Do Symptoms of Paranoid Schizophrenia Present Differently in Females?
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Schizophrenia is a serious mental condition that seems to affect men and women equally. Paranoid schizophrenia used to be known as the most common subtype of schizophrenia, but the term is no longer used as a classification. Experts no longer refer to subtypes of schizophrenia, but use it as an umbrella term with a note of a particular symptom. In this case, that symptom is psychosis.

It’s hard to make generalizations about gender differences in people with schizophrenia. That’s partly because the data is hard to collect and quantify. It’s a relatively uncommon condition: It’s estimated that schizophrenia affects less than 1% of the population. Symptoms of schizophrenia overlap with similar conditions, and the criteria for diagnosing it have changed over the years. 

Paranoia is one of the more common symptoms among men and women with schizophrenia. This article will discuss similarities and differences in the ways men and women experience this condition in real life.

Do women experience paranoid schizophrenia differently?

A lot of the research on schizophrenia and gender differences is new and inconclusive. There’s even less information available about schizophrenia subtypes. One of the main differences for people in the U.S. is that men tend to develop schizophrenia during their late teens and early 20s. Women usually get diagnosed later on, in their late 20s. This isn’t true across all ethnicities and cultures, though. Studies in India have shown little difference in the age of onset between men and women.

The difference in age of onset might explain some of the other differences between men and women. Men tend to show more social withdrawal, emotional blunting and reduced speech. Women have more social skills by the time they have diagnosable symptoms. They sometimes have milder symptoms than men, and they often respond better to treatment. Another possible explanation is that hormones like estrogen protect against emotional blunting.

Women tend to show more anxiety and depression because they experience a wider range of emotions at the age of onset. That means women may be more likely to have paranoia as a symptom. Women may be more likely to get a related diagnosis like schizoaffective disorder or schizotypal personality disorder. Their symptoms can look like a decline in basic functioning, or disorganized speech and thoughts. Women with schizophrenia may be more likely to entertain suicidal thoughts than men. 

What do men and women with schizophrenia have in common?

Depictions in the media have shaped some of the most common beliefs about schizophrenia. They aren’t always accurate or representative of what it’s like to have this condition. People outside the mental health profession often confuse schizophrenia with dissociative identity disorder. This is another condition with very different symptoms. Also, schizophrenia is more stigmatized than other mental illnesses because of its severity.

The “real” schizophrenia diagnosis hinges on problems distinguishing reality from imagination. It comes with three types of symptoms: delusions or hallucinations, disorganized speech and thoughts, and what’s called negative symptoms. These are things people with schizophrenia may not have, like observable emotions or social skills. The paranoia that many people experience is often part of a delusion.

Some of the most prevalent symptoms of schizophrenia for both men and women include:

  • Delusions — Strong beliefs that aren’t true, about themselves, other people or the world
  • Hallucinations — Sensory phenomena like sights and sounds that other people can’t perceive
  • Disorganized speech — Sometimes called “word salad,” disorganized speech may sound like sentence fragments or gibberish.
  • Disorganized behavior — People with schizophrenia may not be able to control their impulses or finish activities they’ve started.
  • Negative symptoms — Lack of interest, excitement or range of emotions

Why is the discussion about differences of schizophrenia between sexes important?

Hollywood has raised public awareness about how schizophrenia can present in movies. But films have also skewed ideas about how different genders experience schizophrenia. “A Beautiful Mind” was one of the first blockbusters to start conversations about schizophrenia in the media. It came out in 2001 and told the story of mathematical genius John Nash. It grossed over $313 million worldwide and won four Academy Awards. This movie went a long way to humanize people with schizophrenia. However, it wasn’t the first film to feature a main character with schizophrenia. “Benny and Joon” is about an ordinary woman with schizophrenia. It came out in 1993 and grossed only $30 million. 

Popular misconceptions about schizophrenia have real-life implications for people who have this condition. They may not recognize that their symptoms are becoming severe or seek help for themselves. Early detection can result in better treatment outcomes, though some of the first signs of schizophrenia can be hard to identify. Symptoms that seem consistent with depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder can start to include more exaggerated breaks from reality. 

How Lightfully helps people with paranoid schizophrenia

Schizophrenia does not have a definitive cure. There are several strategies that can reduce symptoms and help people achieve full remission. Treatment usually involves cognitive behavioral therapy and antipsychotic medications. At Lightfully, our compassionate clinical professionals can help clients learn social and emotional skills to help maintain all-around wellness. Treatment offered at level of care includes family therapy sessions to help loved ones learn how to support their family member. 

We take a holistic and person-first approach to mental health treatment. The process-based therapy (PBT) model we use focuses on the core processes we need to live healthy and socially connected lives. Instead of symptoms and conditions, we focus on emotions, behaviors, thoughts and relationships. Our Residential Treatment Centers provide a safe environment during all hours. We also offer structured outpatient programs for clients who are able to commute.

Are you worried about a loved one who might have symptoms of schizophrenia? The best thing you can do is share your concerns in an honest and straightforward way. They might appreciate your candor and open up about what they’re dealing with. Making a human connection with them can go a long way to establish trust and start a supportive relationship.

When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together.

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