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Schizophrenia Isn't Uncontrollable

Three-fourths of its victims live normal lives

Most people are surprised to learn how common schizophrenia is. In the United States alone, more than 2½ million people are affected -- about 1 percent of the population.

For many people, however, schizophrenia conjures up an image of a deranged person who hears voices and wanders the streets. In reality, 75 percent of schizophrenics can control their symptoms and lead normal, productive lives.

Not only does schizophrenia carry a profound stigma among the general public, but many health-care professionals adhere to an outdated notion that patients are destined to deteriorate and never improve. Family members who have a loved one affected by the illness may need to be assertive in finding the proper therapy to help.

Fewer than half of schizophrenics receive psychological help of any kind, only a quarter of them receive vocational help, and just 1-in-10 receives family support therapy.

A Los Angeles Times feature reprinted in the Philadelphia Inquirer describes how proper treatment can allow most schizophrenics to function fully and enjoy a normal life. An accompanying story lists the warning signs of schizophrenia, which usually show up in the mid-to-late teens and early 20s.

Schizophrenia affects both sexes equally, although males are more likely to experience severe symptoms. Psychiatrists in Australia believe that estrogen plays some role in reducing the intensity of symptoms, and injections of the hormone may help more severely affected patients recover from psychotic episodes, the Australian Broadcasting Co. reports.

In some settings, doctors still prescribe older drug treatments for schizophrenics, frequently just to save money. The devastating side effects of the older drugs are often described as worse than the mental symptoms, The Times of London explains. This may actually drive some patients to go underground to avoid treatment and ultimately become homeless.

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