What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is type of mental illness. It is characterized by people being unable to perceive a normal reality. People often hear voices, see things that aren’t there, have hallucinations and delusions, and overall experience a very abnormal way of thinking or behaving. The condition may also be known as paranoid schizophrenia. It is estimated that about one percent of people in the world have schizophrenia.


Key statistics about schizophrenia

  • Schizophrenia affects about 1% of the world population.
  • In the United States one in a hundred people, about 2.5 million, have this disease. It knows no racial, cultural or economic boundaries.
  • Approximately 3.5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with schizophrenia and it is one of the leading causes of disability.
  • Three-quarters of persons with schizophrenia develop the illness between 16 and 25 years of age.
  • Schizophrenia is at least partially genetic.
  • Studies have indicated that 25 percent of those having schizophrenia recover completely, 50% are improved over a 10-year period, and 25 percent do not improve over time.
  • Between one-third and one-half of all homeless adults have schizophrenia.

The signs and symptoms of schizophrenia may include paranoia, hearing voices, delusions, thought disorder, lack of emotion, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, irritability, confusion, memory problems, suicidal thoughts, and social withdrawal. People usually develop signs and symptoms of schizophrenia between the teen years and age 40. In males, schizophrenia symptoms typically start in the early to mid-20s. In females, symptoms typically begin in the late 20s. It is uncommon for children and people older than 45 to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.

It is unclear as to what exactly causes this condition. However, there are a certain risk factors that may increase your risk for developing or triggering schizophrenia. The risk factors that increase your risk of developing schizophrenia include having a family history of schizophrenia, exposure to viruses, toxins or malnutrition while in the womb, particularly in the first and second trimesters, increased immune system activation, such as from inflammation or autoimmune diseases, older age of the father, or taking psychoactive or psychotropic drugs during teen years and young adulthood.

Schizophrenia requires lifelong treatment, even when symptoms have gone away. The condition can be managed with the help of medications and psychosocial therapy. Medications for treating schizophrenia may include conventional antipsychotics or atypical antipsychotics. Hospitalization may be required when symptoms become severe.