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Schizophrenia

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is serious disorder of the brain. It affects the way a person thinks, perceives things, and relates to others. People with schizophrenia may have trouble thinking logically, and have difficulty distinguishing between real and unreal experiences. People with schizophrenia may also have sudden, unpredictable changes in their mood or emotions and have trouble behaving appropriately in social situations.

Schizophrenia is not, however, a "split personality." Changes in brain functioning can cause people with schizophrenia to seem, at times, as if they have two different personalities. When the symptoms of the person with schizophrenia are improved, the person may behave almost normally; however, when the symptoms worsen, the same individual may seem like a different person to those who know him.

Schizophrenia is not caused by "bad upbringing" or "bad parenting." Schizophrenia is also not caused by laziness or because a person is weak in nature. Traumatic experiences do not cause schizophrenia, although they may increase symptoms. Schizophrenia is a disease with a physical cause, just like diabetes or heart disease.

What causes schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is often described as a chemical imbalance in the brain. The imbalance of certain chemicals can affect a person's mood, perceptions, and behaviors. Some people are born with a predisposition to schizophrenia. It is believed that schizophrenia is closely related to heredity and genetics. This is because schizophrenia tends to run in families, but only among blood relatives. The risk for schizophrenia is greater between first-degree relatives (between parents and children and between siblings).

What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

People with Schizophrenia exhibit many different symptoms. They may hear voices that aren't there, talk about absurd ideas or beliefs, or express themselves in ways that are difficult or impossible to understand. Many individuals with schizophrenia experience delusions. Delusions are beliefs held by the person in spite of whether there is any basis in reality. People who suffer from schizophrenia also may experience perceptual symptoms called hallucinations. Hallucinations are most often auditory (hearing ), but may occur in any of the senses. Hallucinations should not be confused with mistaken perceptions, which we all experience from time to time.

Who gets Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia has been observed to occur in virtually every culture in the world. In the United States, there are an estimated 2.5 million people suffering from schizophrenia. The disease afflicts males and females equally. Men often have an earlier onset of symptoms than women. The average age at which males exhibit symptoms is about 4 to 5 years younger than females.

The symptoms of schizophrenia usually manifest themselves between the age of 15 and 35. Symptoms rarely occur before the age of 12. Childhood Schizophrenia does occur, however, and can impede early language development as well as social development.