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Family Behavioral Health Services, LLC|
6559-C Wilson Mills Road, #102
Jefferson Park Complex
Mayfield Village, Ohio 44143
Contrary to the common misconception, schizophrenia does not mean "split or multiple personality." And, although people with schizophrenia often are portrayed as violent on television and in movies, that is seldom the case. In fact, people with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, and they tend to be shy and socially withdrawn.
Schizophrenia is one of the most disabling and puzzling mental disorders. Just as "cancer" refers to numerous related illnesses, many researchers now consider schizophrenia to be a group of mental disorders rather than a single illness. Generally, schizophrenia begins in late adolescence or early adulthood.
Research indicates a genetic link to the development of schizophrenia. A child who has one parent with schizophrenia, for example, has about a 10 percent chance of developing the illness, compared with a one percent chance if neither parent has schizophrenia. Current research implicates abnormalities in both the brain's structure and biochemical activities. Imbalances in the chemical messenger dopamine, for example, may underlie some cases of schizophrenia. Researchers also tend to agree that environmental influences-such as a viral infection, a highly stressful situation in adulthood, or a combination of these-may be involved in the onset of schizophrenia.
The good news is that more than 50 percent of those who have schizophrenia can work, live in the community or with their families, and enjoy friends if they receive continuous, appropriate treatment.
Psychotic, or "positive," symptoms include delusions (bizarre thoughts that have no basis in reality); hallucinations (hearing voices, seeing nonexistent things, and experiencing sensations, such as burning, that have no source); and disordered thinking (apparent from a person's fragmented, disconnected and sometimes nonsensical speech). Other "negative" symptoms include social withdrawal, extreme apathy, diminished motivation, and blunted emotional expression. Keep in mind that other psychotic disorders, such as those caused by drug use or exposure to toxins, can share many of these symptoms.
Active symptoms of the illness (such as a psychotic episode) for at least 2 weeks, with other symptoms lasting 6 months.
People who have schizophrenia often require medication to control the most troubling symptoms. Antipsychotic medications help bring biochemical imbalances closer to normal. These medications-haloperidol and chlorpromazine, for example, and newer ones such as olanzapine, risperidone, and clozapine-significantly reduce the severity and intrusiveness of psychotic symptoms. The newer drugs may also be effective for symptoms such as social withdrawal, extreme apathy, and blunted emotional expression. More such drugs are being developed.
After these symptoms are controlled, psychotherapy and self-help groups can assist people who have schizophrenia learn to develop social skills, cope with stress, identify early warning signs of relapse, and prolong periods of remission. In addition, support groups and family therapy can give loved ones a better understanding of the illness and help them provide the compassion and support that play an important role in recovery.
This fact sheet is intended only as a starting point for gaining an understanding about schizophrenia. It is by no means exhaustive, nor does it include the full range of symptoms and treatments. Keep in mind that new research can yield rapid and dramatic changes in our understanding of, and approaches to, mental disorders. This fact sheet should not be viewed as a replacement for seeking competent professional advice or other forms of support.
Source: Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) Knowledge Exchange Network (KEN)
Books About Schizophrenia
Breakthroughs in Antipsychotic Medications: A Guide for Consumers, Families, and Clinicians
Peter J. Weiden, MD (Editor), Ronald J. Diamond, Patricia L. Scheifler, Ruth Ross
W.W. Norton & Company / 1999 / Paperback
Conquering Schizophrenia: A Father, His Son, and a Medical Breakthrough
Knopf / 1998 / Hardcover
Coping with Schizophrenia: A Guide for Families
Kim T. Mueser, PhD, Susan Gingerich, MSW
New Harbinger Pubs / 1994 / Paperback
My Mother's Keeper: A Daughter's Memoir of Growing Up in the Shadow of Schizophrenia
Tara Elgin Holley, Joe Holley (Contributor)
Bard / 199/ Paperback
Psychotherapy of Schizophrenia : The Treatment of Choice
Bertram P. Karon, Gary R. Vandenbos (Contributor)
Jason Aronson / 1995 / Paperback
Surviving Schizophrenia: A Manual for Families, Consumers, and Providers
E. Fuller Torrey, MD
Harperperennial Library / 1995 / Paperback
Coping and support resources for families
Schizophrenia Newsletter from athealth.com
National and State Resources
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
Arlington, VA 22203
National Institute of Mental Health
Bethesda, MD 20892
National Mental Health Association
Alexandria, VA 22314
National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression
60 Cutter Mill Road, Suite 404
Great Neck, New York 11021
Schizophrenia support groups in the United States
Reviewed by AH: 2/2000