What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a complicated mental illness in which a person has a hard time telling between what is real and what is not real. People with schizophrenia have trouble thinking and behaving normally. Schizophrenia affects about one in every 100 people and can happen to anyone, though it is more severe in men and usually occurs in people under age 45 (Source: PubMedHealth).

Symptoms of schizophrenia get worse over time. At first, you may just feel tense, isolated, or withdrawn. You may have trouble acting normally in social situations, and you may have trouble sleeping. As the disease progresses, you can develop psychotic symptoms, such as loss of emotion, catatonia (unresponsiveness to the setting or environment), delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia.

There are many different types of schizophrenia, including paranoid, disorganized, catatonic, undifferentiated, and residual. While nobody with schizophrenia behaves normally, the exact symptoms you have depend on the exact type of schizophrenia that is present. The cause of schizophrenia is not known, but it may be a combination of stress, environment, and hereditary factors.

Treatment for schizophrenia depends on the severity of your symptoms. For very severe symptoms, hospitalization may be required. Other treatments include antipsychotic medications and social and behavioral therapy. While there is no cure for schizophrenia, treatment is usually effective at managing the symptoms.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you hear voices or see things that are not there (hallucinations), if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, or if you cannot take care of yourself.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for schizophrenia but symptoms recur or are persistent.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

Symptoms of schizophrenia get worse over time. They start with mild feelings of tension, disrupted sleep, and isolation. As the disease progresses, you may start to experience things that are not real. It may become difficult to tell the difference between what is real and what is not real. Later symptoms of the disease are known as psychotic symptoms.... Read more about schizophreniasymptoms

CAUSES

What causes schizophrenia?

The underlying cause of schizophrenia is not known. Schizophrenia is related to abnormalities in the brain that may involve injury, infection, or chemical imbalance. Heredity and environment probably both play a role in the development of the disease. Stress may also be a trigger for schizophrenia, although it does not cause the condition.... Read more about schizophreniacauses

TREATMENTS

How is schizophrenia treated?

There is no cure for schizophrenia. Treatment for schizophrenia is aimed at managing and controlling symptoms. Usually, schizophrenia is treated with medication. Psychotherapy may also be used. Medications for schizophrenia usually include some kind of antipsychotic drug.... Read more about schizophreniatreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mental Health and Behavior