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  • Schizophrenia is a debilitating mental illness that causes hallucinations, delusions and changes in behavioral patterns. It is estimated to affect 1 percent of the world population
  • People diagnosed with schizophrenia, also known as schizophrenics, often have a distorted view of reality
 

What Is Schizophrenia?

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Schizophrenia is a debilitating mental illness that causes hallucinations, delusions and changes in behavioral patterns. It is estimated to affect 1 percent of the world population.1

People diagnosed with schizophrenia, also known as schizophrenics, often have a distorted view of reality. They may see or hear things that aren't really there or they may form convoluted, paranoid plots about supernatural beings or the government.

The 5 Defining Symptoms of Schizophrenia

The following symptoms are present in schizophrenics, and may come in different combinations and severity:2

Delusions: when you believe strongly in something but it really isn't true. A delusion may manifest as a group out to get you, or an item that you think is sending a specific, coded message only for you. You may also believe that you're being controlled by supernatural forces.

Hallucinations: similar to delusions, hallucinations are things that you may see, hear, feel or smell and believe that are true, but in reality are not. They commonly manifest as voices in your head.

Disorganized speech: this refers to changes in speech patterns, such as having trouble maintaining a train of thought during a conversation.

Disorganized behavior: when normal routines and behavior patterns are suddenly disrupted, this is typically called disorganized behavior. Examples include impulsive behavior and a drop in performance in work or school.

Negative symptoms: this refers to behavior patterns that are drastically reduced or personality traits that have seemingly disappeared, such as a lack of emotional expression or enthusiasm, monotonous speaking and very minimal replies to questions.

Early Signs You Should Watch Out For

The table below outlines the early signs of schizophrenia. However, they may point to a different condition as well. Either way, should you or a loved one develop any of them, consult a doctor right away to discover the underlying condition:3

Social withdrawal

Hostility or suspiciousness

Deterioration of personal hygiene

Flat, expressionless gaze

Inability to cry or express joy

Inappropriate laughter or crying

Depression

Oversleeping or insomnia

Odd or irrational statements

Forgetfulness and inability to concentrate

Extreme reaction to criticism

Strange use of words or way of speaking

What's It Like to Have Schizophrenia?

Many people turn to movies and other media to learn more about schizophrenia and other mental diseases. Sadly, media typically portrays schizophrenics in a bad light, such as having a propensity for violence, even to the point of homicidal behavior.4 By repeating these negative images through the years, Hollywood has ingrained in American culture that schizophrenia equates to destructive behavior.

In truth, many schizophrenics go on to live fulfilling lives. Elyn R. Saks, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 28 years old, is one example. Through treatment and support, she is now the associate dean and Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology and the Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California Gould Law School.5 Her success serves as an inspiration to schizophrenics who are just starting get their life back on track.

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Schizophrenia: Introduction

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Schizophrenia Types

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