Schizophrenia is a lifelong mental health condition that affects approximately 2.4 million people in the United States (the equivalent of 1 percent of the adult population).
Symptoms for Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is characterized by hallucinations and delusions. This may take the form of hearing voices, or seeing or feeling things that aren’t there. It may also involve some degree of paranoia. For example someone with schizophrenia may believe others are tying to hurt them or are plotting against them, even after these beliefs have been disproven. Some people with the disorder also suffer from dysfunctional thinking that causes jumbled speech or nonsensical talking. Others may demonstrate repetitive movements, or not moving at all for long periods of time.
Who are at risk for developing Schizophrenia?
Men typically begin experiencing symptoms in their late teens or early 20s.For women, schizophrenia usually takes root in their 20s or early 30s. Understanding the cause of schizophrenia is complex. Experts believe that genetics may be at play. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), people who have a family history of the disorder are much more likely to develop it when compared to the general population. Abnormal brain structure or irregular brain chemistry may also be linked to schizophrenia. The NIMH also reports that certain environmental factors may play a role in activating the genes associated with schizophrenia. A 2013 study from Columbia University Medical Center actually linked a specific neurotransmitter to the beginnings of schizophrenia. Researchers say that the neurotransmitter (called glutamate) may be what triggers schizophrenia to develop in at-risk people.
In terms of treatment, antipsychotic medications are the most common approach. Psychosocial treatments can be beneficial for people whose symptoms have decreased because of a successful medication regimen. This may take the form of family therapy, or social and vocational rehabilitation. Cognitive behavioral therapy is another approach that teaches patients how to manage their own symptoms. Differentiating between delusions and reality is a key concept.
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