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Mental Disorders

Schizophrenia is a medical illness that causes strange thinking, strange feelings, and unusual behavior. The disease can cause you to withdraw from the people and activities in the world around you and to retreat into a world of delusions or separate reality.

Schizophrenia is a kind of psychosis, which is an impairment of thinking in which the interpretation of reality is abnormal. Psychosis is a symptom of a disordered brain.

There's often no cure for the illness, but by working closely with a psychologist and other mental health professionals, schizophrenia can be managed successfully - especially with an early diagnosis. Fortunately, newer medications continue to make this poorly understood disorder more manageable.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia may include:

  • Delusions — personal beliefs not based in reality, such as paranoia that you're being persecuted or conspired against

  • Bizarre delusions — for example, a belief in Martians controlling your thoughts

  • Hallucinations — sensing things that don't exist, such as imaginary voices

  • Incoherence

  • Lack of emotions or inappropriate display of emotions

  • Trouble functioning at work or in social situations

  • Difficulty with personal hygiene

Generally, schizophrenia causes a slowly progressive deterioration in the ability to function in various roles, especially in one's job and personal life. The signs and symptoms of schizophrenia vary greatly. A person may behave differently at different times. He or she may become extremely agitated and distressed, or fall into a catatonic (trance-like, immobile, unresponsive) state, or behave normally much of the time. Signs and symptoms that occur continuously and progressively for at least six months often indicate schizophrenia.

In general, schizophrenia has negative signs and positive signs:

Negative signs

Negative signs may appear early in the disease, and a person may not think he or she needs treatment. Negative signs generally accompany a slow deterioration of function, leading to your becoming less sociable. Such signs may include dulled emotions (lack of expression), inappropriate emotions (laughing while expressing terrifying images) and a change in speech (speaking in a dull monotone).

Positive signs

Positive signs often include hallucinations and delusions:

  • Hallucinations. Hallucinations occur when you sense things that don't exist. The most common hallucination in schizophrenia is hearing voices. You may carry on a conversation with voices that no one else can hear. Or you may perceive that voices are providing you instructions on what to do. Hallucinations may result in injuries to other people.

  • Delusions. Delusions are firmly held personal beliefs that have no basis in reality. The most common subtype of schizophrenia is paranoid schizophrenia, in which you hold irrational beliefs that others are persecuting you or conspiring against you. For example, some people with schizophrenia may believe that the television is directing their behavior or that outside forces are controlling their thoughts.


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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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