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Schizophrenia facts

  • Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, debilitating mental illness that affects about 1% of the population -- more than 2 million people in the United States alone.
  • With the sudden onset of severe psychotic symptoms, the individual is said to be experiencing acute psychosis. Psychotic means out of touch with reality or unable to separate real from unreal experiences.
  • There is no known single cause of schizophrenia. As discussed later, it appears that genetic and other biological factors produce a vulnerability to schizophrenia, with environmental factors contributing to different degrees in different individuals.
  • There are a number of various schizophrenia treatments. Given the complexity of this disorder, the major questions about the illness (its cause or causes, prevention, and treatment) are unlikely to be resolved in the near future. The public should beware of those offering "the cure" for (or "the cause" of) schizophrenia.
  • Schizophrenia is one of the psychotic, also called thought-disordered, mental disorders and affects a person's thoughts, behaviors, and social functioning.
  • Symptoms of schizophrenia may include
    • delusions,
    • hallucinations,
    • catatonia,
    • negative symptoms, and/or
    • disorganized speech or behavior.
  • While schizophrenia used to be divided into different types of the disorder, like paranoid and undifferentiated forms, it is now considered to have various symptoms of one inclusive disorder.
  • Children as young as 6 years of age can be found to have all the schizophrenia symptoms as their adult counterparts and to continue to have those symptoms into adulthood.
  • Although the term schizophrenia has only been in used since 1911, its symptoms have been described throughout written history.
  • Schizophrenia is considered to be the result of a complex group of genetic, psychological, and environmental risk factors.
  • Health-care professionals diagnose schizophrenia by gathering comprehensive medical, family, mental-health, and social/cultural information.
  • The practitioner will also either perform a physical examination or request that the person's primary-care doctor perform one. The medical evaluation will usually include lab tests.
  • In addition to providing treatment that is appropriate to the diagnosis, practitioners attempt to determine the presence of other mental illnesses that may co-occur with schizophrenia.
  • People with schizophrenia are at increased risk of having a number of medical problems, other mental-health conditions, committing suicide or engaging in other self-harm, and otherwise dying earlier than people without this disorder.
  • Medications that have been found to be most effective in treating the positive symptoms of schizophrenia are first- and second-generation antipsychotics.
  • Psychosocial interventions for schizophrenia include education of family members, assertive community treatment (ACT), substance-abuse treatment, social-skills training, supported employment, cognitive behavioral therapy, and weight management.
  • Cognitive remediation, peer-to-peer interventions, weight-management therapies, and continued medication refinement remain the focus topics for research.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/24/2016


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