Schizophrenia is a serious brain disorder. It is a disease that makes it difficult for aperson to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically, tohave normal emotional responses to other, and to behave normally in social situations. People with schizophrenia may also have difficulty in remembering, talking, andbehaving appropriately. Schizophrenia is one of the most common mental illnesses. About 1% of the world population has schizophrenia. In the United States, there areabout 2.
5 million people with the disease. Schizophrenia is the cause of morehospitalizations than almost any other illness. Schizophrenia most commonly beginsbetween the ages of 15 and 25. Although it strikes men and women equally, thesymptoms may appear later in women than in men. Very rarely, the symptoms ofschizophrenia can appear before the age of 12.
Childhood schizophrenia has a morechronic disease course and involves poor early language development. People with schizophrenia can have a variety of symptoms. Sometimes, thesesymptoms come on suddenly. Usually, though, the illness develops slowly over monthsor even years. At first, the symptoms may not be noticed or may be confused with thoseof other conditions.
For example, people with schizophrenia may feel tense, be unable toconcentrate, or have trouble sleeping. They often become increasingly isolated andwithdrawn as their grip on reality loosens. They do not make or keep friends. They maystop caring about the way they look.
Dropping out of school or doing badly at work areother early signs of schizophrenia. As the illness progresses, symptoms of psychosisdevelop. The person starts to act strangely and talk nonsensically. People withschizophrenia may develop paranoid delusions.
Examples of this would be that theymight see, feel, smell, or hear things that are not really there. They may have physicalsymptoms, like frowning or unusual movements, and may stand or sit in strangepositions. Some people become almost motionless. Others move around constantly.
Theseverity of symptoms will vary from one person to another. The symptoms also tend toworsen and improve. When the symptoms are improved, the person may appear tobehave relatively normally, but usually there will be repeated episodes of the illness thatSchizophrenia is a complex and puzzling illness. Even the experts are not sureexactly what causes it.
Some doctors think that the brain may not be able to processinformation correctly. People without schizophrenia usually can filter out unneededinformation: for example, the sound of a train whistle in the background or a dog barkingnext door. People with schizophrenia, however, cannot always filter out this extrainformation. One possible cause of schizophrenia may be heredity, or genetics. Expertsthink that some people inherit a tendency to schizophrenia. In fact, the disorder tends torun in families, but only among blood relatives.
People who have family members withschizophrenia may be more likely to get the disease themselves. If both biologic parentshave schizophrenia, there is nearly a 40% chance that their child will get it, too. Thishappens even if the child is adopted and raised by mentally healthy adults. In people whohave an identical twin with schizophrenia, the chance of schizophrenia developing isalmost 50%. In contrast, children whose biological parents are mentally healthy – even iftheir adoptive parents have schizophrenia – have about a 1% chance of getting the disease.
That is about the same risk as for the general population of the United States. Some researchers believe that events in a persons environment triggerschizophrenia. Some studies have shown that influenza infection or improper nutritionduring pregnancy and complications during birth may increase the risk that the baby willdevelop schizophrenia later in life. Many believe that schizophrenia is likely caused by acomplex combination of genetic and environmental factors. Certain people are born witha tendency to develop the disease. But the disease only appears if these people areexposed to unusual stresses or traumas.
Schizophrenia is usually treated with antipsychotic medication. Some people withschizophrenia also benefit from counseling and rehabilitation. They may need to go tothe hospital during an acute attack. The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms duringacute attacks and to help prevent relapses.
At this time, there is no cure forAntipsychotic medications are very effective in controlling the symptoms ofschizophrenia. These medications first became available in the mid-1950s. They havegreatly improved the lives of thousands of people. Before that time, people withschizophrenia spent most