When one lives in the same house with others, it is sometimes difficult to recognize changes in a family member’s behavior. It is even more difficult to recognize that certain behaviors are not normal. In such cases it is useful to use the opinions of well meaning friends or relatives as pointers. One can also check against a list of signs about the possibility that a person may be suffering from a serious mental disorder

Signs to Look for :

Do you notice any of the following…?

  • laughing or talking to oneself
  • getting angry or crying without any apparent reason
  • complaints by the person of hearing voices when alone!
  • complaints or ideas that someone is after the person
  • not carrying out one’s own usual daily routine
  • sudden lack of care about personal grooming and hygiene
  • serious disturbances in sleep or lack of appetite
  • person reporting that he or she is seeing things others don’t
  • unexplained violent behavior
  • withdrawal from social activities and people
  • strange ideas and beliefs, such as, that everything on the radio or TV is referring to the person himself, or that everyone knows what the person is thinking, that he knows about other’s thoughts and ideas being transmitted to him
  • lack of association of thought leading to mixture of ideas while talking or talk not making sense

When to seek help :

If you notice any of these signs in someone in your family, it would be best to consult a psychiatrist, for they may be symptoms of Schizophrenia. In particular, if the person is doing things which are harmful to himself or others, he must be taken to a psychiatrist or a hospital immediately.

Causes of schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder. It is important to understand that the person is not deliberately behaving abnormally – it is not within his control.

Schizophrenia is caused by biological factors leading to certain disturbances in bodily chemicals which are present in some people making them prone to develop schizophrenic symptoms. Sometimes the problem may disappear on its own, at other times it may come up with no apparent reason often becoming worse under stress. The episode may start at the time of great stress and then the illness runs its course.


Schizophrenia is not a disorder which one can ‘cure’. That is to say, it can come back again at some later time. But it can and must be controlled because the disease can prevent the person from living a normal life as well as prove damaging to the person’s family. With treatment, the person can improve enough to live a near normal life.

The psychiatrist will almost certainly put the affected person on a course of medication, because the biological imbalances are corrected or controlled to a large extent by the use of certain medicines. For this reason, it is important to ensure that the patient takes or is given the medicines regularly. The psychiatrist will also provide guidelines on how to administer these medicines to a patient who is suspicious of the medicine and does not agree to take it on his own. Medication is required for a long period and should not be discontinued even when symptoms disappear.

In cases where there are a lot of abnormal ideas and there is intense excitement in the person’s behavior, or when there is a danger of suicide or doing harm to others, ECT (electro convulsive therapy) helps get rid of the symptoms. Unfortunately, the movies have spread false ideas about the use of electric shocks as a treatment, quite forgetting that these have helped to save lives. The treatment involves giving a 100 volt shock for less than one second – under anesthesia – for a certain number of sessions (usually about six).

Family Therapy is usually required when it is discovered that someone in the family has schizophrenia. Advice on how to handle the patient’s behavior and how to give support during the treatment is important.

Work therapy and daily routine with care to personal hygiene and grooming are very important.

Hospitalization is at times necessary when the patient’s behavior is harmful to himself or others, or when he is not looking after his own basic needs any more. Also, it may be necessary to make sure he is getting his medication regularly. Schizophrenic patients can sometimes refuse to accept medicines from relatives because they imagine they are being poisoned.

Schizophrenia is an illness which when treated early yield best result, and may become refractory to treatment in chronic phases.