Schizophrenia is a serious brain disorder. It is a disease that makes it difficult for a
person to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically, to
have normal emotional responses to other, and to behave normally in social situations.
People with schizophrenia may also have difficulty in remembering, talking, and
behaving appropriately. Schizophrenia is one of the most common mental illnesses.

About 1% of the world population has schizophrenia. In the United States, there are
about 2.5 million people with the disease. Schizophrenia is the cause of more
hospitalizations than almost any other illness. Schizophrenia most commonly begins
between the ages of 15 and 25. Although it strikes men and women equally, the
symptoms may appear later in women than in men. Very rarely, the symptoms of
schizophrenia can appear before the age of 12. Childhood schizophrenia has a more
chronic disease course and involves poor early language development.
People with schizophrenia can have a variety of symptoms. Sometimes, these
symptoms come on suddenly. Usually, though, the illness develops slowly over months
or even years. At first, the symptoms may not be noticed or may be confused with those
of other conditions. For example, people with schizophrenia may feel tense, be unable to
concentrate, or have trouble sleeping. They often become increasingly isolated and
withdrawn as their grip on reality loosens. They do not make or keep friends. They may
stop caring about the way they look. Dropping out of school or doing badly at work are
other early signs of schizophrenia. As the illness progresses, symptoms of psychosis
develop. The person starts to act strangely and talk nonsensically. People with
schizophrenia may develop paranoid delusions. Examples of this would be that they
might see, feel, smell, or hear things that are not really there. They may have physical
symptoms, like frowning or unusual movements, and may stand or sit in strange
positions. Some people become almost motionless. Others move around constantly. The
severity of symptoms will vary from one person to another. The symptoms also tend to
worsen and improve. When the symptoms are improved, the person may appear to
behave relatively normally, but usually there will be repeated episodes of the illness that
Schizophrenia is a complex and puzzling illness. Even the experts are not sure
exactly what causes it. Some doctors think that the brain may not be able to process
information correctly. People without schizophrenia usually can filter out unneeded
information: for example, the sound of a train whistle in the background or a dog barking
next door. People with schizophrenia, however, cannot always filter out this extra
information. One possible cause of schizophrenia may be heredity, or genetics. Experts
think that some people inherit a tendency to schizophrenia. In fact, the disorder tends to
run in families, but only among blood relatives. People who have family members with
schizophrenia may be more likely to get the disease themselves. If both biologic parents
have schizophrenia, there is nearly a 40% chance that their child will get it, too. This
happens even if the child is adopted and raised by mentally healthy adults. In people who
have an identical twin with schizophrenia, the chance of schizophrenia developing is
almost 50%. In contrast, children whose biological parents are mentally healthy – even if
their adoptive parents have schizophrenia – have about a 1% chance of getting the disease.
That is about the same risk as for the general population of the United States.

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Some researchers believe that events in a persons environment trigger
schizophrenia. Some studies have shown that influenza infection or improper nutrition
during pregnancy and complications during birth may increase the risk that the baby will
develop schizophrenia later in life. Many believe that schizophrenia is likely caused by a
complex combination of genetic and environmental factors. Certain people are born with
a tendency to develop the disease. But the disease only appears if these people are
exposed to unusual stresses or traumas.

Schizophrenia is usually treated with antipsychotic medication. Some people with
schizophrenia also benefit from counseling and rehabilitation. They may need to go to
the hospital during an acute attack. The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms during
acute attacks and to help prevent relapses. At this time, there is no cure for
Antipsychotic medications are very effective in controlling the symptoms of
schizophrenia. These medications first became available in the mid-1950s. They have
greatly improved the lives of thousands of people. Before that time, people with
schizophrenia spent most

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