Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that causes people to interpret reality and the world around them abnormally. The condition affects people in different ways; some people may experience delusions or hallucinations, while some may experience disordered thinking and behavior that prevents them from being able to function normally in their daily life.

People suffering from schizophrenia will usually require lifelong treatment. Early diagnosis and personalized treatment can help to get the condition and its symptoms under control before more serious and disabling complications develop. This early treatment can help to improve the long-term outlook for the sufferer.

Schizophrenia commonly develops in people aged between 16 and 30 with males being more likely to display symptoms at a slightly younger age than females. The disorder typically develops at a slow pace, making it difficult to diagnose. However, in some cases, the condition can strike and develop quickly.

According to research, schizophrenia affects approximately 1 percent of adults around the world. People coping with schizophrenia in Chicago may struggle to hold down a job, maintain relationships and care for themselves.

Schizophrenia can create a range of problems affecting behavior, thinking (cognition) and emotions. Signs and symptoms can vary quite significantly for every sufferer, but typically involve hallucinations, disorganized speech, delusions, and affect the ability to function. Symptoms may include:

  • Hallucinations – The sufferer will often experience episodes where they see or hear things that don’t exist outside the confines of their mind. For the person with schizophrenia, these hallucinations can have the same impact as a normal experience and can cause terror, panic, and extreme upset. Hearing voices is the most common type of schizophrenic hallucination.
  • Disorganized thinking (speech) – When speech is affected by disorganized thinking, effective communication will be impaired. Answers to questions may be completely or partially unrelated, or the person may put together meaningless words that cannot be understood. This is often referred to as ‘word salad’.
  • Delusions – Delusions are false beliefs that are not based on reality. A person suffering from delusions may believe they have exceptional ability or fame, that they are being harmed or harassed, that certain comments or gestures are aimed directly at them, or that a major disaster is about to occur. Most people with schizophrenia will experience delusions at some point.
  • Extremely abnormal or disorganized motor behavior – This type of behavior can manifest in several ways, from unpredictable agitation to childlike silliness. Behavior doesn’t usually have a goal and is often repetitive in nature. This makes it difficult for the sufferer to complete tasks and function from day-to-day. Symptoms can include inappropriate or bizarre posture, resistance to following instructions, excessive or useless movement, and a complete lack of response.
  • Negative symptoms – These symptoms affect the sufferer’s ability to function normally. For example, a person may appear to lack emotion (doesn’t change facial expressions or make eye contact), or neglect personal hygiene. They may also lose all interest in everyday activities, lack the ability to experience pleasure and socially withdraw completely.

Symptoms will vary in severity and type over time, with some remission and worsening of symptoms. Some symptoms, especially delusions and hallucinations may always be present.

What to do if You Suspect Schizophrenia?

If you believe that somebody is displaying the symptoms of schizophrenia, it is important to talk to them about your concerns. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to improve their daily life and the overall outcome for their future. Although you cannot force somebody to seek professional help, you can offer support and encouragement and help them to find a qualified mental health professional.

If your loved one is posing an immediate danger to themselves or others, you may need to call 911 for urgent assistance. If they are unable to feed or dress themselves or they have inadequate shelter as a result of their condition, there are organizations that can help.

In some cases, it may be necessary to arrange emergency hospitalization. The laws on involuntary commitment for mental health treatment vary for each state. While there is no way to prevent schizophrenia, commitment to a treatment plan can help to prevent the worsening of symptoms and relapses.

How Schizophrenia Can Change Your Life

At various points in their lives, people with schizophrenia have to cope with and manage the many symptoms of psychosis in addition to the negative symptoms that go with it. Dealing with experiences or beliefs that others don’t understand or believe can be isolating, frightening and frustrating. These experiences and beliefs can also cause a lot of anxiety and stress in the sufferer.

The extreme lack of motivation and social withdrawal that people with schizophrenia experience can lead them to feel alone and without anybody to turn to. They may also lack the motivation to look after their physical health and become disinterested in work or recreational interests. In turn, this can result in problems with maintaining relationships, managing finances and staying in employment.

If a person’s condition is so severe that they are unable to work, they may be eligible to apply for Social Security Disability benefits. Schizophrenia is an SSA impairment listing, and if victims meet certain criteria they will qualify for benefits.

For an individual to qualify for SSD benefits, they are assessed for specific symptoms. For example, to be eligible they must suffer from psychotic symptoms, disorganized mental or physical behavior, social withdrawal, or incoherency. These symptoms must cause two of the following issues: inability to focus and complete tasks, decompensation, difficulty maintaining relationships or struggles with daily self-care routines.

Alternatively, an individual may meet three broader criteria, as follows:

  1. The condition must have been present for at least two years and have an adverse impact on the individual’s ability to work.
  2. The individual must experience episodes of decompensation or be at risk for an episode if their living circumstances change.
  3. The individual must rely on a supportive assisted living arrangement.

Schizophrenia and SSD Benefits

When your daily life is affected by a mental health condition such as schizophrenia, it can be difficult and often impossible to hold full-time employment and attend necessary medical appointments and therapies. On top of this, you will need to manage your finances. Without access to income from a full-time job or to alternative financial resources, life can become very expensive and stressful. The good news is that whatever monetary amount is approved, Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can ease the pressure of the obligation to work a full-time job to make ends meet.

Applications for SSD benefits are assessed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) using an official list of disorders and diseases that are automatically eligible for benefits. Automatically eligible cases are often expedited to the “top of the list” for review and eventual approval if all the necessary documentation is in place. Unfortunately, schizophrenia does not appear on this list, called the Compassionate Allowance Programs list, but that does not mean the patient will have their application rejected. It simply means that their condition will be assessed and treated with the same urgency as the rest of the cases that are submitted.

The application process can be cumbersome and it can take months to complete. A review can take even longer. Even once an approval decision has been made, it can take over six months for the applicant to receive SSD benefit payments. The good news is that you don’t have to wait. Enlisting a qualified and experienced attorney can help to ensure that a favorable decision is made as quickly as possible.

What to do if SSD Benefits are Denied 

If your application is denied, it’s not the end of the road. You still have an option to appeal within 60 days of the initial decision. The Social Security Administration receives millions of applications for SSD benefits every year, of which a mere 30% are approved. The Good Law Group has an exemplary track record of helping people suffering from schizophrenia to get the benefits they so desperately need and deserve. If you have had your application denied, you must contact us as soon as possible so that we can initiate the appeals process before time runs out.

Who to contact to ensure SSD Benefits are Enlisted

At The Good Law Group, we specialize in helping our clients to receive SSD benefits as quickly as possible. Using our years of experience in the application and appeals process, we will ensure that all application deadlines are met, all necessary documentation is completed and put in place and that we keep you, our valued client, informed every step of the way. A representative from the Good Law Group can be reached at (847) 577-4476 for a complimentary case evaluation.  

Resources for Schizophrenia Support

If you or someone you care about is suffering from schizophrenia, it is important to realize that you are not alone and there is help available. You can find a list of schizophrenia support groups by state by clicking here.