Schizophrenia in Women
Although schizophrenia is 1.4 times more common in men than in women, it remains an important women’s mental health issue due to differences in how it manifests and is treated in women. In fact, schizophrenia symptoms are relatively milder in women, leading researchers to hypothesize that estrogen may have a protective effect for women’s mental health, at least where schizophrenia is concerned.
Differences in Schizophrenia for Men and Women
Regarding schizophrenia, the differences between the genders is apparent right away: the average age of onset is very different. Men are more likely to exhibit the first symptoms of the disorder a full five years earlier than women.
Furthermore, schizophrenia seems to have a greater effect on men’s brains. The inferior parietal lobule (IPL) in men with schizophrenia shows drastic differences when compared to the IPLs of healthy men. For women, there is no significant difference in the size and shape of IPL among those with and without schizophrenia.
Women also seem to be able to manage symptoms better than men in the first 15 years after onset, resulting in fewer hospitalizations and interruptions in their social lives or careers. Women with schizophrenia are more likely to marry and be employed than men with the condition.
Treatment for Schizophrenia
Despite some apparent advantages over its manifestation in men, schizophrenia is still a women’s mental health disorder that comes with a price. Schizophrenia symptoms can interfere with relationships and careers, as well as potentially put sufferers in mortal danger if hallucinations or delusions take a dangerous turn; delusions regarding magical powers and the ability to fly are possible, for example. It also carries a risk of suicide.
Schizophrenia cannot be cured at this time, but it can be managed. Therapists can help reduce or stabilize symptoms and to help individuals achieve independent living through a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, social skills training, social cognition training, and cognitive remediation. Medications, most notably Clozapine, may be used in some cases to reduce symptoms.