Dr Ananya Choudhury
Schizophrenia is one of the most devastating illnesses known to mankind. As with other illnesses, this one too does not discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, community, socio-economic strata or race. Statistics say one in 100 people suffer from schizophrenia. Shockingly, of the total 25 million schizophrenia cases, India accounts for anywhere between 4-8 million! Sadly, about 40-50% of such cases are untreated.
Schizophrenia patients show a variety of symptoms. These include delusions (false beliefs), hallucinations (seeing, hearing, feeling things which do not exist), disorganised thought (irrelevant or incoherent speech), disorganised behaviour (aimlessly moving about or grossly abnormal behaviour), lack of emotional expression, motivation and initiative.
While the exact cause of schizophrenia is not known, a number of genetic as well as environmental factors are responsible for it. Generally, it starts in adolescence and may carry on for months and years before being recognised. A person may remain normal in between the attacks of schizophrenia but with each successive attack a little of brain is damaged. So it is important the disease be recognised and the treatment started at the earliest.
It has been seen that though the disease is equally prevalent in men and women, men respond poorly to medication as compared to women. However women face more discrimination, abuse and delayed treatment. Many such patients either leave their homes on their own or are thrown out of the homes. So homelessness among such patients is rampant.
There is a variety of treatment available, and if you notice a person with schizophrenia, you must advise the family to go for treatment. The treatment includes medications (oral antipsychotics, long acting injectables), individual therapy (aimed at providing understanding about the illness and supportive sessions), family therapy (educating the family about the illness and how to manage the patient and to manage their own emotions), lifestyle changes (adopting a healthier lifestyle) and psychosocial rehabilitation (aimed at successful reintegration into the society).
Dr Ananya Choudhury is senior consultant psychiatrist at PsyCare, Jasola Vihar (New Delhi) and has over a decade of experience in treating people diagnosed with schizophrenia