Facts About Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others. It is a complex, long-term medical illness. The exact prevalence of schizophrenia is difficult to measure, but estimates range from 0.25% to 0.64% of U.S. adults. Although schizophrenia can occur at any age, the average age of onset tends to be in the late teens to the early 20s for men, and the late 20s to early 30s for women.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Symptoms of schizophrenia include:
- Hallucinations. These include a person hearing voices, seeing things, or smelling things others can’t perceive. The hallucination is very real to the person experiencing it, and it may be very confusing for a loved one to witness. The voices in the hallucination can be critical or threatening. Voices may involve people that are known or unknown to the person hearing them.
- Delusions. These are false beliefs that don’t change even when the person who holds them is presented with new ideas or facts. People who have delusions often also have problems concentrating, confused thinking, or the sense that their thoughts are blocked.
- Negative symptoms are ones that diminish a person’s abilities. Negative symptoms often include being emotionally flat or speaking in a dull, disconnected way. People with the negative symptoms may be unable to start or follow through with activities, show little interest in life, or sustain relationships. Negative symptoms are sometimes confused with clinical depression.
- Cognitive issues/disorganized thinking. People with the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia often struggle to remember things, organize their thoughts or complete tasks. Commonly, people with schizophrenia have anosognosia or “lack of insight.” This means the person is unaware that he has the illness, which can make treating or working with him much more challenging.
To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, a person must have two or more of the following symptoms occurring persistently in the context of reduced functioning:
- Disorganized speech
- Disorganized or catatonic behavior
- Negative symptoms
Treatment and Support for Those Living With Schizophrenia and Their Families
While there is no cure for schizophrenia, it can be treated and managed with antipsychotic medications, psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and assertive community treatment and supportive therapy, and self-management strategies and education.
We also recommend our NAMI support groups and classes for those living with mental health conditions, as well as their families and loved ones; find a local support group run by a California affiliate.
Find out more on NAMI National’s website.