Schizophrenia

Definition

Schizophrenia is a chronic brain illness that can cause a person to suffer delusions, hallucinations, and distorted thoughts. It can also interfere with their motivation and ability to think and concentrate.

 

Overview and Facts

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious illness that most often strikes between the ages of 16 and 30. It affects the way a person thinks, feels and acts. People who suffer from schizophrenia may have trouble distinguishing between what’s real and what’s imagined. They may also appear withdrawn and have difficulty expressing normal emotions when among groups of people.

 

What are the symptoms of Schizophrenia?

Symptoms include:

  • Delusions--ideas that are false. For example, the belief that a government agency is after you, or that you are a famous person from history.
  • Hallucinations--seeing or hearing things that are not there.
  • Disordered Thinking--thoughts do not follow a logical pattern; for example, individuals may jump to topics that have no rational connection.
  • Cognitive Challenges--abilities such as memory, concentration, organization, and planning for the future may be compromised.

People with schizophrenia may become withdrawn and lack motivation take care of basic tasks such as bathing, doing laundry, and cooking meals.

NOTE: In spite of popular media portrayals, people with schizophrenia do not suffer from split- or multiple personality disorder.

 

What Causes Schizophrenia?

Possible causes of schizophrenia include:

  • Genetics--some experts believe schizophrenia is passed down in families.
  • Brain Structure and Chemistry--in people with schizophrenia, certain parts of their brains are larger than they should be, and others are smaller. Their brain cells also have fewer connections and have differences in neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain).

 

How is Schizophrenia Diagnosed?

To rule out schizophrenia, experts may first conduct a series of exams including a medical history, physical exam, blood tests, and brain imaging.

If schizophrenia is suspected, a psychiatrist or psychologist may use special interviews and assessment tools along with family interviews.

 

How is Schizophrenia Treated?

Treatment for schizophrenia may involve a combination of:

  • Medication(s)--medications known as antipsychotics are often a centerpiece in the treatment of schizophrenia.
  • Psychological and social support--these may include individual therapy, family therapy, training in social skills and how to more effectively participate in daily activities such as housekeeping, shopping, etc.
  • Hospitalization--in severe cases or during periods of crisis, short- or longer term hospitalization may be required to ensure the person’s safety and to maintain proper nutrition, hygiene, and rest.