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Schizophrenia is characterized by a disintegration of thinking processes and emotional responsiveness. It is most commonly manifested through bizarre delusions, auditory hallucinations, disorganized thinking and speech, and paranoid delusions. It may eventually lead to social or occupational dysfunction. Symptoms generally occur in young adulthood and may be diagnosed based on a person's self-reported experiences and observed behaviors. The reliability of a schizophrenia diagnosis is generally high; however, some symptoms overlap with major depression and bipolar. The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown, though it is likely a combination of factors including genetics and environment. Schizophrenia is significantly affected by heredity and its onset is significantly influenced by environmental stressors.
Although schizophrenia is believed to be a brain-based disorder, there is currently no test or brain scan that can diagnose the condition. Some people with schizophrenia see several doctors before they are properly diagnosed. Diagnosis relies partially on self-reports, as well as the doctor's own observations of the person and their behavior. Some people may also provide insight from friends and family. Generally, a person who has delusions or hallucinations, disrupted relationships, difficulty functioning, and disorganized speech or thinking will be diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Psychotherapy is widely recommended and used in treating schizophrenia. Psychotherapy can help those affected with schizophrenia to increase social skills, develop higher self-esteem, and gain insight to the mental health issues. In severe episodes of schizophrenia, hospitalization may occur. This may be voluntary or involuntary based on the situation. Schizophrenia may lead to other medical issues that need to be treated.
Antipsychotic medications are also often used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia. However, medications used to treat schizophrenia can have serious side effects, causing many people to go off of their medication.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) defines schizophrenia as a mental disorder characterized by disintegrating emotional responsiveness and thought processes. There are five different types of schizophrenia listed:
Over the years schizophrenia has made appearances in popular culture. For example, in the film A Beautiful Mind, John Nash struggles with paranoid schizophrenia. While Nash was highly intelligent, people with schizophrenia are often portrayed as extremely unstable or incurable in the media. This may contribute to the stigmatizing idea that people with schizophrenia are “crazy" or dangerous.
Last updated: 01-07-2015