Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects how the brain works. This leads to chronic problems with disordered thoughts and behaviors and symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and lack of emotional expression.
Schizophrenia affects approximately 0.3% to 0.7% of people. It impacts people from all racial backgrounds and ethnicities and is slightly more common in men than in women. The exact causes are unknown, but it has both genetic and environmental risk factors.
It usually requires lifelong care and treatment to help people manage their symptoms and live full, active lives. Treatment usually involves medications, psychotherapy, and social support. Coping strategies such as joining a peer support group and participating in social skills training can also be helpful.
The exact causes of schizophrenia are not entirely understood, but a complex variety of influences likely play a role. Some potential causes include genetic, environmental, social, and psychological factors.
Research suggests that genetics play a significant role in causing schizophrenia. Having a family member with the condition greatly increases your risk of developing schizophrenia. However, while the condition sometimes runs in families, having a family member with the condition does not necessarily mean that you will develop the disorder.
There is no cure for schizophrenia, but there are treatments that can help people manage the symptoms of the condition and improve functioning. Treatments vary depending on each individual's needs but may include medications, psychotherapy, and family-based services. People may require different levels of care and support depending on the severity of their condition.
Research suggests that early symptoms of schizophrenia begin to appear sometime between late adolescence and early twenties, although they may begin later or earlier. The age of onset is also typically later in women than in men. Symptoms appear gradually and become progressively more severe.
Mental illness refers to a range of mental health conditions that impact thinking, emotion, behavior, or mood. They can lead to significant distress and make it difficult to manage daily living including work, school, family, and social activities. Mental illness affects around 20% of adults in the U.S. each year.
Psychosis is a condition that affects the way the brain processes information and causes people to lose touch with reality. Symptoms of psychosis often include having false ideas about what is happening (delusions) or seeing and hearing things that are not really there (hallucinations).
Antipsychotics are medications used primarily to manage psychosis. While they do not cure the condition, they can help manage the symptoms of schizophrenia. Older antipsychotics are called "typical" or “first generation,” while newer medications are called "atypical" or “second generation.” There is also a purported “third generation,” which includes aripiprazole (Abilify) or brexipiprazole (Rexulti).
Psychosocial interventions include activities that focus on the cognitive, behavioral, social, and biological factors that play a role in an individual's well-being. Common psychosocial interventions for schizophrenia include cognitive therapy, psychoeducation, family intervention, assertive community treatment, and social skills training.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a psychiatric treatment that involves using electrical stimulation to induce seizures. It is most frequently utilized for treatment-resistant depression, but it is sometimes used to treat schizophrenia that has not responded to treatment with antipsychotics.
Depression is a mood disorder characterized by low mood and loss of interest in activities. A person who experiences symptoms of schizophrenia along with mood disorder symptoms such as depression may be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.
Mania is a symptom of bipolar disorder and is characterized by periods of sustained elevated mood, irritability, energy levels, and racing thoughts. When a person experiences symptoms of both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, it may be an indicator of schizoaffective disorder.
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National Institute of Mental Health. Schizophrenia. Updated May 2020.
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Chien WT, Leung SF, Yeung FK, Wong WK. Current approaches to treatments for schizophrenia spectrum disorders, part II: psychosocial interventions and patient-focused perspectives in psychiatric care. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2013;9:1463-1481. doi:10.2147/NDT.S49263
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