Schizophrenia and Addiction

Suffering from behavioral and mental disorders is difficult. This is especially the case when the mental and behavioral disorder that you suffer from is rare like schizophrenia is. In fact, schizophrenia only affects around 0.25% to 0.64% of people in the United States. That means that less than 1% of the American population understands what it’s like to have schizophrenia. When you pair up schizophrenia and addiction, the number of people who understand your struggle becomes even less. 

Not only is schizophrenia a rare disease, but it’s a severe one as well. This means that the difference between the way that a person with schizophrenia functions and the way that a person without a disorder functions can be drastically different. This is often the case as schizophrenia impairs your ability to function and separate fiction from reality. 

If you or someone you love has schizophrenia, it’s important to understand what causes the disorder, how the disorder works, and what to do to treat it. Learning these things can help individuals learn how to function with schizophrenia. When you suffer from a co-occurring disorder of schizophrenia and addiction, you must also learn about what causes addiction, how addiction operates, and how to treat substance abuse. That way, you can understand how these two disorders affect one another. 

Ultimately, learning about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for both schizophrenia and addiction will help you figure out what treatment plan you should use to treat your dual diagnosis disorder. With the right dual diagnosis treatment, not only will you be able to function with schizophrenia and addiction, but you’ll even be able to thrive with it also.  

schizophrenia and addictionWhat is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental and behavioral disorder that causes you to interpret reality in an abnormal way. People with schizophrenia often experience hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and behavior.

Schizophrenia is often so severe that it causes people to have trouble expressing and managing normal emotions and decisions. Overtime, schizophrenia can become so severe that people with it have no sense of reality. In fact, many schizophrenics will hear imaginary voices.

People with schizophrenia also tend to experience severe paranoia. For example, people with schizophrenia will think that someone is reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or planning to hurt them. 

People also often assume that schizophrenic people have split personalities or are dangerous. Since people often stigmatize and ostracize people with schizophrenia, those who suffer from it often experience emotional withdrawal and depression. As a result, many people with schizophrenia attempt suicide.

In fact, despite people with schizophrenia only making up less than 1% of the American population, more schizophrenics commit suicide each year than people in the general public. So, more than 10% of people with schizophrenia will commit suicide in their first 10 years of having the illness. 

Although signs of schizophrenia will appear from childhood, most people don’t fully develop their schizophrenia until their late teens or early adulthood. Once schizophrenia develops, it doesn’t go away. Thus, it’s a lifelong disease that you must manage every day to function in society like everybody else.

Signs of Schizophrenia

There are many signs that a person may have schizophrenia. One of these signs is appearing flustered all the time. Although being flustered can be a normal personality trait or reaction, when this behavior frequently occurs and is associated with anxiety and a lack of focus, it could be an early warning sign of schizophrenia. 

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

There is a long list of symptoms that people with schizophrenia often experience. Most of these symptoms occur once the disease has become full-fledged. 

Delusions

People with schizophrenia often experience delusions. Delusions are false beliefs that aren’t based in reality. For example, individuals who suffer from delusional thinking may believe that others hate them, even if it’s far from true. Or, they may think certain individuals are in love with them, even if they are not.

Hallucinations

Hallucinations occur when you see or hear something that doesn’t exist. Hearing things that don’t exist is the most common form of hallucinating. 

Disorganized Thinking and Speech

A person with disorganized thinking and speaking will have poor communication skills. When people suffer from this schizophrenic symptom, they will answer questions in a way that makes no sense. Although rare, some schizophrenic people’s thoughts and speech are so disorganized that when speaking at all, they stream random words together and make no sense.  

Disorganized or Abnormal Motor Behavior

Schizophrenic people with disorganized or abnormal motor behavior will fidget and display inappropriate posture and excessive movement. People that suffer from this schizophrenic symptom also lack the ability to focus. This symptom of schizophrenia can range from subtle to severe.

Negative Symptoms

This symptom encompasses anything that causes a person with schizophrenia to not function properly in society. Examples of generally negative schizophrenic symptoms include a lack of personal hygiene and the inability to make eye contact.

Individuals may also be unable to speak with animation or make facial expressions when around others. Because people with negative schizophrenic symptoms struggle functioning in society in social situations, they often withdraw themselves from any social activities or interactions. 

Causes of Schizophrenia

The exact cause of schizophrenia is still unknown. Researchers believe that it’s likely a combination of the following factors.  

1. Genetics

Your genetic makeup is likely the most influential factor as to if you’ll develop schizophrenia or not. Essentially, if you have an immediate family member with schizophrenia, you may be likely to develop it as well. While you can pinpoint many diseases to one gene, researchers think that a combination of genes within a person can create the perfect storm for schizophrenia to develop. 

Studies show that if you’re already at high risk of developing schizophrenia due to your genetic makeup, stress can trigger the disorder into development. Studies also show that if an identical twin has schizophrenia, the other twin has a 1-2 chance of developing schizophrenia. On the other hand, if a fraternal twin has schizophrenia, the other twin has a 1-8 chance of developing schizophrenia.

2. Structural Changes in the Brain 

Schizophrenia can cause small changes in your brain’s structure. Not everyone with schizophrenia has changes in their brain structure though. 

3. Chemical Changes in the Brain

Imbalanced or low-level neurotransmitters in the brain can cause schizophrenia. In fact, low-level or imbalanced neurotransmitters in the brain can cause multiple mental health illnesses. 

One neurotransmitter in the brain that for sure has an effect on the development of schizophrenia is dopamine. This is because dopamine causes the brains of people with schizophrenia to overstimulate. 

4. Pregnancy or Birth Applications

When a woman has complications while pregnant or while delivering a child, the likelihood that she could develop schizophrenia increases. Women who already have a diagnosis of schizophrenia also have a higher chance of having complications during pregnancy. It’s unknown if complications during the labor of a child alone increase the chances that that child will develop schizophrenia or not. 

5. Childhood Trauma 

Sometimes the hallucinations that schizophrenic people experience relate to past childhood trauma. Because of this, childhood trauma is considered a plausible cause of schizophrenia. For example, researchers believe that if you experienced the death or permanent separation of one or both of your parents as a child, you are more likely to develop schizophrenia. 

6. Previous Drug Use

Using drugs like marijuana, cocaine, LSD, or amphetamines can trigger symptoms of schizophrenia in people that already have a predisposition to developing it. 

What is Addiction?

Addiction to substances occurs when a person that already has a dependency on substances cannot function without them and is willing to do almost anything to remain using them. People are dependent on substances when they experience withdrawals whenever they minimize or discontinue their use of them. 

Addiction takes dependency a step further by causing the addict to exhibit risky, unhealthy, and dishonest behaviors to get more alcohol or drugs. For example, a person may be willing to steal just to get more drugs when he or she has an addiction. 

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

The signs and symptoms of addiction can be physiological or behavioral. The signs and symptoms that a person with addiction experiences can vary depending on who that person is and the substances that that person is addicted to. 

 

Physiological Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

  • Seizures
  • Digestive issues
  • Poor self-hygiene
  • Heart palpitations
  • Troubles sleeping
  • Appetite changes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sudden loss of weight
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Repeated speech patterns
  • Dilated pupils and red eyes
  • No longer taking care of oneself
  • Increased tolerance to substances
  • Excessive sniffing and runny nose

Behavioral Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

  • Irritability
  • Legal issues
  • Financial problems
  • Risky sexual behavior
  • Change of social circle
  • Lying about whereabouts
  • Problems at work or school
  • Secrecy about whereabouts
  • Missing important engagements
  • No longer participating in activities that you once enjoyed
  • Issues with the relationship you have with family and friends

 

Causes of Addiction

There are many factors that can cause a person to develop an addiction. Most of these factors fall under the categories of genetics, environmental factors, and exposure. 

Genetics

Studies show that 40-60% of predisposition to addiction comes from genetics. In fact, children of addicts are 25% more likely to develop an addiction than children from non-addict parents. A person’s genetic gender can also influence whether or not he or she will develop an addiction. 

Men have higher rates of addiction than women. Despite this fact, women become addicted to substances quicker through smaller doses. Women also relapse and suffer from dual diagnosis disorders more often than men do. Drugs causing pleasure feeling neurotransmitters in the brain to release chemicals also help cause addiction. 

Environmental Factors

The way that you were brought up as a child also plays a major role as to whether or not you develop an addiction. If you grew up in a home or environment where alcohol and drugs were often used and abused, you become desensitized to substances and their effects. As a result, you’re more likely to use substances yourself and not recognize when you are abusing them.

Emotional Factors 

Feelings of loneliness, stress, and fatigue can cause a person to turn to substances to cope. Over time, that person’s use of substances can turn into dependency which can then turn into an addiction.  

Persistent negative emotions can even cause someone to develop a mental illness. When people use substances to cope with mental illness, they could develop a co-occurring disorder. Women are more likely to develop co-occurring disorders than men. 

Exposure

When you repeatedly expose yourself to alcohol and drugs throughout your life, you’re more likely to use them yourself at some point. This is especially true if you repeatedly expose yourself to substance abuse.  

Schizophrenia and Addiction

Because of how difficult life is with schizophrenia, many schizophrenic people turn to substances to cope. In fact, studies show that 50% of people with schizophrenia have a history of substance abuse. 

Many of the schizophrenic people that abuse substances eventually develop a dual diagnosis disorder of schizophrenia and addiction. A dual diagnosis disorder is when a person simultaneously suffers from a substance use disorder and a mental illness. When people with schizophrenia abuse substances, they can worsen the symptoms of their schizophrenia and addiction. It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between the symptoms of schizophrenia and addiction as they can appear similar at times. 

Schizophrenia and AddictionThe Effects of Schizophrenia and Addiction

Schizophrenia and addiction can lead to adverse effects with one another. To make matters worse, when a person with schizophrenia also develops an addiction, that person then becomes less likely to take their own schizophrenia treatment medicine. Therefore, symptoms of schizophrenia become more intense. 

Using substances can also make the symptoms of schizophrenia more intense. This could cause a person with a co-occurring disorder of schizophrenia and addiction to experience psychosis. Schizophrenia and addiction together can also cause a person to become violent.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual diagnosis treatment is addiction treatment for a substance use disorder and a mental illness. This type of treatment uses detox, addiction treatment programs, and different forms of therapy to simultaneously treat your addiction and schizophrenia. 

Why Simultaneous Treatment of Co-Occurring Disorders Is Important

Treating co-occurring disorders simultaneously is important because if you leave one of the two disorders untreated, it increases the chance that the other disorder will develop once again. This is especially true since many substance use disorders develop due to people suffering from mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Thus, treating addiction without treating schizophrenia isn’t getting to the root of the problem. 

On the other hand, treating schizophrenia without treating addiction will cause you to continue your unhealthy addictive behaviors which can then cause your schizophrenic symptoms, like hallucinations, to come back up. This is especially true with schizophrenia and addiction since the symptoms of these two disorders are similar.  

Silver Linings is Here to Meet Your Needs

At Silver Linings Recovery Center, we provide dual diagnosis treatment for a wide variety of substance use disorder and mental illness combinations, including schizophrenia and addiction. We also provide addiction treatment and therapy services for countless substance use disorders and mental illnesses individually. To learn more about the services that we provide here at Silver Linings, contact us today.

 

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