“A serious mental illness characterized by incoherent or illogical thoughts, bizarre behavior and speech, and delusions or hallucinations.”
– Encyclopedia of Psychology.
It is important for us to educate ourselves on schizophrenia for many reasons, especially in the context of Pakistan. Here, (particularly in rural and tribal regions) Schizophrenia is almost always confused for supernatural possession, which results in the patient being given inadequate and often counter-productive treatment which can worsen symptoms.
According to research done by Shakila Akhter on “Schizophrenia in Pakistan”, 1.5% of our population is affected by it. Common in both genders, it can surface anywhere between 15 and 40 years of age. The study also indicates that 6% of schizophrenics are at risk of committing suicide, due to depression. Lengthy and seemingly ineffective treatment or worsening symptoms may cause pessimism in the patient, leading to depression.
Akhter also states that this data was retrieved only from studies of admitted patients. 70% of our population is in rural, meaning that most schizophrenics are not receiving treatment. Due to illiteracy, the illness is misunderstood for a supernatural phenomenon. Thus instead of psychiatrists, faith healers are consulted, leading to counterproductive treatment methods being used. Despite this, the actual percentage in urban areas is estimated to be higher as well, due to stigmas attached to psychology and its ilk. Oftentimes people hide the problem instead of addressing it.
While many believe that schizophrenia’s causes are both genetic and environmental, it is true that stressful situations may cause it to surface in a percentage of people who are susceptible. Consistent exposure to toxins also puts one at risk. The study mentions one particular factor to which we can further attribute the increase in schizophrenics. This factor is endogenous marriages. Marrying within one’s own family, puts the offspring in more risk of inheriting recessive genes, and thus increases chances of inheriting a hereditary disease. This factor, coupled with a stressful or traumatizing event, may cause one to develop schizophrenia at a later point, research suggests. Marrying outside of one’s family creates genetic variety in the child, lowering the risk of inheriting dangerous diseases.
Other studies have also suggested that child abuse can be a strong predictor of schizophrenia later in life.
Due to its physiological nature, treatment often involves drugs, or in some cases, ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy). Although most cases of schizophrenia are chronic, many people with schizophrenia are able to function well in society. Early treatment helps a lot, thus if you know someone who has had a psychotic episode or may be suffering from a mental illness but hasn’t been diagnosed, please consult a professional as soon as possible.