Guide to Schizophrenia

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a chronic, disabling brain disorder that affects about 1% of Americans. It may cause people to hear voices, see imaginary sights, or believe other people are controlling their thoughts. These sensations can be frightening and often lead to erratic behavior. There is no cure, but treatment can usually control the most serious symptoms.

Schizophrenia Symptoms

Symptoms of schizophrenia may include:

  • Hallucinations — hearing or seeing imaginary things
  • Delusions — wildly false beliefs
  • Paranoia — the fear others are plotting against you

Some symptoms, such as lack of enjoyment in everyday life and withdrawal from social activities, may mimic depression.

How Schizophrenia Affects Thoughts

People with schizophrenia often have abnormal ways of thinking. They may have trouble organizing their thoughts or making logical connections. They may feel like the mind is racing from one unrelated thought to another. Sometimes they experience “thought blocking,” a feeling that thoughts are removed from their head. Despite popular belief, schizophrenia is not dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder.)

How Schizophrenia Affects Behavior

Schizophrenia causes a wide range of behaviors. People may speak incoherently or even make up words. They may act agitated or appear stone-faced. Many people have trouble maintaining basic hygiene or orderly homes. Schizophrenia can also cause repetitive behaviors, such as pacing. In contrast to common stereotypes, the risk of violence against others is small.

Who Gets Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia affects men and women at the same rate, and occurs almost equally in all ethnic groups around the world. Symptoms usually begin between ages 16 and 30. The onset tends to be earlier in men than in women. Schizophrenia rarely begins during childhood or after age 45. People with schizophrenia in their family may have a higher risk for the illness.



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