What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic, disabling brain disorder that affects about 1% of Americans. It may cause people to hear voices, see imaginary sights, or believe other people are controlling their thoughts. These sensations can be frightening and often lead to erratic behavior. There is no cure, but treatment can usually control the most serious symptoms.
Symptoms of schizophrenia may include:
- Hallucinations — hearing or seeing imaginary things
- Delusions — wildly false beliefs
- Paranoia — the fear others are plotting against you
Some symptoms, such as lack of enjoyment in everyday life and withdrawal from social activities, may mimic depression.
Who Gets Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia affects men and women at the same rate, and occurs almost equally in all ethnic groups around the world. Symptoms usually begin between ages 16 and 30. The onset tends to be earlier in men than in women. Schizophrenia rarely begins during childhood or after age 45. People with schizophrenia in their family may have a higher risk for the illness.
What Causes Schizophrenia?
The exact cause is not known, but scientists suspect genes and environment both play a role. Inside the brain, levels of the chemical messengers dopamine and glutamate may be out of balance. And brain structures may be abnormal, too. For example, brain scans of identical twins show that the fluid-filled “ventricles” can be larger in a twin with schizophrenia, compared with a twin who does not have the illness. Activity levels can also be higher or lower than normal in some areas of the schizophrenic brain.
read more including treatments an relapse prevention