Schizophrenia is a mental illness that has the potential to be severe and disabling. People with the disease often have alarming symptoms like hearing voices and believing other people are reading their minds or plotting to harm them. Schizophrenia affects about 1 percent of Americans. It often starts in the late teenage years or early adulthood, and is seen in men and women equally.
Along with hallucinations and delusions, people with schizophrenia may also experience agitated body movements. They may show almost no emotion, either in their faces or in their manner of speaking. Many people with schizophrenia have trouble focusing and listening to instructions.
Causes of Schizophrenia
Researchers aren’t exactly sure why some people develop schizophrenia. It seems to run in families, as those with a close family member with the disease are much more likely to develop it themselves. This might be due to a genetic mutation that is passed on from parents to children. Additionally, an imbalance in the chemicals of the brain also seems to contribute to some people developing schizophrenia. This imbalance possibly includes the chemicals dopamine and glutamate, among others. In samples of brain tissues, researchers have been able to notice some subtle differences in the brains of people with and without schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia cannot be cured, but a variety of antipsychotic medications can help manage the symptoms. These medications have a number of side effects, so it’s important to work closely with a doctor to find the right medication or combination of medications. Several types of counseling and therapy also can be helpful for schizophrenia. These include psychosocial treatments, cognitive behavior therapy and self-help groups, among others.
SOURCE: U.S. National Institutes of Health