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What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a type of psychotic illness. People with psychotic illnesses often cannot tell the difference between real and imaginary worlds. A person with schizophrenia experiences jumbled thoughts, images, and sounds that come and go in phases, often suddenly and severely. Because the severity of schizophrenic episodes varies, some people can understand reality and function at work and at home, while others may be unable to function at all. There is no one cause of schizophrenia, but it has been attributed to genetic changes and variations in brain chemicals.

It does tend to run in families, and affects men and women equally. Symptoms usually appear in men earlier (late teens to 20s) than in women (late 20s to 30s). Stress can aggravate the symptoms of schizophrenia, but it does not cause the disease. Poor parenting and a bad upbringing have also been ruled out as causes.

What are the symptoms?

  • Hallucinations -- seeing, hearing, smelling, or feeling things that aren't really there
  • Delusions -- false beliefs from which the person cannot be dissuaded
  • Inability to make sense out of the world
  • Emotions, thoughts, and moods that do not correspond to an event
  • Hyperactivity
  • Catatonia -- a set of symptoms that can vary from near motionlessness to abnormal purposeless movements
  • Speaking in sentences that do not make sense
  • Depression
  • Isolation from the outside world, including family and friends
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to function in school, work, or other activities
  • No longer washing or grooming oneself
** In order to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, symptoms generally must last at least six months.

Other Sources of Information
  Mental Health America
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Institute of Mental Health
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services