Definition of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically, to have normal emotional responses, and to behave normally in social situations.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Schizophrenia is a complex illness. Even experts in the field are not sure what causes it.
Schizophrenia may have a variety of symptoms. Usually the illness develops slowly over months or years. Like other chronic illnesses, schizophrenia cycles between periods of fewer symptoms and periods of more symptoms.
Signs and tests
A psychiatrist should perform an evaluation to make the diagnosis. The diagnosis is made based on a thorough interview of the person and family members.
During an episode of schizophrenia, you may need to stay in the hospital for safety reasons, and to receive basic needs such as food, rest, and hygiene.
The outlook for a person with schizophrenia is difficult to predict. Most people with schizophrenia find that their symptoms improve with medication, and some can get good control of their symptoms over time. However, others have functional disability and are at risk for repeated episodes, especially during the early stages of the illness.
David B. Merrill, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 2/7/2010