Schizophrenia is a devastating brain disorder that affects approximately 2.2 million American adults, or 1.1 percent of the population age 18 and older. Schizophrenia interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, to distinguish reality from fantasy, to manage emotions, make decisions, and relate to others. The first signs of schizophrenia typically emerge in the teenage years or early twenties. Most people with schizophrenia suffer chronically or episodically throughout their lives, and are often stigmatized by lack of public understanding about the disease. Bad parenting or personal weakness does not cause schizophrenia. A person with schizophrenia does not have a “split personality,” and almost all people with schizophrenia are not dangerous or violent towards others when they are receiving treatment. The World Health Organization has identified schizophrenia as one of the ten most debilitating diseases affecting human beings.
What Are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?
No one symptom positively identifies schizophrenia. All of the symptoms of this illness can also be found in other brain disorders. For example psychotic symptoms may be caused by the use of drugs, may be present in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, or may be characteristics of a manic episode in bipolar disorder. However, when a doctor sees the symptoms of schizophrenia and carefully assesses the history and the course of the illness over six months, he or she can almost always make a correct diagnosis.