Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder that affects about two million Brazilians, according to data from the Ministry of Health, and brings with it significant losses in the personal, social and family functioning of people who suffer from this disease. Among the most common symptoms are delusions, hallucinations, changes in thoughts and affectivity, abnormalities in the way of moving, in addition to physical and emotional overloads. This psychic disorder may initially manifest with more subtle symptoms such as social withdrawal and mild depression.
Generally, this disease starts in adolescence and affects more males between the ages of 15 and 30 years. The first psychotic symptoms are in the line of anxiety, mainly in social anxiety exacerbated with social retraction such as school dropout, lack of interaction with friends, family and in affective relationships. The cause is not yet defined, but studies indicate that hereditary factors, complications during pregnancy or childbirth that can interfere with the baby’s nervous system, and the use of psychoactive substances such as illicit drugs, can trigger the disease.
May 24 was chosen to mark the International Schizophrenia Person’s Day. The date seeks to bring visibility to the pathology by raising awareness about the importance of proper treatment. Considered a serious psychotic disorder, schizophrenia brings, in addition to suicide, a series of comorbidities contributes to the increase in the mortality rate in people who suffer from this disorder.
The Brazilian Psychiatric Association (ABP) adds that comorbidities in schizophrenia are common in both clinical and psychiatric disorders. People with schizophrenia have a life expectancy of up to 15 years less than the general population, and with a 3 to 4 times greater risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and metabolic syndromes. Changes in mood, anxiety and depressive symptoms can appear as psychiatric comorbidities.
Popularly and erroneously, aggressiveness is a behavior associated with schizophrenia. Society in general labels people suffering from this disease as people at higher risk of violent actions. For this reason, it is one of the most stigmatized disorders and is often confused with the word madness. Stigma is one of the main obstacles to the treatment of psychiatric disorders, since many people delay the search for psychiatrists and ignore the initial symptoms, resulting in the worsening of the clinical state and even suicide. The recovery of an individual who suffers from a mental illness becomes slower in a stigmatized environment, as explained by the president of ABP, Antônio Geraldo da Silva.
– The mentally ill, when treated properly, is not dangerous. This is also true for the person with schizophrenia. Aggressiveness can be one of the symptoms, even as a defense mechanism as a result of the threat brought by the delusion, but it is cruel to associate this unique behavior and generalize all those who suffer from such psychotic conditions – adds Antônio Geraldo da Silva.
To combat stigma not only in cases of schizophrenia, but in any mental illness, the Brazilian Psychiatric Association created the term psychophobia, which is prejudice against people who suffer from these disorders. “Combating stigma is an ongoing task. It is necessary to understand that the person is beyond schizophrenia, he is a person with several adjectives and who lives with mental illness. Initiatives such as educational interventions have the potential to reduce society’s labels by claiming that mental disorders are treatable and manageable. Suffering from a mental illness is the same as suffering from any other clinical illness such as diabetes and hypertension, for example. Nobody is free from developing a mental illness”, he reinforces.
The treatment of schizophrenia aims to control symptoms and stimulate the resumption of routine, work and relationships with friends and family by psychiatric monitoring, drug therapy and social reintegration. The family also has an extremely important role in the recovery with psychoeducation, which is an informative work on the supporting disease and guidance to help the family to resolve conflicts and crises, decreasing emotionality.