High Functioning Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that affects around 1% of people worldwide, with typical symptoms including hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized speech or behavior. Although the general perception of schizophrenia may be that of a debilitating condition that severely impairs an individual’s ability to function, there is a subtype known as high-functioning schizophrenia, which challenges that perception.

What is High Functioning Schizophrenia?

High functioning schizophrenia is a subtype of schizophrenia where the individual experiences symptoms of the disorder, but despite these symptoms, they are able to maintain a level of functioning that allows them to hold down a job, start and maintain relationships, and participate in daily activities. The term “high functioning” refers to achieving a high or average pre-illness level of ability despite continuing symptoms.

Symptoms of High Functioning Schizophrenia

The symptoms of high functioning schizophrenia are the same as those of the typical form of schizophrenia, which include positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms. However, individuals with high functioning schizophrenia can manage their symptoms to a greater extent, leading to a better outcome. The symptoms of high functioning schizophrenia include:

  • Positive Symptoms: These symptoms include delusions (false beliefs), hallucinations (seeing, hearing or feeling things that aren’t there), disordered speech, and thought disruptions. Positive symptoms usually do not last long, and people with high functioning schizophrenia can manage them well using medication and therapy.
  • Negative Symptoms: These symptoms refer to an absence or reduction in normal behavior, such as a decrease in emotional expression or motivation, social withdrawals, and reduction of pleasure in everyday activities. Negative symptoms are harder to manage, but some treatments can help alleviate them.
  • Cognitive Symptoms: These symptoms affect the thought processes of an individual, such as difficulty in concentration, memory problems, and the inability to process information quickly. Every individual with high functioning schizophrenia experiences different cognitive symptoms, but treatment options remain the same.

Diagnosing High Functioning Schizophrenia

Diagnosis of high functioning schizophrenia can be difficult as the individual can perform regular tasks, which may not raise suspicions about their condition. The diagnosis of high functioning schizophrenia is based on symptoms, medical history, and the results of mental health tests designed to measure cognitive and emotional functioning. Therefore, diagnosis often relies on the subjective interpretation of symptoms report by the individual or their family.

Treatment for High Functioning Schizophrenia

Although high functioning schizophrenia is a subtype of schizophrenia, the treatment depends on the severity of the individual’s symptoms, regardless of the subtype. The treatment typically includes medication, psychotherapy or talk therapy, and lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Medication: The most common medications prescribed for high functioning schizophrenia are antipsychotic medication which can be administered orally, injected, or mechanically through implants. The medication works by blocking the dopamine receptor in the brain, which reduces the symptoms of the disorder.

Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, helps individuals better manage the symptoms of high functioning schizophrenia by teaching coping skills, identifying triggers, and changing negative thought patterns. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective form of psychotherapy for high functioning schizophrenia.

Lifestyle Changes: Lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and a healthy diet, can be beneficial in managing the symptoms of high functioning schizophrenia. Reducing drug and alcohol intake can also be helpful, as drugs and alcohol interact with antipsychotic medications and can worsen symptoms.

Challenges of High Functioning Schizophrenia

Although individuals with high functioning schizophrenia can maintain their independence and manage their symptoms to a greater extent, they still face significant challenges. The challenges of high functioning schizophrenia include:

  • Difficulty in social situations: Individuals with high functioning schizophrenia may find it challenging to interact with others. Their odd views or unusual behavior may affect their social life, which might impact their work and relationships.
  • Stigma and Discrimination: Stigma and discrimination are common social challenges that individuals with high functioning schizophrenia face. Stigma leads to a lack of appropriate care, shorter therapeutic interactions and, in the end, a lack of recovery.
  • Financial Burdens: The diagnosis and treatment of high functioning schizophrenia can be costly, potentially leading to financial difficulties for individuals and their families.

Conclusion

High functioning schizophrenia is a subtype of schizophrenia where the individual experiences symptoms of the disorder but can maintain their functioning, although they still face significant challenges. Diagnosis and treatment of high functioning schizophrenia are similar to that of the typical form of schizophrenia, and treatment may consist of medication, psychotherapy or talk therapy, and lifestyle changes. Although the individual with high functioning schizophrenia can maintain their independence and manage their symptoms to a greater extent, they still need a supportive environment, wellbeing care, and a positive social network. With appropriate support, individuals with high functioning schizophrenia can lead productive and satisfying lives.

FAQs

FAQs about High Functioning Schizophrenia

1. What is high functioning schizophrenia?

High functioning schizophrenia is a type of schizophrenia in which an individual may experience symptoms of the condition but still be able to live a relatively normal life. People with high functioning schizophrenia may be able to hold down a job, maintain relationships, and participate in social activities.

2. What are the symptoms of high functioning schizophrenia?

The symptoms of high functioning schizophrenia are similar to those of other types of schizophrenia and may include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, and abnormal or disorganized behavior. However, people with high functioning schizophrenia may be better able to manage these symptoms and may be less likely to experience significant disruptions in their daily lives.

3. How is high functioning schizophrenia treated?

Treatment for high functioning schizophrenia generally involves a combination of medication and therapy. Antipsychotic medications can help to alleviate psychotic symptoms, while therapy can help individuals learn to manage their symptoms and improve their social and interpersonal skills. Other treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and family therapy, may also be used to help people with high functioning schizophrenia.


References

1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

2. Van Os, J., Kapur, S. (2009). Schizophrenia. The Lancet, 374(9690), 635-645. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60995-8

3. Palmer, B. W., Dawes, S. E., & Heaton, R. K. (2009). What do we know about neuropsychological aspects of schizophrenia? Neuropsychology Review, 19(3), 365-384. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11065-009-9108-8