Schizophrenia by itself is not fatal like cancer or any other life-threatening diseases. However, many cases of death have been accounted for and the usual reason behind it is suicide. Moreover, people who have adopted habits such as smoking, taking prohibited drugs, or unhealthy eating, either due to the side effects of schizophrenic medicines or due to some kind of depression turns them towards an unhealthy lifestyle can be commonly observed. These unhealthy habits, in turn, lead to heart problems, obesity, or a diabetic condition. Thus, the lifespan of people with schizophrenia lowers to 20 years minus their actual lifespan. Also, in some cases, the effects of living an unhealthy lifestyle often lead to the dangerous behavior and aggression displayed by people with schizophrenia.
In some cases, the illness starts with a period of confusion, excitement, and agitation. The patient seems to be eager to make contact, to reach all the people he knows, to reconnect himself with what seems to him an escaping world. He searches for something that he cannot find, but he does not even know that he searches. He wants to be active, manifests an intensified hunger for life, for experience, but his confusion is more prominent than his search. His excitement may become pronounced, his speech may lose coherence, and the abnormality becomes obvious.
The Perceptual Functions of Schizophrenias
The perceptual functions of the patient seem altered too, as he sees or hears things in a distorted way. The world, or the environment, appears to him as strange or at least unusual. Things and persons have a different aspect and relate to him in a way that is different from what he had previously seen. People may change dimensions and appear unusually large or small.
Moreover, movements may be perceived differently; the rhythm of life has become too fast or too slow. At times, things are misidentified (illusions). Persons are misidentified and they sometimes tend to place themselves as a different person, like a twin brother for example. Strange resemblances are observed. An old man on the street looked exactly like the patient’s grandfather (maybe he is the grandfather’s twin brother, whose existence was unknown to the patient). The mental state of a person with schizophrenia is very delicate. When it is not taken seriously and treated, a person's way of thinking might not be coherent.
The Effects of Hallucination
Most frequently, the people who have schizophrenia have illusions that are mostly hallucinations, or perceptions occurring without any object or stimulus in the external environment being responsible for them. In many cases, hallucinations are preceded by, or occur together with the feeling that one’s thoughts have become audible, that they can be heard by people standing nearby or even in distant places.
In a very large number of cases, the patient hears voices that accuse him of being a spy, a homosexual, or a murderer, and yet nobody is there to say those things. Hallucinations involve every sense, the auditory, being as a rule, as the most common throughout the course of the disorder. In the early stages, especially in very acute cases, visual hallucinations may be as numerous as auditory ones. Hallucinations involving smell, taste, and touch are much less frequent. Olfactory hallucinations, generally related to one’s body are relatively frequent in mild cases that do not require hospitalization. In addition, the patient may manifest other symptoms that seem neurotic, especially at the beginning of the illness: tiredness, insomnia, and headache.
Speech and Language Impairment
The speech and language of many patients show peculiar characteristics. If certain questions are asked, the patient seems evasive because he does not answer them directly. At times, he seems to beat around the bush — he says something related to what was asked but not exactly what was requested. For instance, to the question, “Who is the President of the United States?” he may reply, “White House.” At times, he uses impressive and abstract words, but in an empty or inappropriate way.
Often, his speech is characterized by the intrusion of apparently extraneous elements. In advanced cases, it may be difficult to understand what the patient tries to convey. His sentences consist of a sequence of words that seem unrelated to one another (word-salad). At times, certain words are used repeatedly in a stereotyped manner (perseveration); the patient may use other words that do not appear in the dictionary, words that he has coined by condensing or putting together usual words (neologisms). In many cases, the patient is unable to talk (mutism), or able to do so only after overcoming a great resistance (blocking).
Sexual Behavior of Schizophrenics
Schizophrenics usually do not receive much sympathy. For this reason, due to their unusual behavior, they do not consistently have a partner. Thus, certain disturbing sexual behavior like disrobing or masturbating in public, making unacceptable sexual advances, or develop sexual feelings for their mothers or sisters, or even turn into a homosexual are observed. Even pets and inanimate objects become mediums of sexual affection. These conditions are often bizarre, and thus, covered up by family members.
The Bottom Line
The description given is only an approximation of what is observed in individual cases and poses no threat to the patient’s life. Moreover, in most cases, this problem persists in the younger group of population. In the midst of the multiform aspects, the characteristic that stands out in almost every case is the fact that the patient is not what he used to be. His whole relation with the world, himself, and others has undergone a drastic change. In some cases, the change has been so gradual that people in daily contact with him have not become aware or alarmed, but people who have not seen him for a long time or who do not know him realize at once that there is something unnatural in the way he relates to people and to himself.
Almost every patient goes through an incipient or early stage, during which a change has occurred, but no disorganization of the personality has manifested itself to more than a minimal degree. In many cases, the disorganization proceeds to advanced stages and may progress indefinitely without any fatality.