Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a disabling, chronic, and severe mental illness that affects more than 2 million Americans age 18 and over. Symptoms include hearing internal voices, thinking that other people are reading one's mind, controlling one's thoughts, or plotting harm, which may leave a person feeling fearful and withdrawn. Their disorganized behavior can be perceived as incomprehensible or frightening.

People with schizophrenia may not make sense when they talk. They may sit for hours without moving or talking. Sometimes people with schizophrenia seem perfectly fine until they talk about what they are really thinking.

Families and society are affected by schizophrenia too. Many people with schizophrenia have difficulty holding a job or taking care of themselves, so they rely on others for help.

Schizophrenia affects men and women equally. It occurs at similar rates in all ethnic groups around the world. Symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions usually start between ages 16 and 30. Men tend to experience symptoms a little earlier than women. Most of the time, people do not get schizophrenia after age 45.
Schizophrenia rarely occurs in children, but awareness of childhood-onset schizophrenia is increasing.
Additionally, it can be difficult to diagnose schizophrenia in teens. This is because the first signs can include a change of friends, a drop in grades, sleep problems, and irritability- common behaviors among teens. A combination of factors can predict schizophrenia in up to 80 percent of youth who are at high risk of developing the illness. These factors include isolating oneself and withdrawing from others, an increase in unusual thoughts and suspicions, and a family history of psychosis. In young people who develop the disease, this stage of the disorder is called the "prodromal" period.

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Regardless of available treatments that can relieve many problems associated with the illness, most people with schizophrenia cope with symptoms throughout life. However, many people with schizophrenia can lead rewarding and meaningful lives in their communities. Researchers are developing more effective medications and using new research tools to understand the causes of schizophrenia. In the years to come, this work may help prevent and better treat the illness.

 

Schizophrenia. Last reviewed 06/19/2010

Sources:

  • National Alliance of Mental Illness
  • National Institute of Mental Health
  • US Department of Health and Human Services
  • Archives of General Psychiatry
  • Lancet
  • Brain Research Review
  • CNS Drugs
  • American Journal of Medical Genetics
  • Molecular Psychiatry
  • Science
  • Journal of Neuroscience
  • New England Journal of Medicine
  • Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy
  • Schizophrenia Research
  • Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development