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Schizophrenia Facts

Schizophrenia News


What is Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a diagnosed mental illness where a person may suffer from hallucinations, distorted thoughts or a reduced ability to function in society. There are different approaches to categorizing schizophrenia. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) schizophrenic disorders are classified into the following:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizophreniform Disorder
  • Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder

Statistics

Schizophrenia is a disabling disease that affects approximately 1% of the population of the world. In America, it affects 2 million people. Schizophrenia occurs in men and women and across all races. However, it occurs more frequently in men than in women. Cases of children having a schizophrenic disorder are rare, onset generally occurs after adolescence.

Symptoms

There are many symptoms associated with the different types of Schizophrenia. In order to classify schizophrenia into sub types, certain symptoms need to present themselves. Here is a list of some of the subtypes of schizophrenia and their associated symptoms:

  • Paranoid Schizophrenia - a preoccupation with delusions or auditory hallucinations
  • Catatonic Schizophrenia - immobility, stupor or excessive motor activity
  • Disorganized Behavior - disorganized speech or behavior
  • Schizophreniform Disorder - any of the above symptoms excluding major depressive or manic disorder
  • Schizoaffective Disorder - any of the above symptoms including a major depressive and/or manic disorder
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder - detachment from social relationships and inability to express wide range of emotions
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder - reduced capacity for social relationships marked with eccentricities of behavior

There is no biological test for schizophrenia. Therefore, there is debate on whether or not the above labels accurately describe the disorders.

Causes

There is no specific known cause of schizophrenia, but studies suggest that genetics and social environment may both play a role.

People with close relatives that have schizophrenia have a higher likelihood to develop the disease. For instance, about 1% of the general population has schizophrenia. If you have a parent that has it, you have a 10% chance of developing the symptoms. It cannot be accurately predicted whether a person will develop schizophrenia based on their genetic makeup alone.

Certain environmental factors may also have an impact on the possibility of developing the disease. Prenatal and environmental stressors may influence a person's susceptibility.

Misnomer

Schizophrenia is not "multiple personality disorder." Multiple personality disorder has been made popular by such movies as The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil. MPD is characterized by having at least one alter personality that controls behavior.

Schizophrenia Treatment Options

Schizophrenia is a life-long condition that can be treated but not cured. Medication is primarily used to treat the symptoms of the disease. However, sticking to the regimen of the medication can be a problem. Patients go off their medication for many reasons including side effects or the patient feels that the medication is not working. Thus it is important to back up medication with psychosocial therapy to keep the patient on track.

Because of the complexity of this disease it may require a combination of different types of medication including antipsychotic, antidepressant, and antianxiety drugs. Also, if one medication does not work, the patient, doctor, and family should work together to try other medications until the right combination is found. This may not be a simple or short process.

Newer antipsychotic medications include Seroquel, Risperdal, Zyprexa and Clozaril.

Outlook

Scientists are studying brain chemistry to try and determine causes of this disease. Our knowledge of the relationship between the brain and the disease is growing rapidly. Specifically, it is likely that schizophrenia is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain possibly dealing with the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate.

Recent research also suggests that schizophrenia may be prevented by certain precautions taken during pregnancy, as well as by early childhood, adolescent and adult environments. If you know you have a family history of this disease, it may be beneficial to take these precautions.

One precaution is not to smoke marijuana. A recent study showed that a person with the genetic disposition for schizophrenia (or the COMT gene) increased their risk by 1,000% if they also smoked marijuana.

Other environmental factors include:

  • Place of birth - Urban
  • Time of birth - Winter
  • Infections like Polio, Rubella, Influenza
  • Prenatal factors - Famine, bereavement, maternal depression
  • Obstretric factors - Rh incompatibility, low birthweight, hypoxia

See other environmental factors.


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