What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious and challenging mental illness that affects more than two million Americans today. Although it is often feared and misunderstood schizophrenia is a treatable medical condition. Schizophrenia is a mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others. Most people living with schizophrenia have hallucinations and delusions, meaning they hear or, less commonly see things that aren’t there and believe things that are not real. Organizing one’s thinking, performing complex memory tasks, and keeping several ideas in mind at one time may be difficult for people who live with the illness.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Just as other diseases have symptoms, so does schizophrenia. Symptoms often vary from person to person and episodes can range from extremely severe to very mild. Some characteristic symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Sudden personality change
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Loss of motivation and disorganized thinking
  • Lack of emotion
  • Lack of energy
  • Paranoia, fear
  • Withdrawn from family and friends
  • Disregard for personal appearance
  • Problems with memory, attention and the ability to plan and make decisions
  • Flat or inappropriate emotions

Facts About Schizophrenia

  • It is estimated that more than 2.7 million Americans now have schizophrenia
  • Three-quarters of persons with schizophrenia develop the illness between 16-25 years of age, initial onset before age 14 and after age 30 is unusual
  • One in every hundred Americans will develop schizophrenia
  • The most familiar symptoms are hallucinations and delusions. Three-quarters of all persons have these symptoms, but not all people with these symptoms have schizophrenia
  • The most common form of hallucinations are auditory experiences such as “voices”
  • A “mistaken belief” of a person with schizophrenia is a paranoid delusion in which a person may feel that he or she is being persecuted
  • Sometimes person with schizophrenia have “delusions of grandeur” in which they may believe that they are exalted persons, such as Jesus or Moses, or that they have been given some special message for humanity
  • 25% of schizophrenics recover completely, 50% are improved over a ten-year period, and 25% do not improve. Recent advances in medication treatment have decreased the percentage of people who previously were deemed unimproved.
  • Most individuals with schizophrenia are not violent; more typically, they are withdrawn and prefer to be left alone. Most violent crimes are not committed by persons with schizophrenia and most persons with schizophrenia do not commit violent crimes.
  • By far the most effective treatment to date for schizophrenia is antipsychotic medications. Studies indicate that these drugs are highly effective for 70% of person with schizophrenia
  • More mental health hospital beds are occupied by persons with schizophrenia than any other illness

How is Schizophrenia Treated?


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Even though schizophrenia is a lifelong disease, treatment and recovery are possible through various targeted approaches, including the use of medication and support services, allowing people to lead more productive lives. Medications are the cornerstone of symptom management but are not themselves sufficient to promote recovery. Rehabilitation strategies including work, school, and relationship goals are also essential and need to be addressed in creating a plan of care. Family and friends can plan an important role in helping a loved one with schizophrenia stay on track with their medicine. Training program that teach family and friends problem solving and communication skills cans improve their relationship with the loved one and lessen the change of relapse.