schizophrenia, with the onset of the disease usually occurring in the late teens or early twenties, although childhood schizophrenia does exist. It affects about 2 million individuals in the US per year. It affects both men and women but occurs earlier in men than in women. Women can get it in their mid twenties to their early thirties. There are multiple symptoms including internal hallucinations, usually auditory, that are not heard by others, feeling like other people can read their minds and control their thoughts, and having abnormal behaviours and speech. They can feel as though others are plotting to harm them. It is a treatable disease, although only about one in five individuals are recovered completely after treatment.

Schizophrenia is a global disorder and it causes a great deal of disability in its sufferers. Medications can help the disease but many with schizophrenia do not take their medications regularly and thus suffer from the disorder greatly. There are a great many consequences of having the disease, including lost occupational opportunities, a negative stigma around having the disease, having residual symptoms and having side effects from the medication.

When schizophrenia first manifests itself, there can be sudden changes in behaviour. There can be the sudden onset of auditory hallucinations, a change in mood, delusions and an inability to tell what is real and what is not real. This is called acute psychosis and terrifies many patients and their families. Others can simply suffer from social withdrawal and mildly bizarre behaviours such as poor hygiene and stigmatized behaviours that make the diagnosis of schizophrenia harder to diagnose.

Doctors can diagnose schizophrenia by doing a careful examination, including a mental examination. Particular parts of the mental examination looked at are the positive aspects of schizophrenia, such as delusions and hallucinations, and the negative aspects of schizophrenia, such as social withdrawal and oddities of speech and behaviour. Certain illicit drugs can mimic schizophrenia so this must be ruled out to make the diagnosis of true schizophrenia.

The main symptoms of schizophrenia include distortions of perceptions of reality. They live in a world of delusions and hallucinations that make them confused and frightened and anxious. They may behave differently at different times. They can seem preoccupied, distant or detached from others. They may also be hyperactive, moving constantly and seeming hyper vigilant. Delusions that occur tend to be false beliefs that are not subject to reason. Delusions can be religious in nature or related to aliens or paranoid thoughts and are somewhat related to how the person was raised. A third of all schizophrenics will have delusions of being persecuted, cheated, poisoned or conspired against. It may be related to a certain person or to no one in particular.

People with schizophrenia are often addicted to nicotine or alcohol. Illicit drugs are a possibility, too, especially marijuana. These are often used as a form of self-medication that make the schizophrenic person feel better and have fewer symptoms.

The schizophrenic person just can't seem to think straight. Thoughts have the ability to come and go quite quickly so the person cannot get the words out it time. There are problems maintaining attention and focusing on one subject at a time. They also cannot sort out what is relevant and what is irrelevant so the thoughts come out distorted and disorganized. They have what is known as a "thought disorder".

Emotional expression in schizophrenics is often flat or blunted. They cannot express themselves emotionally and may look as though they are apathetic to others. They can have decreased motor function and are not motivated to do anything in particular. They have few interests.

Experts believe that schizophrenia is partially environmental and partially genetic. It isn't clear what genes are related to getting schizophrenia. There may be some exposures prenatally that contribute to the disease and drug use may all contribute to getting the disease.

The treatment of schizophrenia is usually anti-psychotic medication, many of which only take care of the positive aspects of schizophrenia. The shyness and antisocial behaviour can be managed in psychotherapy but is difficult to treat.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here