Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that severely impacts how 2.5 million Americans think, feel, and act. It is a disorder that makes it difficult for a person to tell the difference between real and imagined experiences, to think logically, to express normal emotional responses or to behave appropriately in social situations.
Schizophrenia can be draining on both the person with schizophrenia and their families. People with schizophrenia often have difficulty functioning in society, at work and in school. Family members may have to help out financially and make sure that medication is taken as prescribed.
No cure for schizophrenia has been discovered, but with proper treatment, many people with this illness can lead productive and fulfilling lives.
Schizophrenia is not caused by poor parenting, bad mothers, a personal weakness, or a "split personality." It is not a symptom of a character flaw. Nobody with this serious disorder can simply "get over it" or ignore the hallucinations and delusions.
Most importantly, schizophrenia is not your fault. It is a serious disease of the nervous system; a thought disorder that affects a person's ability to function in every day activities. It affects one's work, one's family, and one's social life. We do not yet have a clear answer to the question of what causes schizophenia, but a number of important factors are emerging, which likely play a crucial role in this disorder's cause.
There are three main causative factors scientists are researching:
Scientists recognize that the disorder tends to run in families and that a person inherits a tendency to develop the disease. Schizophrenia may be triggered by environmental events, such as viral infections or highly stressful situations or a combination of both. Similar to other genetically related illnesses, schizophrenia appears when the body undergoes hormonal and physical changes, like those that occur during puberty in the teen and young adult years.
Genetics help to determine how the brain produces and uses certain chemicals. People with schizophrenia have a chemical imbalance which means they are either very sensitive to or produce too much of a brain chemical called dopamine.
Dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter, allows nerve cells in the brain to send messages to each other. The imbalance of this chemical affects the way a person's brain reacts to stimuli--which explains why a person with schizophrenia may be overwhelmed by sensory information (loud music or bright lights), which other people can easily handle. This problem in processing different sounds, sights, smells and tastes can also lead to hallucinations or delusions.
Complications during pregnancy and birth:
Some researchers suspect a viral infection, improper nutrition during pregnancy, or birth complications may increase the chances of a person developing schizophrenia.
We have developed the information here to act as a comprehensive guide to help you better understand schizophrenia and find out more information about it on your own. Choose from among the categories at left to begin your journey into learning more about it.