Schizophrenia is a devastating brain disorder that affects approximately 2.2 million American adults, or 1.1 percent of the population age 18 and older. Schizophrenia interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, to distinguish reality from fantasy, to manage emotions, make decisions, and relate to others.
The first signs of schizophrenia typically emerge in the teenage years or early twenties. Most people with schizophrenia suffer chronically or episodically throughout their lives, and are often stigmatized by lack of public understanding about the disease.
Schizophrenia is not caused by bad parenting or personal weakness. A person with schizophrenia does not have a “split personality,” and almost all people with schizophrenia are not dangerous or violent towards others when they are receiving treatment.
The World Health Organization has identified schizophrenia as one of the ten most debilitating diseases affecting human beings.
What are the symptoms of Schizophrenia?
The symptoms of schizophrenia are generally divided into three categories, including positive, disorganized and negative symptoms.
- Positive Symptoms, or “psychotic” symptoms, include delusions and hallucinations because the patient has lost touch with reality in certain important ways. “Positive” as used here does not mean “good.” Rather, it refers to having overt symptoms that should not be there.
- Delusions cause the patient to believe that people are reading their thoughts or plotting against them, that others are secretly monitoring and threatening them, or that they can control other people's minds. Hallucinations cause people to hear or see things that are not there.
- Disorganized Symptoms include confused thinking and speech, and behavior that does not make sense. For example, people with schizophrenia sometimes have trouble communicating in coherent sentences or carrying on conversations with others; move more slowly, repeat rhythmic gestures or make movements such as walking in circles or pacing; and have difficulty making sense of everyday sights, sounds and feelings.
- Negative Symptoms include emotional flatness or lack of expression, an inability to start and follow through with activities, speech that is brief and lacks content, and a lack of pleasure or interest in life. “Negative” does not, then, refer to a person’s attitude, but to a lack of certain characteristics that should be there.