Schizophrenia and Addiction

 Schizophrenia and Addiction WebpageWhat is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a disorder in the brain that affects roughly 1% of all US citizens, estimated at 2 million adults. People with schizophrenia are often unable to recognize what’s real (reality) and what’s not (imaginary).

They may also have difficulty reacting to various social scenarios in an emotionally proper manner. This usually causes conflicting interpersonal relationships in other major areas of life, like work or school.

Sometimes, schizophrenia is confused with multiple personality disorder. However, most of those who have schizophrenia don’t have multiple personalities and are not violent. Many times, people with schizophrenia will turn to drug or alcohol abuse to help alleviate their symptoms, which usually only worsens them. From there, the only way of being cured is through the help of schizophrenia treatment centers.

Causes of Schizophrenia

While the direct causes of schizophrenia disorder are still unknown, researchers believe it is connected to the following factors:

Genetics

Schizophrenia runs in families and occurs in 10% of people with an immediate family member like parents or siblings with the disorder. Researchers also believe specific genes inherited from parents could increase the risk of developing schizophrenia. Science has also discovered that people with schizophrenia often have unique genetic mutations that could disrupt brain development.

Brain Structure and Chemistry

Brain structure and brain chemical imbalances like serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate are links to schizophrenia. These brain imbalances will affect stimulus reactions and lead to hallucinations and hypersensitivity, both of which are common schizophrenia symptoms.

Scientists have discovered little differences in the brain structure of people with schizophrenia as well. These differences include enlarged ventricles, decreased gray matter, and increases and decreases of activity in parts of the brain.

Environmental Factors

Scientists also believe a person’s environment and genetics could also play a role in schizophrenia development. Environmental factors can include health-related issues during birth, like exposure to viruses, infections, or malnutrition. Other unknown psychosocial factors could also contribute.

Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia affects every phase of a person’s personality and mind. One of the most prominent indication signs is psychosis or actions that differ dramatically from reality as encountered by others.

Schizophrenia is more common amongst the male population than females. Its symptoms manifest all throughout the stages of a person’s life. Examples are losing a relative, experiencing a family break up, or attending a new school or job. People who had one seem happy and normal could become increasingly eccentric, displaying obscure behavior and speaking in strange ways.

Early signs of schizophrenia include:

  • Unusual variations in handwriting or speech
  • An excessive focus on destructive or negative thoughts
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Inability to control impulses
  • Unawareness of the surrounding world
  • Zero facial expression
  • Failure to meet commitments or finish projects
  • Failure to focus on topics for long

Behavioral symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Abrupt loss of interest in hobbies or friendships
  • Neglecting hygiene and grooming
  • Fearful of drinking or eating
  • Fearful of touching or being touched by others
  • Constrained speech
  • Lacking motivation
  • Lack of interest in jobs
  • Inability to associate with others socially
  • Irregular behavior
  • Lacking impulse control

Schizophrenia is identified by a wide range of symptoms that make it difficult for the person affected to function normally. Symptoms vary and may be behavioral, emotional, or cognitive. Psychiatric evaluation and a comprehensive medical exam can determine if someone has schizophrenia or a different neurological disorder.

Other Symptoms of Schizophrenia include:

Sensory symptoms

Visual or hearing hallucinations.

Cognitive symptoms

Unable to understand or utilize unclear language, difficulty learning, disorganized thinking, and erroneous beliefs about achievements or persecution.

Emotional symptoms

Lack of emotional affect, emotional responses that are disconcerting, lack of empathy, flat facial expressions, and incomprehensible mood changes.

Various forms of schizophrenia disorder based on the person’s dominant symptoms include:

  • Paranoia: Paranoid schizophrenia is the most prevalent form of the disorder. This form is defined by delusional notions of being threatened, controlled, or persecuted. People with this form of schizophrenia will obsess over conspiracy theories, fear of being followed, or hearing voices that command them to hurt themselves or others. They usually isolate themselves and could be irritable, hostile, or perpetually afraid of others.
  • Residual: Residual schizophrenia is people who discontinue displaying visible schizophrenia symptoms but who have had a disorder in the past. Although they do not experience intense hallucinations or delusions, they still may hold less debilitating symptoms.
  • Undifferentiated: This subtype applies to people with schizophrenia symptoms that can’t be identified at times. They’ll have confused speech patterns, hallucinations, and delusional feelings that are milder than people who fit the diagnostic criteria.
  • Delusional thoughts: People with schizophrenia will experience beliefs that aren’t based in reality. These misconceptions can be regarding anything and are normally based on disordered sensory actions.
  • Hallucinations: Hallucinations are when somebody sees, smells, hears, or feels something that doesn’t exist. Those with schizophrenia could be engaged in an unreal action. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination amongst people with schizophrenia.
  • Disorganized speech: This results from disorganized thinking, making those with schizophrenia unable to organize and maintain their thoughts. This can cause abrupt, mid-sentence changes, or saying gibberish that is hard to understand. Then we also repeat phrases and words, rhyme words, or make inconsistent and illogical statements.
  • Disorganized motor functions: People with schizophrenia will exhibit disorganized childlike motor behavior. This includes strange postures, lack of impulse control, and excessive movements. They may also experience a catatonic state, or they won’t move, speak, or respond.
  • Negative symptoms: The symptoms of a deficiency of normal function or behaviors. They will often present years before they experience the first schizophrenic episode like delusions and hallucinations. Negative symptoms are frequently confused with other mental health issues like anxiety or depression.

Luckily, even with such severe symptoms, the symptoms of schizophrenia and addiction can be managed with professional mental health and addiction treatment.

What is Bipolar Schizophrenia?

The two varieties of schizophrenia disorder are depressive and bipolar. Episodes of manic can occur in the bipolar type. Through a manic episode, someone with bipolar schizophrenia can shift between being overly excited and extremely irritable. Some with bipolar schizophrenia may or may not experience depressive feelings.

Those with depressive schizophrenia will frequently experience depressive episodes. Schizophrenia disorder affects 0.3% of Americans, affecting women and men equally. However, men can develop schizophrenia early in life, but it can be effectively managed with proper care and treatment.

Symptoms of Bipolar Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia symptoms will depend on the mood disorder. They will vary from severe to mild and can also vary depending on the person experiencing them. A specialist will usually categorize schizophrenic symptoms to be either psychotic or manic.

Manic symptoms are similar to those seen in bipolar disorder. People with manic symptoms could appear overly restless, talk very fast, sleep very little, and are hyperactive. Specialists usually refer to schizophrenia symptoms as positive or negative.

Psychotic and schizophrenia share the same symptoms, which include:

  • Delusions
  • Disordered speech and behavior
  • Hallucinations

Negative symptoms can transpire when something is missing, like enduring pleasure or the ability to concentrate or think clearly.

Schizophrenia and Addiction

Addiction and schizophrenia co-occur quite often. It is estimated that 50% of people with schizophrenia also suffer from substance abuse. Those with schizophrenia will often use drugs or alcohol to self medicate or relieve their feelings of depression and anxiety.

Although substance abuse doesn’t cause schizophrenia, it can be an environmental trigger. People with existing genetic schizophrenia risk factors can develop an active case for the disorder after elongated substance abuse. Abusing drugs like cocaine, amphetamines, and marijuana can also increase schizophrenia symptoms and make them more severe.

Schizophrenia is frequently mistaken for substance abuse because both disorders share similar symptoms. This usually makes it difficult to diagnose schizophrenia and co-occurring disorders. However, researchers proceed to examine both disorders concurrently to increase the accuracy of dual diagnosis.

Schizophrenia and Substance Addiction Treatment

Schizophrenia and addiction treatment will usually involve a blend of psychotherapy, rehab education, self-help groups, and medications. Dual diagnosis programs treat both conditions simultaneously instead of separately.

The first step in dual diagnosis treatment is medical detox, which flushes drugs from the user system. Once the patient completes detox, a specialist can assess their schizophrenia symptoms to decide the best therapy course.

Medication-assisted treatments like antipsychotic medications are often prescribed to help alleviate schizophrenia symptoms caused by brain chemical imbalances. Sometimes, multiple medications are tested before discovering the best medication to treat specific chemical imbalances.

While using medications to manage symptoms, dual diagnosis patients will attend several therapy programs to address their disorder’s underlying causes. One of the more common forms of dual diagnosis treatment is family therapy. Many patients with schizophrenia are members of high-stress families. Family therapy helps to reduce the severity and amount of stressors that can trigger substance abuse and schizophrenia.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is another traditional form of treatment for co-occurring schizophrenia disorders and substance addiction. CBT helps patients identify particular behaviors and ways of thinking that cause schizophrenia and substance abuse. It also helps patients learn how to manage schizophrenia symptoms like auditory hallucinations that can persist even while using antipsychotic medications.

Getting Help for Schizophrenia

If you or a loved one struggles with schizophrenia and addiction, know that a successful recovery is 100% achievable with schizophrenia rehab. Our dual diagnosis treatment program here at Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare can help stop the cycle of both co-occurring disorders.

If both a schizophrenia disorder and substance addiction are present, do not hesitate any longer to receive help from a schizophrenia treatment center. Contact us today at Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare and allow our treatment staff to get you the answers you need to help make a life-changing decision.

Article Reviewed by Gregory Struve

Gregory StruveGreg received a Master’s in Counseling from the Adler Graduate School in 2006. He trained at one of the top trauma and anxiety treatment centers in the world until 2008 when he became a faculty member at Grand Canyon University. From 2011 to 2016 he directed a program that leads the field in terms of innovative treatment of anxiety and trauma. During that time he even made several appearances on A&E’s intervention.