W hen someone behaves erratically we say they are schizophrenic. When people have two or more sides to their personality, we also say they must have schizophrenia. But what really is this devastating disorder?

A study published in The Lancet found that schizophrenia with active psychosis is the third most disabling condition after quadriplegia and dementia, and ahead of blindness and paraplegia.

Long-Term Mental Disorder

Schizophrenia is a long-term mental disorder that involves a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behaviour, leading to broken perception, inappropriate actions and feelings.

There is also a withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation. Experts say schizophrenia is probably many illnesses masquerading as one.

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it hard to:

  • tell the difference between what is real and not real
  • think clearly
  • have normal emotional responses
  • act normally in social situations.
  • have any kind of organised thought, speech or behaviour

Social withdrawal, untidy clothes and bad hygiene, and loss of motivation and judgment are all common in schizophrenia. There is often lack of responsiveness.

Although schizophrenia generally appears in late adolescence or early adulthood (between the ages of 15 to 25 among men, and about 25 to 35 in women) it can emerge at any time in life.

It is a lifelong disease that cannot be cured but usually can be controlled with proper treatment.

Not a Split Personality

Schizophrenia does not imply a “split personality”, or “multiple personality disorder”. In fact, people with schizophrenia do not have split personalities. Rather, they are “split off” from reality.

Schizophrenia is a psychosis, a type of mental illness where a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. At times, people with psychotic disorders like this lose touch with reality.

Hearing Voices

People with schizophrenia often hear voices that are not there. Some may be convinced that others are reading their minds, controlling how they think, or plotting against them. They could believe that the voices they are hearing are angles or even God speaking to them.

They often think they have extraordinary powers and gifts. Some patients with schizophrenia may hide in order to protect themselves from an imagined persecution.

This can distress patients severely and persistently, making them withdrawn and frantic.

When communicating with others the schizophrenic person may jump from one subject to another for no logical reason and be hard to follow. The speech could be muddled and incoherent. In some cases they may believe that somebody is playing tricks with their mind.

Although the delusional thoughts and hallucinations of schizophrenia sometimes lead to violent behaviour, most people with schizophrenia are neither violent nor a danger to others.

Affects Families as Well

As about 30 to 50% of people with schizophrenia do not accept that they have an illness so they do not want to accept treatment.

This puts the effects of schizophrenia far beyond the patient – schizophrenia does not only affect the person with the disorder. Families, friends and society are affected too. A Most people with schizophrenia have to rely on others, because they are unable to hold down a job or care for themselves.

But with support, medication, and therapy, many people with schizophrenia are able to function independently and live satisfying lives. However, the outlook is best when schizophrenia is diagnosed and treated right away

It is true, that schizophrenia can be successfully managed. The first step is to identify the signs and symptoms. The second step is to get help as soon as possible and the third is to stick with the treatment.

The primary treatment of schizophrenia is antipsychotic medications, often in combination with psychological and social supports. Hospitalization may occur for severe episodes.

With the right treatment and support, a person with schizophrenia can lead a happy, fulfilling life.


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