Schizophrenia Home > What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that causes delusions and social withdrawal. The signs of the condition fall into three broad categories: positive symptoms (psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations), negative symptoms (such as apathy), and cognitive symptoms (such as memory problems). People who have this disorder often require medication to control the most troubling symptoms.

Understanding Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling mental disorder. It affects about 1 percent of people all over the world (including 3.2 million Americans) and has been recognized throughout recorded history.
 
The first symptoms of schizophrenia (which typically emerge in young people in their teens or 20s) are confusing and often shocking to families and friends. These include:
 
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Disordered thinking
  • Unusual speech or behavior
  • Social withdrawal.
     
These symptoms often impair the person's ability to interact with others.
 
Most people with schizophrenia have the disorder chronically or in episodes throughout their lives, often losing opportunities for careers and relationships. They are often stigmatized by a lack of public understanding about their disease.
 
However, several new antipsychotic medications have been developed within the last decade. These medications have fewer side effects than the older medications, and when combined with psychosocial interventions (therapy and rehabilitation), have improved the outlook for many people with schizophrenia. Many people with this condition now lead rewarding and meaningful lives in the community. Researchers are developing more effective medications and are using new research tools to understand the causes of schizophrenia and find ways to prevent and treat it.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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