Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental (brain) disorder that creates a divide between the patient’s perception and reality. The causes of the disease are a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Those suffering from schizophrenia may hear voices that are not there, or they may believe that others are out to get them or are reading their minds and controlling their thoughts (paranoia).
Schizophrenia is less common than other mental disorders, affecting about 1% of the U.S. population, with no bias toward gender or ethnic groups. However, it impacts 10% of those with a first-degree relative with schizophrenia*. There are both positive and negative signs that someone may be schizophrenic. Positive signs include a loss of touch with reality including hallucinations, delusions, severely disconnected thoughts, agitated or absent body movements, and verbal communication that does not make sense. Negative symptoms include a flat affect where a person has a dull/monotonous voice and her/his face does not show much expression, a lack of getting pleasure from everyday life, a lack of ability to start or maintain scheduled activities, and does not speak much.*
For many with schizophrenia it may still be possible to have a reasonable quality of life while managing their symptoms. A licensed medical professional can evaluate specific situations to determine if medications are in order. Some of the more traditional antipsychotic medications that have been used to treat schizophrenia are Thorazine® and Haldol®. Since then, atypical antipsychotics have been used widely, such as Zyprexa®, Risperdal®, Geodon®, Invega, Abilify® and Seroquel®. While they can be highly effective, these types of drugs often have serious side effects, most notably weight gain which can lead to other problems such as diabetes. Patients who decide to take these medications should do so only while under a doctor’s supervision.
Psychotherapy can also help a person to deal with the personal impact of schizophrenia and the everyday challenges of his/her illness. This is especially important as individuals with schizophrenia may find it difficult to sustain relationships, employment, housing and personal hygiene. As a result, the families of schizophrenics are often extremely affected by the illness. That’s why it’s most effective for not only the patient to seek out professional help but also people in their support system, so they can learn how to support their loved one while maintaining some balance in their own lives.
* NIMH: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml
The above summary by WebPsychology.