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Schizophrenia

What Is Schizophrenia?

Last modified: 
17/04/2013 - 15:08

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. The person finds it difficult to tell the difference between real and imagined experiences, to think logically, to express feelings, or to behave appropriately.

People with schizophrenia may hear internal voices not heard by others or may see things that are not really there. These experiences can seem threatening and can make them fearful and withdrawn. They also may have trouble organizing their thoughts and expressing themselves. Their speech and behavior can be so disorganized that they may seem frightening to others.

Schizophrenia is one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses. Contrary to popular belief, it does not involve a "Jekyll-and-Hyde" type of split personality. Instead, it means that all the attributes that go into the makeup of the human personality - logical thinking, feelings and expression, perception, and relating to others - become separated from one another.

Nice To Know:

Schizophrenia literally means "a split mind," and this may be where the misconception of split personality took root. Eugen Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist, first used the term in 1911 to describe patients whose thought processes seemed disconnected.

Schizophrenia affects about one percent of the world's population and is found all over the world, in all ethnic and social groups.

People with schizophrenia often have difficulty functioning in society, at work, and in school. The illness can be taxing on both the individuals who are affected and on their families.

But the symptoms of schizophrenia vary widely from one person to another. In some people, the dissociated feelings caused by the illness are a constant part of life. In others, the symptoms will come and go.

People with schizophrenia do not always act abnormally. They may appear perfectly responsible and in control, even when experiencing hallucinations or delusions.

Schizophrenia cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be reduced significantly with treatment.

The vast majority of people with schizophrenia are living either full and productive lives or relatively independent lives.

Facts About Schizophrenia

  • Schizophrenia affects an estimated one percent of the world's population.
  • Symptoms usually appear between the ages of 15 and 35.
  • Schizophrenia affects males and females equally, although symptoms often appear earlier in males.
  • In the U.S., about 2.5 million people have this illness.
  • About 80 percent of people with schizophrenia can live either full, productive lives or relatively independent lives with treatment.
  • The other 20 percent of sufferers will require long-term, structured care.
  • People with schizophrenia have a higher rate of suicide than the general population. Approximately 10 percent of people with schizophrenia (especially younger adult males) commit suicide.
  • Schizophrenia accounts for about 40 percent of all long-term hospitalization.
  • Schizophrenia can run in families. The risk for inheriting schizophrenia is 10 percent in those who have an immediate family member with the illness, and 40 percent if the illness affect both parents or an identical twin.
  • Heredity does not explain all cases, however. About 60 percent of people with schizophrenia have no close relatives with the illness.
  • Early treatment of schizophrenia and newer treatment options may control the illness in up to 85 percent of individuals.
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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.