How to identify and help your schizophrenic friend

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On March 31, researchers published their findings connecting a genetic variant, the inability for two areas of the brain to communicate, and scizophrenia. Here are some warning signs and tips on how to cope with a loved one struggling with this mental health illness.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a medical research center in the US, schizophrenia is defined as a group of severe brain disorders in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking and behavior. The ability of people with schizophrenia to function normally and to care for themselves tends to deteriorate over time."

"Contrary to some popular belief, schizophrenia isn't split personality or multiple personality. The word "schizophrenia" does mean "split mind," but it refers to a disruption of the usual balance of emotions and thinking. Schizophrenia is a chronic condition, requiring lifelong treatment," also noted staff at the Mayo Clinic.

The symptoms are not unique to schizophrenia and can also be signs of other mental health problems. Men can develop symptoms as early as their teens and women in their 20s. Both children and those over 40 are generally in the clear.

Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia often are split into three categories: positive, negative and cognitive. For a proper diagnosis a mental health professional will conduct a series of tests.

Here are some symptoms organized by the Mayo Clinic to help understand schizophrenia:

Positive symptoms
In schizophrenia, positive symptoms reflect an excess or distortion of normal functions. These active, abnormal symptoms may include: delusions, hallucinations, thought disorder, disorganized behavior.

Negative symptoms
Negative symptoms refer to a diminishment or absence of characteristics of normal function. They may appear months or years before positive symptoms, including:     
 - loss of interest in everyday activities
 - appearing to lack emotion
 - reduced ability to plan or carry out activities
 - neglect of personal hygiene
 - social withdrawal
 - loss of motivation

Cognitive symptoms
Cognitive symptoms involve problems with thought processes. These symptoms may be the most disabling in schizophrenia, because they interfere with the ability to perform routine daily tasks. A person with schizophrenia may be born with these symptoms, but they may worsen when the disorder starts, including: problems with making sense of information, difficulty paying attention and memory problems.

Affective symptoms
Schizophrenia also can affect mood, causing depression or mood swings. In addition, people with schizophrenia often seem inappropriate and odd, causing others to avoid them, which leads to social isolation.

How to help
Those struggling with schizophrenia do not always understand what is happening and normally friends and family get them the help they need. Explain your concern and offer to go with your friend or loved one to their doctor's appointment. Show them mental illness is a part of them but not who they are. Be supportive and help them understand that there may be help available. Also, it is common for people with schizophrenia to have suicidal thoughts. If this a concern seek immediate professional help.

There is a range of types of schizophrenia: paranoid, catatonic, disorganized; as well as disorders schizoid personality, schizoaffective, and schizotypal personality. For more information visit: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/schizophrenia/DS00196/TAB=indepth

Full study, " Impaired hippocampal-prefrontal synchrony in a genetic mouse model of schizophrenia": http://www.nature.com

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