Schizophrenia, from the Greek roots schizein ("to split") and
phren- ("mind"), is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a
mental illness characterized by impairments in the perception or
expression of reality, most commonly manifesting as auditory
hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions or disorganized
speech and thinking in the context of significant social or
occupational dysfunction. Onset of symptoms typically occurs in
Schizophrenia is a chronic, disabling mental
illness that may be caused by abnormal amounts of certain
chemicals in the brain. These chemicals are called
neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters control our thought processes
and emotions. Schizophrenia is a group of serious brain disorders
in which reality is interpreted abnormally.
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.
Schizophrenia is usually diagnosed in people aged 17-35 years.
The illness appears earlier in men (in the late teens or early
twenties) than in women (who are affected in the twenties to early
thirties). Many of them are disabled. They may not be able to hold
down jobs or even perform tasks as simple as conversations. Some
may be so incapacitated that they are unable to do activities most
people take for granted, such as showering or preparing a meal.
Many are homeless. Some recover enough to live a life relatively
free from assistance.
Environmental factors are merely speculative and may include
complications during pregnancy and birth. For instance, some
studies have shown that offspring of women whose sixth or seventh
month of pregnancy occurs during a flu epidemic are at increased
risk for developing schizophrenia although other studies have
refuted this. During the first trimester of pregnancy, maternal
starvation or viral infection may lead to increased risk for
schizophrenia development in the offspring. It has even been
conjectured that babies born in the winter season are at higher
risk for developing this mental illness in their early adulthood.
Genetic factors appear to play a role, as people who have
family members with schizophrenia may be more likely to get the
disease themselves. Some researchers believe that events in a
person's environment may trigger schizophrenia. For example,
problems during intrauterine development (infection) and birth may
increase the risk for developing schizophrenia later in life.
People with schizophrenia describe strange or unrealistic
thoughts. In many instances, their speech is hard to follow due to
disordered thinking. Common forms of thought disorder include
circumstantiality (talking in circles around the issue), looseness
of associations (moving from one topic to the next without any
logical connection between them), and tangentiality (moving from
one topic to another where the logical connection is visible, but
not relevant to the issue at hand).
Schizophrenia is a severe, lifelong brain disorder. People who
have it may hear voices, see things that aren't there or believe
that others are reading or controlling their minds. In men,
symptoms usually start in the late teens and early 20s. They
include hallucinations, or seeing things, and delusions such as
Schizophrenia can be treated with medication in the form of
tablets or long-acting injections. Social support for the
individual and support for carers is important. Counselling may be
offered to the person with schizophrenia and their family. Brain
scanning, especially MRI scanning, has provided a far greater
understanding of the condition and led to the development of
antipsychotic medication and therapies.