Conditions InDepth: Schizophrenia
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Schizophrenia is a lifelong mental health problem. It causes psychosis, having a hard time knowing what is real and what is not. People with schizophrenia may hear voices not heard by others, or believe that other people can read their minds, control their thoughts, or plot to harm them. It can also cause disorganized speech and behavior, and problems with emotions and day to day tasks. Left untreated, schizophrenia may leave people afraid and withdrawn. Proper ongoing treatment can help people live full lives.
Schizophrenia often starts in men in the late teens to early 20s. In women it often starts in their 20s to early 30s. The impact on their life can vary but can be disabling. For some, the effects can be severe. It can make it hard to function in day to day life like keeping a job. Those with untreated schizophrenia also have a higher risk of homelessness and arrest. It also leads to a higher risk of suicide, self-harm, and substance abuse.
A combination of biology and life experiences is thought to cause schizophrenia. Some changes to genes may increase the risk of schizophrenia. These genes may run in families. However, not everyone with these genes develop schizophrenia. Factors like recreational drug use, trauma, or brain injury may also play a role in why schizophrenia develops.
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Schizophrenia. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml. Updated February 2016. Accessed August 13, 2019.
Last reviewed December 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 8/13/2019
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