Schizophrenia is a challenging disorder that makes it difficult to distinguish between what is real and unreal, think clearly, manage emotions, and relate to others.
These obstacles can get in the way of your ability to function normally and take care of yourself. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope.
The truth is, schizophrenia can be successfully managed. The first step is identifying the signs and symptoms. The second step is seeking help without delay. The third is sticking with treatment. With the right treatment and support from family, friends, and health professionals, a person with schizophrenia can lead a happy, fulfilling life.
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects the way a person acts, thinks, and sees the world. People with schizophrenia have an altered perception of reality, often a significant loss of contact with reality. They may see or hear things that don’t exist, speak in strange or confusing ways, believe that others are trying to harm them, or feel like they’re being constantly watched. With such a blurred line between the real and the imaginary, schizophrenia makes it difficult—even frightening—to negotiate the activities of daily life. In response, people with schizophrenia may withdraw from the outside world or act out in confusion and fear.
Most cases of schizophrenia appear in the late teens or early adulthood. For men, the average age of onset is 25. For women, typical onset is around the age of 30. However, schizophrenia can appear for the first time in middle age or even later. In rare cases, schizophrenia can even affect young children and adolescents, although the symptoms are slightly different.
In general, the earlier schizophrenia develops, the more severe it is. Schizophrenia also tends to be more severe in men than in women.
Although schizophrenia is a chronic disorder, there is help available. With support, medication, and therapy, many people with schizophrenia are able to function independently and live satisfying lives. However, the outlook is best when schizophrenia is diagnosed and treated right away. If you spot the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia and seek help without delay, you or your loved one can take advantage of the many treatments available and improve the chances of recovery.
Common Misconceptions about Schizophrenia
MYTH: Schizophrenia refers to a "split personality" or multiple personalities.
FACT: Multiple personality disorder is a different and much less common disorder than schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia do not have split personalities. Rather, they are “split off” from reality.
MYTH: Schizophrenia is a rare condition.
FACT: Schizophrenia is not rare; the lifetime risk of developing schizophrenia is widely accepted to be around 1 in 100.
MYTH: People with schizophrenia are dangerous.
FACT: Although the delusional thoughts and hallucinations of schizophrenia sometimes lead to violent behavior, most people with schizophrenia are neither violent nor a danger to others.
MYTH: People with schizophrenia can’t be helped.
FACT: While long-term treatment may be required, the outlook for schizophrenia is not hopeless. When treated properly, many people with schizophrenia are able to enjoy life and function within their families and communities.
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