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Schizophrenia and Substance Use – An Overview


Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that disrupts and distorts the way a person thinks, expresses feelings, views reality, and relates to other people. The effects of it can be so deep and pervasive that it changes behavior, speech, and more. Though schizophrenia can vary from one individual to the next, some of the most commonly occurring symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, and a lack of emotion in speech and in facial expressions.

Treatment for schizophrenia is available, and lifelong recovery is attainable. It can often present with a co-occurring disorder, in many cases addiction. Those who struggle with symptoms of schizophrenia may reach for drugs or alcohol to self-medicate, resulting in true substance use problems. This makes dual diagnosis care imperative for anyone seeking to live a life free from schizophrenia and its symptoms.

Early Warning Signs

Though it is possible for schizophrenia’s symptoms to begin abruptly, with little or no warning, it is much more common for them to come on slowly, with plenty of subtle warning signs and red flags along the way. Recognizing these warning signs can prepare you to seek treatment sooner rather than later, which can make the recovery process far more effective. Some of the early warning signs to watch out for include.

Social Withdrawal Schizophrenia Symptoms

Social Withdrawal

Suspiciousness Hostility Toward Others Schizophrenia Symptoms

Suspiciousness Hostility Toward Others

Decline in Personal Hygiene and Grooming Schizophrenia Symptoms

A Decline in Personal Hygiene and Grooming Habits

Flat emotions or Expressionlessness Schizophrenia Symptoms

Flat Emotions or Expressionlessness

Insomnia, or Oversleeping Schizophrenia Symptoms

Insomnia or Oversleeping

Strange Use of Words or Changes in Speech Patterns Schizophrenia Symptoms

Strange Use of Words or Changes in Speech Patterns

What are the Different Types of Schizophrenia?

As with all mental health disorders, different people will experience different symptoms; even two individuals who have the exact same diagnosis may ultimately have very different experiences and degrees of severity. In fact, schizophrenia can be subdivided into four distinct diagnoses—different types of schizophrenia with their own individual sets of symptoms.

  • Paranoid – may cause a person to feel like he or she is being persecuted; feelings of suspiciousness, and paranoia are also common.
  • Disorganized – may cause a person to have disorganized thoughts and feelings, though it is possible that no delusions are present.
  • Catatonic – can cause a person to become extremely withdrawn, even mute, and in some cases very negative.
  • Residual – describes a condition in which an individual no longer experiences any delusions or hallucinations, but has nevertheless lost all interest in life.

Note also schizoaffective disorder, in which a person has many symptoms of schizophrenia but also symptoms of another mental health disorder, most often depression.

What Causes Schizophrenia?

The specific cause of schizophrenia remains unclear, though there are different factors that researchers consider to be significant. The main two are genetics and brain chemistry.

Certainly, evidence suggests that schizophrenia runs in families, and that a person who has this disorder in their family tree may inherit the condition. Additionally, an imbalance in brain chemistry—which can also boil down to genetics—can be traced to schizophrenia.

Other factors that can be potentially traced back to schizophrenia include various environmental ones, such as high-stress environments and even viral infections.

The specific cause of schizophrenia may not be discernible, but the early warning signs of the condition are—and those who observe them, in themselves or in their loved ones, are encouraged to seek clinical intervention as urgently as possible.

The Connection Between Schizophrenia and Substance Use

There is a strong link between schizophrenia and substance use. Those who experience the symptoms of schizophrenia often struggle with some form of addiction as well. This makes diagnosis and treatment more difficult, as the symptoms of addiction can mask and obscure the symptoms. Dual diagnosis care is needed to determine the true underlying conditions.

Why are schizophrenia and addiction so strongly linked? Part of it is that those who struggle with schizophrenia often reach to drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medication. In other instances, the brain chemistry imbalances that lead to this disorder can also lead to substance use disorders—meaning the two conditions are caused by the same root problem.

What are the Treatments for Schizophrenia?

Recovery is possible. The first step is seeking the proper diagnosis—including a diagnosis of any co-occurring conditions, such as substance use disorders. WestBridge overs specialized dual diagnosis care for men.

From there, an individualized recovery plan can be developed. The important thing here is to create a course of action that takes individual needs into consideration. Individual therapy, group therapy, and ongoing counseling may be needed; in many cases, medication is also administered.

Even after the initial treatment is complete and symptoms are under control, ongoing therapy and support group participation are typically required; even medication may be needed on an ongoing basis. However, with the right commitment to treatment, those who are in recovery can lead healthy and productive lives.

Get Help at our Treatment Center for Schizophrenia and Substance Use

Have you observed the early warning signs, either in yourself or in a loved one? If so, it is imperative that you seek clinical intervention. With the right dual diagnosis and medical care, the symptoms can be managed, and recovery can be sustained over the course of a lifetime.

Getting that initial diagnosis and forming a treatment plan are essential. For men dealing with schizophrenia and substance use disorders, WestBridge offers evidence-based practice and real results. Learn more about the recovery process by contacting the WestBridge team today.