Imagine not being able to trust your own mind; what it tells you; your own thoughts, or what voices in your head say. Or imagine not being able to control parts of your own body. These are two horrifying but true examples of schizophrenia.

While mental illnesses probably started in prehistory we don't have earlier information previous to the Middle Ages. This is when they would herd people with mental illnesses on ships, then not too much later they put them into asylums. One hospital known for housing the mentally retarded was in England; called the Bethlem Hospital. That's where the word "bedlam" came from, meaning noisy confusion. The first record of someone possibly having schizophrenia was back in the 1400's when King Henry VI had a psychotic breakdown and had symptoms like that of a person with schizophrenia.

On average schizophrenia affects the same amount of men and women but tends to be more serious and show up at an earlier age in men. The most common age of onset is late-teens to early twenties for men and twenties to late thirties for women. Developing schizophrenia after age 40 is very uncommon.

Schizophrenia shows up in all races and cultures all over the world. But lower averages of people in tropical Africa have schizophrenia and higher averages of people have it in Scandinavia and Ireland. Approximately 1 out of every 100 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime. That's about 1.2 million people just in the U.S. who currently have it; which is about 118 people diagnosed with it every day.

Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder in which previously normal cognitive abilities and behaviors become disturbed. There are three basic kinds of schizophrenia:

  1. Disorganized Schizophrenia- lack of emotion, disorganized speech
  2. Catatonic Schizophrenia- waxy flexibility, reduced movement, rigid posture, sometimes too much movement
  3. Paranoid Schizophrenia- strong delusions or hallucinations

The effects interfere with a person's ability to think clearly, manage emotion, make decisions, and relate to others. More specifically it's manifested either by delusions, hallucinations, and unusual or disorganized behavior or by marked lack of activity, loss of interest or unresponsiveness.

Prognosis is not positive for diagnosed patients but taking medication does appear to improve the long-term prognosis.

Schizophrenia can effect anyone at any point in life but it is more likely in those who are genetically predisposed to it. Experts are not completely sure how, but it is inherited. The possibility of developing it with two parents, neither of whom carries the disease, is 1 percent. With one parent carrying schizophrenia the chance of developing it is 13 percent. With both parents carrying the disease it is about 35 percent.

The main cause for schizophrenia is, as of yet, unknown. However there are four current theories on the cause of schizophrenia: the Dopamine Hypothesis, the NMDA Receptor Hypothesis, the Single-Carbon Hypothesis, and the Membrane Hypothesis. Currently there is no cure for this illness, however it can be treated with =Antipsychotic drugs (developed in the 1950's) such as Thorazine, Stelazine, or Loxapine, which reduce the symptoms. The drugs work by correcting imbalances in the chemical makeup of the patients' brain. There are, however, 6 side effects of Antipsychotic drugs:

  1. Parkinson's disease
  2. Dystonia
  3. Restlessness
  4. Tardive dyskinesia
  5. Weight gain
  6. Skin problems
. About 25-40% of patients who take Antipsychotic medications for several years develop these side effects. About 80% of those who stop taking their medications after an acute episode will relapse within a year.

It is important to treat this disease at the earliest age possible to help avoid a slower and less complete recovery, increased risk of depression and suicide, strain on relationships, and interference with social development.

Studies show that after 10 years of treatment, one fourth of those with schizophrenia have recovered completely, one fourth have improved considerably and one fourth have improved somewhat. 15% have not improved and 10% are dead.

There is several ways to reduce the risk of developing schizophrenia. Because heredity plays a part, offspring are less likely to get it if neither parent carries it. My sources disagree with whether the early environment of children is also a factor. If upbringing is a factor, then a child, who has a severe trauma or (especially) a number of them are at higher risk of developing schizophrenia. Psychiatric examination is recommended as a child, an adolescent, a young adult, and an adult. There is also critical prevention, which means helping someone in a crisis that may likely lead to schizophrenic behavior especially if it's carried in his or her genes. Individuals with schizophrenia die at a younger age than the typical population and suicide is the number one greatest cause, with a 10-13% rate, for premature death among the schizophrenic.

To diagnose schizophrenia an individual must have loss-of-reality symptoms for at least six months. It's critical a doctor ensure that other problems that mimic schizophrenia, such as manic depressive episodes, delusional disorder, or personality disorders (schizotypal, schizoid, paranoid personality disorder) are ruled out.

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