This article is reviewed by Dr. Jyoti Lakhani
Do you or your loved one suffer from schizophrenia? If yes, then you have come to the right place.
In this article, find everything you need to know about schizophrenia, including its treatment in Ayurveda.
What Is Schizophrenia (1)?
Schizophrenia is a spectrum of psychotic disorders characterised by a disconnection from reality. It mainly affects individuals aged 15 to 35, with men typically experiencing symptoms between 15 and 25 and women between 25 and 35. However, schizophrenia can also occur in children under 18.
This condition tends to disrupt brain function, impacting thinking, memory, perception, and daily life activities such as relationships, work, and social interactions.
The schizophrenia spectrum includes many related disorders like schizotypal personality disorder, delusional disorder, brief psychotic disorder, schizophreniform disorder, schizoaffective disorder, catatonia, and other unspecified variations.
Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia (1)
Schizophrenia manifests in different stages, each characterised by distinct symptoms and behaviours. Here are some key signs and symptoms of schizophrenia:
Onset (Prodrome) Stage: social withdrawal, anxiety, lack of motivation and neglect of personal hygiene
Active Stage (Psychotic Break): delusions, hallucinations, disorganised or incoherent speech, disorganised or unusual movements, decreased emotions, facial expressions, speech tone and gestures and lack of motivation for socialising or engaging in enjoyable activities
Residual Stage: odd beliefs, decreased motivation and pleasure, limited speech and reduced emotional expression
Other symptoms and conditions associated with schizophrenia include:
- Increased fear, suspicion, and paranoia
- Difficulty with thinking, focusing, and decreased emotional expressiveness
- Co-occurring depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts
- Substance abuse to self-medicate symptoms
- Anosognosia or inability to recognize or acknowledge one’s own illness or need for treatment
Causes of Schizophrenia (1)
The exact causes of schizophrenia and its related spectrum of conditions are not definitively known. It is believed to result from a combination of factors, and no single cause has been confirmed. However, experts have identified three main factors that are suspected to play a role in the development of schizophrenia, which include:
- Dysregulation of chemical signals in the brain that facilitate communication between cells.
- Abnormalities in brain development that occur prior to birth.
- Disruptions in the connections between different regions of the brain.
Risk Factors of Schizophrenia (1)
Genetics: Family history, especially if a parent or sibling has schizophrenia
Environmental factors: Winter birth, brain-related illnesses, autoimmune diseases, and prolonged extreme stress
Development and birth circumstances: Maternal factors like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, malnutrition, and vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy or birth complications, like emergency caesarean section or low birth weight
Diagnosis of Schizophrenia (1)
There is no specific test to confirm schizophrenia. Your healthcare provider usually observes the symptoms of schizophrenia, evaluates the duration of these symptoms and explores the impact of these symptoms on relationships, work, and daily functioning.
However, they may perform some diagnostic tests to rule out other causes, like imaging tests to rule out brain abnormalities, blood, urine, and cerebrospinal fluid tests to identify chemical imbalances/infections and brain activity testing to rule out conditions like epilepsy.
Modern Treatment of Schizophrenia (1)
Schizophrenia treatment involves a comprehensive approach, based on individual needs and circumstances. It typically includes medications, psychotherapy and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
Ayurvedic Treatment of Schizophrenia (2)
Ayurveda recognizes a condition called Unmada that closely resembles schizophrenia. Classical Ayurvedic texts such as the Atharvaveda not only describe the pathogenesis of the disorder, describing the role of imbalances in the Doshas, but they also describe specific herbal medications and practices that can help manage the condition (3).
Because of the impact of dosha imbalances, including adverse effects on the heart and subsequently the mind, which produces symptoms such as perverted intellect, restless eyes, incoherent speech, and memory loss, Ayurveda aims to balance the Doshas and restore normal brain function through shaman (palliative), Shodhan (purification), and Sattvavajaya Chikitsa (non-pharmacological approaches).
Some herbs, formulations and therapies with proven efficacy in schizophrenia management include the following (4):
- Tonics such as Aswagandha, Kooshamanda rasayana, Chyavanaprasha, Brahmi rasayana, Aswagandhavaleha and Shatavareeleha.
- Medicines such as Brahmi ghrita, Kalyanaka ghrita, Panchagavya ghrita, Saraswata choorna, Smritisagara rasa, Chaturmukha rasa, Manasamitra vataka, Unmadagajakesari rasa, Mahapaishacha ghrita, Danwantara taila, and Vacha (Acorus calamus), among others.
- Therapies recommended may include Panchakarmas consisting of snehana, vamana, virechana, and tapa in combination with the tonics and medicines mentioned above.
While this study, published in The International Journal of Indian Psychology observed Ayurvedic medicines for schizophrenia to be at least as effective as conventional drugs such as chlorpromazine, they highlight the advantage of reduced side effects (4). Similarly, an analaysis that appeared in Cochrane, states that “ayurvedic treatments could be used as adjuncts to antipsychotic medication” (5).
It should also be noted that Ayurvedic medical regimen for schizoprehenia is very carefully crafted based on specific dosha imbalances, symptoms, and so on. Treatment cannot be initiated or modified without the guidance of a qualified Ayurvedic doctor.
On a Final Note
Schizophrenia is a complex spectrum of psychotic disorders characterised by a disconnection from reality. It affects individuals across various age groups and can significantly impact their thinking, memory, perception, and daily life activities. Therefore, managing schizophrenia is extremely important to maintain overall health.
The modern treatment of schizophrenia typically involves a comprehensive approach that includes medications, psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
However, Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, also offers insights into a similar condition called Unmad, which shares similarities with schizophrenia. Ayurvedic treatment focuses on balancing the Doshas and restoring normal brain function through herbal formulations and Ayurvedic therapies.
- Is schizophrenia different from multiple personalities?
While schizophrenia is a spectrum of conditions involving symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations, multiple personalities fall under dissociative identity disorder, which is a distinct condition characterised by the presence of multiple distinct identities or personality states.
- How common is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia affects approximately 22.1 million people globally at any given time, with around 2.77 million new diagnoses each year. The lifetime risk of developing schizophrenia is around 0.85% of the global population.
- Is schizophrenia contagious?
No, schizophrenia is not contagious. It does not spread from person to person like an infectious disease.
- How can I reduce my risk or prevent schizophrenia?
Currently, there are no known methods to prevent or reduce the risk of developing schizophrenia since its exact cause is still unknown.