The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a critical impact on healthcare systems all over the world, as well as on mental health in the general population of the world. However, evidence regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people living with schizophrenia and on the onset of psychotic symptoms is currently emerging.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thoughts, speech, continuous or relapsing episodes of psychosis, and behavior that requires urgent medical attention, which is usually recommended in severe cases by medical experts.
Researchers from the Department of Clinical and Experimental Sciences, University of Brescia, namely, Stefano Barlati and his colleagues found that people living with schizophrenia are at an increased risk of COVID-19 and present worse COVID-19-related outcomes, including mortality.
There is no objective diagnostic test; diagnosis is based on observed behavior, a history that includes the person’s reported experiences, and reports of others familiar with the person. To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, symptoms and functional impairment need to be present for six months or at least a month.
In a study conducted by Janna .C. Saunders from Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA, published on Issues in Mental Health Nursing, it was stated that schizophrenia is a severe mental illness, which is stressful not only for patients but also for family members. Effective family functioning in families with schizophrenia may be influenced by a variety of psychosocial factors.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that family caregivers of persons with a severe mental illness suffer from significant stresses, experience moderately high levels of burden, and often receive inadequate assistance from mental health professionals.
Schizophrenia is described as a neurodevelopmental disorder with no precise boundary, or single cause, and is thought to develop from gene-environment interactions with involved vulnerability factors. The interactions of these risk factors are complex, as numerous and diverse insults from conception to adulthood can be involved. A genetic predisposition on its own, without interacting environmental factors, will not give rise to the development of schizophrenia.
Doctors advised that It’s important to recognize the symptoms of schizophrenia and seek help as early as possible as the symptoms of schizophrenia vary by person. People with schizophrenia are usually diagnosed between the ages of 16 and 30, after the first episode of psychosis.
Schizophrenia symptoms can differ from person to person as stated, but they generally fall into three main categories: psychotic, negative, and cognitive.
Psychotic symptoms may include changes in the way a person thinks, acts, and experiences the world. People with psychotic symptoms may lose a shared sense of reality with others and experience the world in a distorted way. For some people, these symptoms come and go. For others, the symptoms become stable over time.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
- Hallucinations: When a person sees, hears, smells, tastes, or feels things that are not actually there. Hearing voices is common for people with schizophrenia. People who hear voices may hear them for a long time before family or friends notice a problem.
- Delusions: When a person has strong beliefs that are not true and may seem irrational to others. For example, individuals experiencing delusions may believe that people on the radio and television are sending special messages that require a certain response, or they may believe that they are in danger or that others are trying to hurt them.
- Thought disorder: When a person has ways of thinking that are unusual or illogical. People with thought disorders may have trouble organizing their thoughts and speech. Sometimes a person will stop talking in the middle of a thought, jump from topic to topic, or makeup words that have no meaning.
- Movement disorder: When a person exhibits abnormal body movements. People with a movement disorder may repeat certain motions over and over.
Negative symptoms include loss of motivation, loss of interest or enjoyment in daily activities, withdrawal from social life, difficulty showing emotions, and difficulty functioning normally. Negative symptoms include:
Cognitive symptoms include problems in attention, concentration, and memory. These symptoms can make it hard to follow a conversation, learn new things, or remember appointments. A person’s level of cognitive functioning is one of the best predictors of their day-to-day functioning. Cognitive functioning is evaluated using specific tests. Cognitive symptoms include:
- Confused thoughts and disorganized speech. People with schizophrenia can have a hard time organizing their thoughts. They might not be able to follow along when you talk to them. Instead, it might seem like they’re zoning out or distracted. When they talk, their words can come out jumbled and not make sense.
- Trouble concentrating. For example, someone might lose track of what’s going on in a TV show as they’re watching.
- Movement disorders. Some people with schizophrenia can seem jumpy. Sometimes they’ll make the same movements over and over again. But sometimes they might be perfectly still for hours at a stretch, which experts call catatonic. Contrary to popular belief, people with the disease usually aren’t violent.
- Having trouble processing information to make decisions.
- Having trouble using information immediately after learning it.
- Having trouble focusing or paying attention.
However, most people with schizophrenia are not violent. But, people with schizophrenia are more likely than those without the illness to be harmed by others. For people with schizophrenia, the risk of self-harm and of violence to others is greatest when the illness is untreated. It is important to help people who are showing symptoms get treatment as quickly as possible.