What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia symptoms include distorted thoughts and hallucinations. Usually starting in young maturity, schizophrenia can also cause the sufferer to feel scared and paranoid. To make a schizophrenia diagnosis, a psychiatrist evaluates symptoms, tests, and medical history, and prescribes medications and possibly psychotherapy for proper schizophrenia treatment.

Scientists have long known that schizophrenia runs in families. The illness occurs in 1 percent of the population, but it occurs in 10 percent of people who have a first degree relative with the disorder, such as a parent, brother, or sister. People who have second degree relatives (aunts, uncles, grandparents, or cousins) with the disease also develop schizophrenia more often than the general population.

We inherit our genes from both parents. Scientists believe a number of genes are associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia, but that no gene causes the disease by itself. In fact, recent research has found that people with schizophrenia tend to have higher rates of rare genetic mutations. These genetic differences involve hundreds of different genes and probably disrupt brain development. Scientists think connections between genes and the environment are necessary for schizophrenia to develop. Environmental factors can be involved, such as exposure to viruses or malnutrition before birth, problems during birth, heavy adolescent marijuana use, and other not yet known psychosocial factors

Schizophrenia treatment involves medications and therapy to reduce the risk of future psychotic episodes and improve relationships. The outlook for people with schizophrenia has improved over the last 30 years or so. Although there still is no cure, effective treatments have been developed, and many people with schizophrenia improve enough to lead independent, satisfying lives.

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