Schizophrenia is a psychological disorder that interferes with how a person thinks, perceives reality, expresses emotions, and interacts with other people. Sufferers often have difficulty maintaining normal jobs and healthy relationships. Schizophrenia is a life-long disease that cannot be cured, but its symptoms can be managed with therapy and medication.
Symptoms vary from person to person, but always include some form of psychosis, or losing touch with reality. Schizophrenia symptoms are often grouped into three classes: positive, negative, and cognitive.
Positive symptoms refer to things schizophrenia “adds” to a person, typically obvious psychotic symptoms, such as delusions, hallucinations, catatonia, and disorganized thought. Delusions are bizarre beliefs, while hallucinations involve imagined sensory experiences; sound hallucinations are most common in schizophrenia. Catatonia refers to a person being unable to move for a long period of time. Disorganized symptoms can include nonsense speech or improper word order, frequently switching topics, pacing, inability to make decisions, or trouble interpreting everyday sights and sounds.
Negative symptoms refer things schizophrenia takes away from a person, typically the loss of normal behaviors. Negative symptoms can include limited emotional range, withdrawal from normal activities, loss of interest, low energy, reduced speech, and poor hygiene.
Cognitive symptoms refer to trouble focusing, difficulty remembering recent information, poor understanding, and inability to make decisions.
While the precise cause of schizophrenia is not known, it has been determined that the disease has a biological basis in the structure and function of the brain. Schizophrenia appears to be associated with family history of the disease, abnormal brain chemistry and structure, and may be related to early life traumas such as viral infections or exposure to toxins.
Schizophrenia is diagnosed by a mental health professional when the presence of psychotic symptoms cannot be explained by other illnesses, such as substance abuse.
Schizophrenia treatment aims to reduce symptoms. Antipsychotic medication is the most common treatment, which may be paired with therapy and rehabilitation programs to help people with schizophrenia better function in society.
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