What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder that affects over 2 million American adults. It affects men and women with equally, although it usually first appears in men in their late teens or early twenties, while in women, it appears in their twenties or early thirties. Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia is not multiple personality disorder or a split personality. It is a chronic (meaning persistent or lasting) illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly and distinguish fantasy from reality. It may cause people to hear or see things that aren’t there. They may believe that other people are reading their minds or controlling them. Someone with schizophrenia may seem extremely withdrawn or agitated, and they may not make sense when they talk. Treatment helps relieve some symptoms of schizophrenia, but most people who have the illness will deal with symptoms for their whole lives.

Schizophrenia tends to run in families, with it occurring in 10 percent of people who have a first-degree relative (aunts, uncles, cousins or grandparents) with the disorder. Traumatic experiences or a stressful environment can also contribute to the illness. Problems with certain brain chemicals may also contribute to schizophrenia.

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