How Advancements in Early Detection and Intervention Are Improving Schizophrenia Treatment
In the sphere of mental health, early intervention is widely recognized as being vital for recovery, a key part of gaining control of mental health challenges as soon as possible in order to spearhead treatment. This is especially true for psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, with studies showing that early intervention is crucial for response to treatment and recovery.
Given the importance of early detection and intervention, it’s no surprise that advancements are being made in the field to continue building upon the foundation of these areas of research. These steps forward are crucial, because public focus on schizophrenia has been unfocused and less prominent than other mental health challenges, which makes it difficult for people living with it to get the attention and treatment that they need.
“I don’t think I would have been diagnosed as someone with childhood schizophrenia, but there were perhaps some early warning signs,” said legal scholar Elyn Saks, who lives with schizophrenia. “For instance, I had periods of disorganization, where it felt like my mind was falling apart: there was no center to take things in, put them together, and make them make sense.”
At the time, Saks was obviously too young to realize or understand what was happening to her, but with the right knowledge, the people around her might have. These kinds of early warning signs are things that will be easier to detect with continued evolution in the field. We need to collectively become more aware of the importance of these interventions and advancements to help our loved ones living with schizophrenia open up and better our ability to notice the signs of schizophrenia, allowing us to guide those closest to us into early intervention.
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Advancements in Early Detection
Although the word “schizophrenia” was coined less than 100 years ago and first identified back in 1887 by German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin, it is believed to have affected human beings as far back as Pharaonic Egypt. Since its identification as a mental illness, we have continued to narrow down the specific symptomsthat separate it from other mental health challenges.
While we still have a lot to learn about schizophrenia, we are continuing to progress our knowledge and uncover research that supports its label as a disease of the brain stemming primarily from biological factors. Research suggest that it runs in families, supporting the idea that genetics play a key role in its development, and a recent study revealed a specific genetic pathway linked to schizophrenia that starts in the womb.
“In the last 10 years, genetic investigations into schizophrenia have been plagued by an ever-increasing number of mutations found in patients with the disease,” says Michal Stachowiak, senior author of the study. “We show for the first time that there is, indeed, a common, dysregulated gene pathway at work here.”
Not only could these findings pave the way for drugs that can target and treat these dysregulations, they could help us better understand the genetic links to schizophrenia and how these links influence its development. By understanding how schizophrenia develops, we can develop our ability to notice its symptoms, our understanding of why they manifest, and the most appropriate treatments based on the progression of the illness.
This is extremely important for schizophrenia in particular. At early stages of the illness, people are more cognizant of their symptoms. As it progresses, however, people are less likely to acknowledge their mental health challenge, making it more difficult to guide them into the treatment programs that can give them the help they need.
First Episode Programs
The necessity and focus on early intervention have led to “first episode programs,” which focus on ensuring that younger people experiencing their first episode of psychosis have the tools they need to recover. With average onset lying between 15 and 25 years of age, many adolescents and young adults endure the frightening symptoms of schizophrenia for the first time with no support network.
First episode programs aim to provide people with the therapies and tools needed to deal with their mental health challenge in a productive manner outside of the standard hospital setting and get themselves on track to a productive life before their illness threatens to become too much for them to handle. As a family member or loved one of someone experiencing their first episode, you play a key role in sustaining these programs and helping them achieve their goal of long-term treatment and recovery from schizophrenia.
“Family education is important, partially because when psychotic symptoms or manic episodes develop, sometimes the family notices the change before the patient does,” says Keith Nuechterlein, a psychiatry professor who directs the early psychosis program at the University of California-Los Angeles. “That can help you head off an episode before it gets full-blown.”
As a family, becoming more aware of schizophrenia and its many warning signs can better equip you to guide your loved ones into the direction of treatment as early as possible. By shining the spotlight on this disorder, we can help families reach this level of awareness, as well as pave the way for improvements in early detection/treatment and thrust research into this mental health challenge forward.
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Progress Through Intervention
If you have a friend, family member, or partner showing signs of schizophrenia, getting them into a comprehensive residential treatment program as soon as possible is a crucial step to ensuring their progression to recovery. Experiencing the onset of schizophrenia can be a confusing experience, but facing it within a controlled residential setting tied together by professional guidance can give your loved one the stability and knowledge that they need to cope during this time.
Ultimately, early intervention will make the transition into treatment smoother for both you and your loved ones, allowing you to take part in the recovery process and establish a network of support that can ensure that everyone involved is prepared and ready to deal with future episodes in the most adaptive way possible.
Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive residential treatment for people struggling with schizophrenia. Contact us to learn more about how your loved one can benefit from early intervention and the various tools and supports that we offer to harness recovery.
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