Schizophrenia is a group of serious brain disorders in which reality is interpreted abnormally. Schizophrenia results in hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and behavior.
People with schizophrenia withdraw from the people and activities in the world around them, retreating into an inner world marked by psychosis.
Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia isn't the same as a split personality or multiple personality. While the word "schizophrenia" does means "split-mind," it refers to a disruption of the usual balance of emotions and thinking.
Schizophrenia is a chronic condition, requiring lifelong treatment. But thanks to new medications, schizophrenia symptoms can often be successfully managed, allowing people with the condition to lead productive, enjoyable lives.
There are several types of schizophrenia, so signs and symptoms vary. In general, schizophrenia symptoms include:
- Beliefs not based on reality (delusions), such as the belief that there's a conspiracy against you
- Seeing or hearing things that don't exist (hallucinations), especially voices
- Incoherent speech
- Neglect of personal hygiene
- Lack of emotions
- Emotions inappropriate to the situation
- Catatonic behavior
- A persistent feeling of being watched
- Trouble functioning at school and work
- Social isolation
- Clumsy, uncoordinated movements
It's not known what causes schizophrenia. However, researchers believe that an interaction of genetics and environment may cause schizophrenia. Problems with certain naturally occurring brain chemicals, including the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate, also may contribute to schizophrenia. Neuro imaging studies show differences in the brain structure and central nervous system of people with schizophrenia. While researchers aren't fully certain about the significance of these changes, they support evidence that schizophrenia is a brain disease.
Schizophrenia affects about 1 percent of the general population. In people who have close relatives with schizophrenia, the illness is much more common - about 10 percent. In men, schizophrenia symptoms typically start in the teens or 20s. In women, schizophrenia symptoms typically begin in the 20s or early 30s.
Although the precise cause of schizophrenia isn't known, researchers have identified certain factors that seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering schizophrenia, including:
- Having a family history of schizophrenia
- Exposure to viruses while in the womb
- Malnutrition while in the womb
- Stressful life circumstances
- Older paternal age
Taking psychoactive drugs during adolescence