Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and long-term mental disorder that affects the individual’s thought processes making it difficult to think clearly. There is no consistency between thought and emotion because it also impacts the person’s feelings and their ability to communicate, to focus, to complete tasks, and to relate to others.
Schizophrenia sufferers are believed to have odd or inappropriate characteristics because they are unable to control their behavior. They have trouble performing ordinary activities, controlling impulses and keeping emotions in check, which affect their work, social, and home life.
As indicated by the Medical News Today, the symptoms associated with schizophrenia often start between the ages of 16 and 30 years (Brazier, 2017).
The characteristic symptoms are delusions and visual or auditory hallucinations. Hallucinating is when they see things that do not exist or hear people talking when they are alone. Delusions are thoughts considered true, even though it is contradicted by reality.
In 2013, the DSM-5, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Ed., published by The American Psychiatric Association (APA), reclassified paranoia as a symptom of schizophrenia rather than a subtype. “The APA justified the removal of schizophrenia subtypes from the DSM-5 because they didn’t appear to help with providing better targeted treatment, or predicting treatment response” (Grohol, 2014).
If a person exhibits symptoms of schizophrenia, including symptoms of paranoia, they will not be diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia but simply schizophrenia and will be treated with antipsychotics based on their individual symptoms.
People who experience a delusion of paranoia believe that they are being followed or that harm is imminent. It makes people fearful, so they avoid others, leading to physical and emotional detachment, anger, and anxiety. However, not everyone will experience paranoia with schizophrenia.
It is important to detect and diagnose early symptoms to seek treatment. Patients suffering from schizophrenia with paranoia need long term treatment. They fail to recognize the need for treatment because they are not aware of their illness.
According to ‘Paranoid Schizophrenia: Symptoms, Therapies, and More’ when detected early, schizophrenia with paranoia may respond successfully to medications and therapy. (Cherney, 2017). Her article listed antipsychotics such as chlorpromazine, fluphenazine, haloperidol and perphenazine, that a doctor may prescribe to help control the symptoms.
These are drugs that control dopamine in the brain and can lessen the intensity of delusions and hallucinations among with the relief they provide to the patient and their families. It may take some time to find the right medication and dosage that works best. As said by Cherney (2017), “some medications may improve the symptoms over the course of 3 to 6 weeks, for some may take up to 12 weeks or more to reach full effect.”
She continues to say “sometimes, the doctor may prescribe antianxiety drugs or antidepressants to treat other symptoms (2017).
Cherney (2017) mentioned that therapy options can include group or psychosocial therapies. Being in a group with other people who are going through the same gives a sense of community to help fight the isolation they usually face.
Psychosocial therapies help patients with training in social skills in order to function normally in their daily lives such as money management, social interaction methods or stress management techniques, as well as warning signs that need to be communicated to the doctor or loved ones.
Hospitalization may be necessary in severe cases where symptoms create an unsafe environment for the patient or others. It is also used for people who can no longer provide themselves with basic necessities, such as clothing, food, and shelter (Cherney, 2017).
Movie about Paranoia in Schizophrenia
A Beautiful Mind is based on the life of the brilliant Princeton mathematician John Nash (Russell Crowe), who is a sufferer of paranoid schizophrenia. The film shows the development of the paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions he faced as part of his illness.
Some of the symptoms are shown when John is so terrible with people with his awkward talk and directness. He can’t relate to others with his weird behavior, strange gestures and lack of emotions. He looks always out of place and his friends make fun of him.
John also had delusions of grandeur that are misinterpreted as genius pride. He was obsessed about finding a topic for his doctorate and spent two days in the library neglecting his own hygiene and isolating.
His mind creates imaginary friends as well as enemies. Charles was his imaginary college roommate and later his closest friend for years. His delusion of working for the government cracking secret codes and leaving top secret documents in an abandoned mailbox. He believed that he and his family were in danger when he didn’t want to cooperate anymore with agent Parcher. This causes becoming paranoid thinking that the soviets were after him. He was also convinced that the doctors were soviet spies.
John had a visual hallucination when almost let his son to drown in the bathtub. He went off to complete his secret work while Charles takes care of the baby.
A part of schizophrenia is confusion and fear, and not quite understanding what is happening. In one scene, John is bombarded with flashbacks spinning around him. He watches his relationships falling apart and the people he loves get hurt due to his uncontrollable symptoms.
His psychiatrist, Dr. Rosen says how this is: “The nightmare of schizophrenia is not knowing what is true. Imagine if you had suddenly learned that the people and the places and the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, never had been. What kind of hell would that be?”
John was devastated realizing that all the people who were so real to him for so many years were not real after all. In order for John to get better, he has to overcome his hallucinations, so he resolves not to speak to them anymore, even though he still sees them around.
How this character changes my perception of the disorder?
There is so much about this disease that we must learn. I am pretty sure that when we hear the word “schizophrenia” we consider it to be the worst mental illness and a lot of symptoms probably come to mind. Some of them, unfortunately, are exaggerated or completely inaccurate.
John’s character is not shown as a monster or violent, a big stereotype about mental illness. Schizophrenia’s sufferers are much the victims of violence or bullying and are labeled with negative stereotypes that lead to discriminate against them and thus their withdrawal from society.
We don’t know yet why it happened or what it will look like, it manifests differently for everyone. We do know it is chronic and unfortunately, there is no cure for schizophrenia. People with this disorder will never be the same, it does not have to ruin them. They have to accept to live with it for the rest of their lives.
Life goes on, as John continues to deal with his hallucinations while living his life as best he can, he managed to keep them from interfering with his life. He went on to great academic success, including being awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics.
The support from family and friends is vital for any illness recovery. It is important to educate families and society about the resources that are available to help. I learned from the movie how John suffered without the help of doctors and the treatments.
No one was aware of his symptoms! Though we might not understand their symptoms, it is important to acknowledge what the sufferers are going through.
Our culture is greatly influenced by films, television, and other media.
Though movies and TV shows are not documentaries, there are few with real and accurate information about mental health topics. Films could be an influential tool to educate and help change the view of people and create awareness about the symptoms of any mental disorder, so the sufferers are not discriminated against and their disorders can be stopped or treated at the initial stages.