New Jersey Schizophrenia Treatment at Absolute Awakenings
Evidence-Based, Whole-Person Treatment for Mental Health Conditions
Understanding Schizophrenia and Treatment Options
Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that’s characterized by psychosis and an abnormal perception of reality.
People with schizophrenia exhibit disorganized speech and behavior, and they may experience psychotic symptoms such as visual and auditory hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions. Living with untreated schizophrenia can be downright nightmarish. Without the proper medication and support, this disease can be lonely, confusing, and progressive.
Studies show that schizophrenia often co-occurs with addiction. For some people, the onset of schizophrenia symptoms may be triggered by prolonged and excessive substance abuse. For others, substance abuse is an attempt at self-treatment and an effort to get relief. Common complications of schizophrenia include:
- Social isolation
- Anxiety disorders
- Suicidal thoughts, suicidal ideation, and suicidal actions
At Absolute Awakenings, we know that treatment for substance abuse and a co-occurring mental illness such as schizophrenia must occur simultaneously. By treating addiction at its source, we help our patients minimize the risk of relapse, optimize their physical and mental well-being, and establish comfortable sustainable lives.
Our schizophrenia treatment eliminates the need to self-medicate by helping people achieve mood stability, addressing imbalances within their brain chemistry, and providing lasting relief. Although schizophrenia is highly stigmatized, this is a lifelong issue that affects between 0.25 and 0.64 percent of people in the United States. More importantly, it is a treatable, manageable issue, and one that doesn’t have to stop those who live with it from achieving stability, sobriety, and peace.
Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia causes a range of symptoms that affect a person’s:
- Cognitive abilities
- Thoughts and perceptions
Although the signs of schizophrenia can vary from person to person, a schizophrenia diagnosis often occurs when positive and negative symptoms are present.
Positive Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Positive symptoms are symptoms that are present.These symptoms include:
Disordered Thinking and Speech
Disorganized speech with schizophrenia is often referred to as “word salad.”
People with this disorder may produce long strings of words that have no cohesive or coherent meaning. This manner of speaking is reflective of the disorganization of their thoughts.
When speech is less impaired, a person may ask or answer questions with statements or ideas that are unrelated or only partially related.
Schizophrenic hallucinations can be all-encompassing, and are one of the most troubling symptoms of this mental health condition. These experiences may be auditory, visual, olfactory, and even tactile. Due to their altered interpretation and perception of reality, people with schizophrenia may see, hear, feel, and even smell things that do not exist.
Highly Abnormal Motor Behaviors
Abnormal motor behaviors are often present in those with schizophrenia. Movements may be either over exaggerated, rigid or slow, or may involve involuntary muscle movements.
One of the hallmark signs of schizophrenia are the associated delusions. Individuals may believe that they have superhuman powers, that thoughts are being planted inside their heads, or that their family members are conspiring against them. The types of delusions will vary from person to person.
Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia
The negative symptoms of schizophrenia represent the absence of actions, behaviors, and functions that are considered normal. A person is recognized as exhibiting negative symptoms when they cannot manage their own self-care. Negative symptoms also present when they show emotional numbness or a lack of emotion and when they cannot function in other basic ways.
Blunted affect, or speaking in a monotone voice and maintaining a static expression, are both signs of negative schizophrenia symptoms
Alogia is characterized by a decrease in the quantity of spoken words. Although schizophrenia can cause disorganized thoughts and speech that result in “word salad,” the condition can also cause individuals to slow speech or stop speaking altogether.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness that commands a lot of the brain’s resources. This can result in avolition, which is the reduction of activity due to decreased motivation.
It is not uncommon for those with a diagnosis of schizophrenia to experience anhedonia, which is a reduction in the ability to experience joy or pleasure. Symptoms of schizophrenia can be severe and affect the individual’s quality of life.
Schizophrenia can cause paranoia, fear, and anxiety, leading to impairment of social skills. Many individuals suffering from a serious mental illness like schizophrenia experience social withdrawal. Due to the severity of the disorder’s symptoms, those with schizophrenia are at increased risk for asociality even after only the first episode of psychosis.
Schizophrenia Risk Factors
The exact cause of schizophrenia is not known. However, researchers believe that this illness can be attributed to a number of environmental, genetic, and physiological factors. Schizophrenia has a very strong genetic component. However, genes alone are not responsible for developing schizophrenia.
Brain images of patients with schizophrenia have revealed variations in their:
- Brain size
- Brain functioning
- Brain structure
Other risk factors for schizophrenia include:
- Exposure to environmental toxins such as lead, gasoline, and certain plastics
- Exposure to infections during gestation
- Malnutrition during gestation or during a person’s early childhood years
- Exposure to the herpes virus
- Childhood history of abuse, neglect, or other forms of childhood trauma
How Is Schizophrenia Diagnosed?
Schizophrenia is diagnosed according to the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). For schizophrenia, patients must exhibit at least two of the five core symptoms of schizophrenia for at least one full month. Moreover, one of these symptoms must include disorganized speech, delusions, or hallucinations.
Before schizophrenia is diagnosed, both a medical examination and a comprehensive psychological evaluation are performed. Diagnostic imaging can be used to assess the brain’s structure and areas of high or low activity. Blood tests and other forms of laboratory analysis are used to learn more about the patient’s brain chemistry and to rule out other underlying illnesses that may be the cause of their symptoms.
Great care is taken to ensure that schizophrenia is accurately diagnosed. There are several related conditions that can cause similar symptoms such as:
- Brief psychotic disorder (an acute psychotic episode)
- Bipolar disorder
- Delusional disorder
- Schizophreniform disorder
- Schizoaffective disorder
- Tardive Dyskinesia
Careful diagnosis is essential for ensuring effective treatment. The measures taken throughout the diagnostic process also make it possible for medical and mental health professionals to streamline treatment plans for meeting the needs of the individual.
Treating Schizophrenia at our New Jersey Schizophrenia Treatment Center
Schizophrenia and its treatment are largely tied to abnormalities in a person’s brain chemistry. Imbalances in neurotransmitters and “brain chemicals” are exemplified by the way in which certain neurochemicals interact with drugs like PCP or methamphetamine to produce symptoms that closely mimic those of schizophrenia.
Moreover, medications that block dopamine activity (one of many important neurochemicals) have consistently proven effective in minimizing the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Treatment for schizophrenia is always a multi-pronged and ongoing process, with medication being the cornerstone of these efforts. When the right combination of medications is prescribed, behaviors, thoughts, and actions normalize. As patients become able to participate, cognitive behavioral therapy and other psychotherapy types can help them adopt healthy world views. It can also improve self-esteem, and enhance problem-solving abilities among other things.
Psychotherapy is often referred to as “talk therapy”. In both addiction treatment and treatment for co-occurring disorders (dual diagnosis treatment), psychotherapy is offered in various forms. Therapy sessions are held in both private settings and group settings, and can include:
- Motivational interviewing
- Dialectical behavioral therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an important therapy type for those living with schizophrenia. It helps patients develop effective reality testing skills, good general self-care, stress management techniques, healthy coping skills, improved communication skills, and evidence-based strategies for self-monitoring.
Group Therapy & Support Groups
Group therapy and support groups provide patients with the opportunity to grow their social and communication skills, share their experiences, and benefit from the experiences of others. In inpatient programs, group counseling sessions also make it easier for patients to prepare for the eventual return to the outside world.
Multiple medications are available for the treatment of schizophrenia. Patients may receive one or more typical or atypical antipsychotic medications. In dual addiction treatment, when necessary, some patients may additionally receive antidepressant medications, anti anxiety medications, or short-term sleep support. Among the most commonly prescribed antipsychotic medications for schizophrenia are:
- Clozaril (clozapine)
- Risperdal (Risperidone)
Because of the sometimes-severe side effects of antipsychotic drugs, many individuals become noncompliant with their medication regimen or turn to other substance use to manage their symptoms.
Treatment for Schizophrenia at Absolute Awakenings
At Absolute Awakenings, we’re committed to helping our clients achieve and maintain mood balance and consistently optimum levels of mental health.
By taking a multi-pronged and needs-specific approach to promoting mental wellness, we ensure that no treatment needs are overlooked. We know that both schizophrenia and effective schizophrenia treatment can look different for everyone.
With ample treatment options in psychotherapy, psychoeducation, medical management, and whole-health care, we make it easy for people to get the targeted services and support they need.