Conditions InDepth: Schizophrenia
The combination of severe symptoms and chronic course of illness can cause a high degree of disability for those who suffer from schizophrenia. Approximately 1% of the population develops schizophrenia during their lifetime; more than 2 million Americans suffer from the illness. Although schizophrenia affects men and women with equal frequency, the disorder often appears earlier in men. Men are usually affected in their late teens or early twenties, while women are generally affected in their twenties to early thirties.
Researchers aren’t sure what causes schizophrenia. Problems with brain structure and chemistry are thought to play a role. There also appears to be a genetic component. Some researchers believe that environmental factors may contribute. Some have theorized that a viral infection in infancy and/or extreme stress may trigger schizophrenia in people who are predisposed.
Schizophrenia increases a person’s risk of suicide, self-mutilation, substance abuse, and other social problems such as being unemployed, homeless, and incarcerated.
Schizophrenia. National Alliance of Mental Illness website. Available at: http://www.nami.org/ . Updated February 2007. Accessed April 1, 2009.
What is schizophrenia? National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/ . Updated January 21, 2009. Accessed April 1, 2009.
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