Schizophrenia

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Schizophrenia facts

  • Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, debilitating mental illness that affects about 1% of the population, more than 2 million people in the United States alone.
  • With the sudden onset of severe psychotic symptoms, the individual is said to be experiencing acute psychosis. Psychotic means out of touch with reality or unable to separate real from unreal experiences.
  • There is no known single cause of schizophrenia. As discussed later, it appears that genetic factors produce a vulnerability to schizophrenia, with environmental factors contributing to different degrees in different individuals.
  • There are a number of various treatments for schizophrenia. Given the complexity of schizophrenia, the major questions about this disorder (its cause or causes, prevention, and treatment) are unlikely to be resolved in the near future. The public should beware of those offering "the cure" for (or "the cause" of) schizophrenia.
  • Schizophrenia is one of the psychotic mental disorders and is affecting individual's thoughts, behaviors, and social functioning.
  • Symptoms of schizophrenia may include delusions, hallucinations, catatonia, negative symptoms, and disorganized speech or behavior.
  • There are five types of schizophrenia based on the kind of symptoms the person has at the time of assessment: paranoid, disorganized, catatonic, undifferentiated, and residual.
  • Children as young as 6 years of age can be found to have all the symptoms of schizophrenia as their adult counterparts and to continue to have those symptoms into adulthood.
  • Although the term schizophrenia has only been in used since 1911, its symptoms have been described throughout written history.
  • Schizophrenia is considered to be the result of a complex group of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors.
  • Health-care practitioners diagnose schizophrenia by gathering comprehensive medical, family, mental-health, and social/cultural information.
  • The practitioner will also either perform a physical examination or request that the individual's primary-care doctor perform one. The medical examination will usually include lab tests.
  • In addition to providing treatment that is appropriate to the diagnosis, professionals attempt to determine the presence of mental illnesses that may co-occur.
  • People with schizophrenia are at increased risk of having a number of other mental-health conditions, committing suicide, and otherwise dying earlier than people without this disorder.
  • Medications that have been found to be most effective in treating the positive symptoms of schizophrenia are first- and second-generation antipsychotics.
  • Psychosocial interventions for schizophrenia include education of family members, assertive community treatment, substance-abuse treatment, social-skills training, supported employment, cognitive behavioral therapy, and weight management.
  • Cognitive remediation, peer-to-peer treatment, and weight-management interventions remain the focus topics for research.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/11/2014

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Schizophrenia Treatment

Because the causes of schizophrenia are still unknown, treatments focus on eliminating the symptoms of the disease. Treatments include antipsychotic medications and various psychosocial treatments.

Antipsychotic medications

Antipsychotic medications have been available since the mid-1950's. The older types are called conventional or "typical" antipsychotics. Some of the more commonly used typical medications include:

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