Schizophrenia and Addiction Explained in Detail

Schizophrenia and Addiction

Schizophrenia and addiction frequently occur at the same time for many people. They often feel as though they have no choice but to use substances. Sometimes they may use drugs or alcohol that help their symptoms. Other times, they may choose substances that enhance them.

Schizophrenia Information

According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

  • More than 1% of the U.S. adult population suffers from schizophrenia
  • This means that 3.2 million people are suffering with it right now
  • Only 60% of these individuals get the type of treatment they need for their conditions
  • 1.5 million people will be diagnosed with schizophrenia this year all over the world
  • In the United States, 100,000 people will be diagnosed with schizophrenia

Substance abuse is prevalent among those with schizophrenia. As many as 50% of patients with this mental health condition also have a substance abuse problem.

Clearly, there is a link between these two conditions. The question that many people want to know the answer to is, why?

Perhaps you're wondering the same thing. Maybe you've been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and you also have an addiction. You may have not realized the two were connected to each other. Unfortunately, many cases of schizophrenia go undiagnosed. Many of these individuals use various substances to cope with their symptoms. You could fit into either of these two scenarios.

The important thing is that you understand what schizophrenia is, and how it relates to addiction. At Northpoint Washington, we want to help you do that. Once you have a better grasp of schizophrenia, it may help you understand your own condition. It's also important for you to know that you can get the help you need.

Let's begin by talking about how you can recognize schizophrenia if you're suffering from it.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that affects almost everything about a person. It affects the way they feel, act and think. Those who have schizophrenia often appear as though they've completely lost touch with reality.

Schizophrenia is not as common as some other types of mental health conditions. However, for those who have it, it can be very debilitating. It can cause them to lose interest in some of their favorite activities. Their relationships often suffer drastically. They may or may not be unable to work.

It is common knowledge that schizophrenia can be genetic. There may be some genes that increase the risk of this condition. However, it's much more likely for environmental factors to play a major role. Someone may develop schizophrenia because:

  • They were exposed to certain viruses
  • They were not properly nourished before they were born
  • There may have been problems during birth
  • There may be many psychosocial factors involved
  • They may have chemical imbalances in the brain; some of which date back to before birth

Schizophrenia does not affect everyone the same way. Everyone is different, and the type of schizophrenia one person has may be different from another person's.

Are There Different Types of Schizophrenia?

There are different subtypes of schizophrenia. However, it's important to note that subtypes can change as the years go by. Just because an individual falls under one subtype now, that can easily change eventually.

The different subtypes of schizophrenia are:

Paranoid Subtype

Someone with this subtype experiences auditory hallucinations. They may also have delusional thoughts about conspiracy or prosecution. Even so, those with paranoid schizophrenia may be able to be better contributors in society. They are often able to hold down jobs, and they can usually maintain relationships with others. There are a few different reasons why this might be the case.

Paranoid schizophrenia doesn't usually manifest until later on in life. Prior to the onset of symptoms, people have the opportunity to form relationships. Their levels of functioning are much higher, and they can usually learn to manage their symptoms.

Disorganized Subtype

Someone with this subtype will often experience thoughts that are very disorganized in nature. They may also have hallucinations or delusions, but they aren't as pronounced. Sufferers may find it very difficult to complete daily living tasks. For example, they may have trouble with bathing or brushing their teeth.

In addition, the emotions of someone with disorganized schizophrenia are often impaired. They may seem to be emotionally unstable at times. They may seem almost giddy at inappropriate times. Other times, they may have more of a flat affect, with no emotional response at all.

Communication is often a major barrier for someone with this subtype as well. They may have trouble forming words or sentences, making themselves difficult to understand.

Catatonic Subtype

People with the catatonic subtype of schizophrenia experience serious disturbances in their movements. They may dramatically reduce their physical activity. This can almost reach the state of catatonia. They also can experience times when they have catatonic excitement. This is characterized by an increase in movements.

These individuals may also repeat their movements over and over again. Usually, their movements don't really serve any specific purpose. Any attempts at repositioning them are usually met with resistance.

Undifferentiated Subtype

This subtype involves symptoms that don't necessarily classify individuals into one of the other subtypes. They may have symptoms of all of the subtypes at times. At other times, they may appear to be quite stable.

Residual Subtype

The residual subtype occurs when once prominent symptoms are greatly reduced. These individuals may have hallucinations or delusions, but when they occur, they are diminished. When compared with the acute form of their illness, the difference is quite significant.

Understanding the Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Because there are so many different subtypes of schizophrenia, there are also many symptoms. The symptoms of this condition usually develop between the ages of 16 and 30. Although, there have been some children diagnosed with it as well.

The symptoms of schizophrenia fall under three different categories. They are the positive symptoms, the negative symptoms and the cognitive symptoms.

The positive symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Onset of hallucinations
  • Onset of delusions
  • Strange or delusional ways of thinking
  • Agitated body movements
  • Losing touch with some parts of reality

The negative symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Disrupted emotions
  • Strange or unconventional behaviors
  • Reduced expressions of emotions
  • No facial expressions
  • Reduced feelings of pleasure
  • Problems with beginning and continuing activities
  • Reducing speaking

The cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Significant memory changes over time
  • Problems with understanding information
  • Decision-making impairments
  • Problems with paying attention or focusing
  • Difficulties with using information right after it's learned

Are You Suffering from Schizophrenia?

It's not always easy to tell if you are suffering from schizophrenia. You may think that something isn't quite right, but you can't quite identify what it is. It might be helpful for you to ask yourself some questions that can give you some answers.

  • Do you ever feel as though others control the way you think and feel?
  • Do you see or hear things that other people don't?
  • Do you have problems expressing how you feel to other people?
  • Do you feel like you don't have much in common with your friends or family?
  • Do you believe in things that others don't believe in?
  • When you tell people things you've seen or heard, do they have trouble believing you?
  • Are you unsure about what you're thinking or feeling because you don't know if it's real?
  • Do you think you have magical powers that no one else has?
  • Do you ever feel like everyone else is against you or out to get you?
  • Do you think you're treated unfairly because you have special abilities?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may have schizophrenia. If you do, you may also suffer with an addiction. It's so important for you to get the type of treatment you need.

Treatment Options for Those with Schizophrenia

There are several different treatment options for those suffering with schizophrenia. These include:

  • Antipsychotic medications: There are a number of medications that can help people with schizophrenic symptoms. It may take some trial and error, but eventually, doctors are able to find suitable medications.
  • Psychotherapy: This is such an important part of treatment. It goes along well with medication therapy. Talking about what you're thinking and feeling can help you feel better. You'll also learn how to cope with your symptoms.
  • Case management: Case management services give you the support you need during this time. You may find it difficult to do certain things on your own, or complete various tasks. Case management can help you with that.
  • Family therapy: Your family may have a very difficult time understanding what you're going through. They may desperately want to help you, but they don't know how. Family therapy can help.
  • Education and employment help: It is possible for you to lead a normal life, and these services can make that possible.

How are Addiction and Schizophrenia Connected to Each Other?

For many people with schizophrenia, it seems almost impossible to cope with their symptoms. They often struggle with not being understood by those around them. They may frequently experience anxiety, and this can drive them to use substances.

This is especially true if they have never gotten any other type of treatment.

Self-medicating with substances offers temporary hope to people with schizophrenia. However, they may choose substances that can make their symptoms even worse. For example, marijuana has been known to exacerbate symptoms of schizophrenia. Hallucinogenic drugs can do the same thing. Many schizophrenics will opt to drink alcohol because of its depressive effects.

The longer someone with schizophrenia continues to use substances, the more dangerous the situation becomes. Schizophrenia and addiction are co-occurring disorders that need a specific type of treatment.

Integrative Addiction Treatment for Schizophrenia

Integrative addiction treatment has been shown to be very effective for those with schizophrenia. This is also known as dual diagnosis treatment. It is specifically utilized as a way to treat the reasons behind an addiction.

For almost everyone with both conditions, schizophrenia came first. They choose to use drugs or alcohol to help themselves feel better. That means that schizophrenia is the root cause of their addictions. Dual diagnosis treatment offers help for both conditions at the same time.

This is primarily accomplished through psychotherapy in individual therapy sessions. Counselors are trained to be able to recognize co-occurring disorders. They will use the right type of therapy for each patient.

In treating schizophrenia and addiction together, patients are very likely to have a much better treatment experience. They are also more likely to experience a long-term recovery. Symptoms can effectively managed with other methods, and patients receive education on this.

Where Can You Find Treatment for the Co-Occurring Disorders of Addiction and Schizophrenia?

Now that you realize you probably have a co-occurring disorder, you need to know where to get help. It's so important to treat these conditions together and not separately. Doing so gives you a much better chance at having a successful recovery.

Your symptoms may have been what drove you to start using drugs or alcohol. However, there are very effective ways that you can manage your symptoms without them. Dual diagnosis treatment will help you to understand what those ways are. It will also pinpoint the source of your addiction. This will only serve to make your treatment more effective in the long run.

At Northpoint Washington, we understand how you might be feeling. You may have always known that there was something different about you. Your friends and family may have been encouraging you to get help for a long time. Honestly, you just didn't know that there was anything else you could do. However, now you know there's a way out, and we'd like to help you find it.

Do you suffer from schizophrenia and addiction? If so, we can provide you with the support and treatment you need. Please contact us to learn more about how we can help you.