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When schizophrenia and a substance abuse disorder have thrown your life into chaos, at FootPrints BHC we can offer you renewed hope for a brighter future. Our dual diagnosis treatment program is comprehensive, flexible and will provide you with the absolute best in mental, physical and spiritual health care services.
In its most severe form schizophrenia may cause a complete break with reality. Victims may become so lost and confused they lose their capacity to care for themselves or acknowledge their families. The condition doesn’t always reach these extremes, but if treatment is not offered when symptoms first appear they are likely to become much more serious over time.
People suffering from schizophrenia may seem to speak or behave irrationally, but they are actually responding to their own inner logic. When schizophrenia develops the mind gradually turns inward, making it impossible for the victim to function the way they used to. The world they inhabit makes sense to them, but no one else can enter.
Schizophrenia and Multiple Personality Disorder
Despite popular misconceptions, schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder are not the same thing. Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that can cause a break or disconnection with reality, but it does not cause the fracturing of the personality experienced by those who suffer from MPD. The latter disorder is extremely rare and most victims were subject to tremendous physical or emotional abuse during childhood. This is not the case with schizophrenia, which has its roots in the brain and has a variety of causes, some of which are still unknown or uncertain.
Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia
The onset of schizophrenia normally occurs between the ages of 16 and 30, although it may seem to develop a bit later if the earliest signs go undetected.
The symptoms of schizophrenia are numerous and will touch every area of a sufferer’s life. For the sake of clarity they are divided into three categories:
- Positive symptoms: Illogical or even psychotic thoughts, behaviors or emotions that reveal a disconnection between the victim and the real world.
- Negative symptoms: An absence of normal reactions and a failure to exhibit typical attitudes or responses in various life situations.
- Cognitive symptoms: Difficulties with memory or thinking processes.
These categories are not definitive, as the symptoms of schizophrenia tend to overlap and blend.
- Excessive paranoia or feelings of persecution
- Bizarre, irrational ideas about reality and the universe
- Delusions of grandeur or an exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Seeing hidden meanings behind every coincidence
- Hearing voices that offer instruction or make threats.
- Visual hallucinations that are impossible to distinguish from normal reality.
- Dysfunctional or self-destructive ways of thinking or behaving.
- Repetitive, uncoordinated or highly unusual patterns of movement.
- Disordered, jumbled or undecipherable speech.
- Limited range and expression of emotions.
- Inability to take pleasure in previously enjoyable activities.
- Loss of energy and motivation.
- Reduced capacity to initiate or complete fairly simple tasks.
- Unwillingness to speak, socially withdrawn.
- Drastic changes in sleep habits.
- Loss of interest in grooming or personal care.
- Slow response times.
- Abrupt, 180 degree personality changes.
- Difficulty understanding or processing new information.
- Rapid decline in problem-solving skills
- Indecisiveness, an inability to make firm decisions.
- Lack of focus and concentration.
- Problems with short-term memory.
- Poor impulse control.
- Lack of awareness of the surrounding environment.
Many of these symptoms may be quite subtle at first, masking the severity of the illness that is causing them. Severe symptoms seldom manifest immediately, which makes the disorder that much harder to detect since mild-to-moderate indicators often seem to mimic depression.
If you suspect you someone in your family member is suffering from schizophrenia you should contact a mental health professional right away. Only an expert can accurately diagnose this mysterious condition.
What Causes Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia can strike anyone, anywhere, and no one is completely immune from the threat.
Nevertheless some factors may put you at greater risk of developing the disorder, including:
- Genetics (previous family history).
- Neurochemical imbalances (dopamine or serotonin).
- Structural anomalies in the brain.
- Chronic nutritional deficiencies.
- Low birth weight.
- Exposure to viruses or infection at a young age.
- Low oxygen levels in the grain before, during or immediately after birth.
It is important to emphasize that schizophrenia is still relatively uncommon, and a significant majority of those who register positive for these risk factors will never develop the condition.
Why Do Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Occur Together?
The conventional answer to this question is that those suffering from schizophrenia turn to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate. In other words, they use intoxicants to suppress disturbing symptoms and forget their troubles.
This view has merit and is undoubtedly true in many instances. However, some of the signs and side effects of schizophrenia may inhibit judgment and lead to poor decision-making. Reduced impulse control, chronic apathy or detachment, social isolation, feelings of invincibility and a lack of attention to personal care may prevent victims of the disorder from accurately evaluating and monitoring their consumption of drugs and alcohol. As a result people suffering from schizophrenia may “fall into” chemical dependency without realizing what has happened.
Regardless of the cause, the connection between schizophrenia and substance abuse is strong. If you or a loved one have a diagnosis for the former, drugs and alcohol are untrustworthy companions.
Statistics on Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse
Americans over the age of 15 suffer from mild, moderate or severe schizophrenia. This represents 1.1 percent of the adult population.
People diagnosed with schizophrenia will develop a substance abuse problem at some point in their lives.
People suffering from schizophrenia or manic-depressive illness are homeless. This accounts for almost one-third of America’s homeless population.
Only a trained team of mental health professionals and addiction specialists can make a precise dual diagnosis of drug and/or alcohol addiction and schizophrenia. Needless to say as soon as either one is suspected you should seek the counsel of treatment experts immediately, to find out what is really going on and what kind of health care services would be most appropriate.
Schizophrenia, Substance Abuse and Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders
Once a thorough medical evaluation has been completed and a dual diagnosis for schizophrenia and chemical dependency has been made, an interdisciplinary team of intervention specialists will develop and institute a comprehensive, integrated treatment regimen.
Each condition will be treated simultaneously and in a coordinated fashion, preferably in a residential setting, by a group of professionals that may include psychiatrists, psychologists, addiction counselors, nurses and physicians, depending on the patient’s current state and life history.
If necessary detox services for addiction will be offered before actual treatment begins, and shortly thereafter anti-psychotic drugs with a history of success in reducing the symptoms of schizophrenia will likely be administered. These drugs often take several weeks to take full effect, but patients often show some improvement within the first few days of taking medication.
During formal treatment, those with a dual diagnosis of schizophrenia and a substance abuse disorder will be exposed to a steady diet of individual, family and group therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly used to counteract the symptoms of both addiction and schizophrenia, although it may be necessary to wait for the medication to take effect before those suffering from schizophrenia are prepared to handle this type of intervention.
In addition to therapy and medication, patients will likely participate in peer group meetings, mindfulness training, classes that teach life and coping skills and personalized activities designed to help each man or woman move beyond the artificial limits placed on them by their twin illnesses.
Treatment for Schizophrenia and Chemical Dependency at FootPrints BHC
At FootPrints BHC we rely on the very best in evidence-based treatment strategies to help those with a dual diagnosis recover their health and freedom.
When you come to us with co-occurring schizophrenia and chemical dependency, you will be cared for by a group of experienced, compassionate mental health professionals and addiction treatment specialists who will skillfully coordinate their services for maximum effectiveness.
Your treatment regimen will be tailored to meet your needs as a unique individual with two life-altering conditions, each of which reinforces the other and neither of which can be overlooked if a future free from suffering is to be achieved.
Traditional forms of detox and therapy will be provided as options during your stay in residential treatment. But what makes FootPrints BHC unique is our commitment to incorporating holistic, mind-body wellness practices into all our healing programs.
We want to help you recover from substance abuse and learn how to manage your symptoms of schizophrenia, in order to lead you back to a safe, happy and normal existence. But we’ll also show you how to develop the tools and personal resources to move beyond dysfunctional and counterproductive patterns of living. During your time at a FootPrints Behavioral Health Center you learn how to avoid the temptation to return to drugs and alcohol when circumstances become stressful or confusing.
The FootPrints BHC dual diagnosis treatment program is as comprehensive as it is time-tested and expertly conceived. If you come to us for treatment services, we’ll help you recover everything you lost as you emerge from the shadows of mental illness and substance abuse.
Making the Decision to Heal
Schizophrenia and substance abuse are associated with an increased risk for suicide, depression, homelessness, physical and emotional victimization, heart disease, hepatitis, HIV, smoking (and its related diseases) and a poor life outcome in general.
But these are only worse-case scenarios and none are predestined. With caring, educated and empathic medical assistance you can overcome each of these co-occurring disorders and move on to a future filled with possibility.
Recovery is a choice and it is one you or your loved one can make today, before you lose even one more hour of your life to drugs, alcohol or schizophrenia.