Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, behaves and perceives reality. Symptoms usually arise between the ages of 16 and 30 and can be divided into three main categories: positive, negative and cognitive. Some examples of positive symptoms are psychosis, hallucinations, delusions and thought or movement disorders. Negative symptoms are disruptions to normal emotions and behavior such as reduced expression of emotions, reduced feelings of pleasure, reduced speaking and difficulty starting and completing activities. Cognitive symptoms include trouble focusing or paying attention, problems with working memory and poor executive functioning (understanding information and using it to make decisions). Approximately 2.5 million people in the US have schizophrenia.
The causes of schizophrenia are still unknown, so treatments primarily focus on controlling symptoms of the disorder. Treatments may include medication, psychotherapy or specialty care, which involves creating a unique program for each individual to help reduce symptoms and teach individuals how to lead productive and independent lives.
People with schizophrenia have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imaginary. Schizophrenia is one of the mental disorders most commonly stereotyped and discriminated against, making it challenging for people with the disorder to open up to friends, family and co-workers/employers about their condition. People with schizophrenia may face discrimination on the grounds they are “crazy” or “dangerous to others,” when they do not actually pose a danger to others. As any person with a health condition, individuals with schizophrenia can benefit from support and encouragement. Schizophrenia can sometimes feel scary and overwhelming for the person who has it, but with the proper treatment, many are able to lead active and productive lives.
A variety of programs exist to help people with schizophrenia recover and manage their disorder, so that they can reintegrate themselves back into their previous lifestyle and daily routine. Support centers and crisis lines are also available for those with the disorder.