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Schizophrenia +skit-su-!frE-nE-u

by S. Charles Schulz, MD

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by loss of contact with reality (psychosis), hallucinations (usually, hearing voices), firmly held false beliefs (delusions), abnormal thinking and behavior, reduced expression of emotions, diminished motivation, and problems in daily functioning, including work, social relationships, and self-care.

  • Schizophrenia is probably caused by hereditary and environmental factors.

  • People may have a variety of symptoms, ranging from bizarre behavior and rambling, disorganized speech to loss of emotions and little or no speech to inability to concentrate and remember.

  • Doctors diagnose schizophrenia based on symptoms after they do tests to rule out other possible causes.

  • How well people do depends largely on whether they take the prescribed drugs as directed.

  • Treatment involves antipsychotic drugs, training programs and community support activities, and psychotherapy.

Schizophrenia is a major health problem throughout the world. The disorder typically strikes young people at the very time they are establishing their independence and can result in lifelong disability and stigma. In terms of personal and economic costs, schizophrenia has been described as among the worst disorders afflicting humankind.

Schizophrenia is a significant cause of disability worldwide. It affects about 1% of the population. Schizophrenia affects men and women equally. In the United States, schizophrenia accounts for about 1 of every 5 Social Security disability days and 2.5% of all health care expenditures. Schizophrenia is more common than Alzheimer disease and multiple sclerosis.

Determining when schizophrenia begins (onset) is often difficult because unfamiliarity with symptoms may delay medical care for several years. The average age at onset is the early to mid-20s for men and slightly later for women. Onset during childhood or early adolescence is uncommon (see Childhood Schizophrenia). Onset is also uncommon late in life.

Deterioration in social functioning can lead to substance abuse, poverty, and homelessness. People with untreated schizophrenia may lose contact with their families and friends and often find themselves living on the streets of large cities.

Did You Know...

  • Schizophrenia is more common than Alzheimer disease and multiple sclerosis.

  • Various disorders, including thyroid disorders, brain tumors, seizure disorders, and other mental health disorders, can cause symptoms similar to those of schizophrenia.

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