Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that affects about 1% of the population worldwide.  It is characterized by two key features: hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations can be of any type, but visual and auditory are the most common. Delusions are beliefs that are outside the scope of probable situations, such as believing the government is conspiring against you or that you are some famous person. Although there are treatments for schizophrenia, most people will have to cope with some symptoms throughout their lives. It affects men and women equally, onset is generally in late teens or early 20’s, but could occur as late as 30-45 years old.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought immediately if you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia. Early detection and treatment have been shown to improve outcomes. Symptoms include two or more of the following symptoms lasting more than a month: 1) delusions, 2) hallucinations, 3) disorganized speech, 4) grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, 5) negative symptoms such as flat affect, very little speaking, very little movement, lack of pleasure in leisure activities.

Schizophrenia Treatment Options

Treatment for schizophrenia needs to be handled by a psychiatrist and other mental health specialists. In almost all cases antipsychotic medications are needed to treat symptoms. New generations of antipsychotic medications are providing the same relief without the side effects of older classes of medications. Psychotherapy helps educate people about the condition, assists with communication skills, self-care, and forming relationships. Illness management teaches people how to watch for signs of relapse and to respond quickly and develop other coping skills. Rehabilitation services focus on social and vocational skills, money management, and other skills needed to function in society. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps teach people how to test the reality of thoughts and perceptions.

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