is a chronic, severe, disabling brain disorder that interferes with the way a person interprets reality. People with schizophrenia sometimes hear voices or see things that others do not, become paranoid that people are plotting against them, and experience cognitive deficits and social withdrawal. These and other symptoms make it difficult for them to have positive relationships with others. It is different from split or multiple personality disorders.
Regions of the Brain
Schizophrenia affects many different areas of the brain causing a wide range of behavioral, emotional, and intellectual symptoms.
The cause of schizophrenia is unknown. Problems with brain structure and chemistry are thought to play a role. There also appears to be a genetic component. People with a parent or sibling with schizophrenia have a 5%-10% chance of developing the disease. This compares to a 1% chance if no relatives have schizophrenia.
Some researchers believe that environmental factors may contribute to the development of schizophrenia. They theorize that a fetal viral infection and/or difficult birth or obstetrical trauma may trigger schizophrenia in people who are predisposed.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Schizophrenia does not develop because of one risk factor. Rather, it develops because of how your genes and environment interact. You may have a gene that increases your chance of schizophrenia, but may or may not develop the disease based on your environment. Environment in this case means any outside factors like stress or infection. Factors that increase your risk of schizophrenia include:
Having a parent or sibling with schizophrenia
Abnormal brain structure
In the northern hemisphere: being born during winter months; being born in the city
Early diagnosis is extremely important. People who are diagnosed early are able to:
Stabilize their symptoms
Decrease the risk of suicide
Decrease alcohol and substance abuse
Reduce the chance of relapse and/or hospitalization
A person must have active symptoms for at least two weeks, and other symptoms for at least six months before a diagnosis can be made. The doctor will rule out other causes such as drug use, medical illness, or a different mental condition.
Schizophrenia is not curable but it is highly treatable. Hospitalization may be required during acute episodes. Symptoms are usually controlled with antipsychotic medications.
Antipsychotic medications work by blocking certain chemicals in the brain. This helps control the abnormal thinking that occurs in people with schizophrenia. Determining a medication plan can be a complicated process. Often medications or dosages need to be changed until the right balance is found. This can take months or even years. Examples of medications include:
Relapse is common, even for patients taking medication. Treatment compliance can be a challenge since people often stop taking their medication when they are feeling better. If you don’t take your medications as prescribed, your doctor may give you a long-acting injection instead of daily pills. The side effects of traditional antipsychotics also can cause people to discontinue treatment. The most common are physical side effects such as:
Slow and stiff movements
New medications, called
, have fewer side effects, and are better tolerated over long periods of time. However, they may cause weight gain, elevated blood sugar, and elevated serum cholesterol. Examples of these medications include:
Medications for Coexisting Conditions
Conditions often associated with schizophrenia include
. They may be treated with:
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a