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Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it hard to think logically, have normal emotional responses, behave normally in social situations, and tell the difference between real and unreal experiences.

Schizophrenia is a group of disorders that affects 1 percent of American adults. Schizophrenia is a lifelong condition, but it can be managed successfully with treatment.

Signs and Symptoms

Schizophrenia looks different in each person. These are the most common symptoms:

• False beliefs (i.e., delusions)
• Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
• Little interest in daily life
• Lack of emotion
• Inappropriate emotion (such as laughing at a funeral)
• Neglecting personal hygiene
• Inability to process information
• Memory problems
• Disorganized speech or behavior
• Catatonic or unresponsive behavior

Getting Help

Treatment varies depending on the severity of symptoms and the person’s specific situation. However, schizophrenia can usually be successfully treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Two types of medications are usually used to treat schizophrenia: typical antipsychotics (e.g., Thorazine, Haldol) and atypical antipsychotics (e.g., Abilify, Seroquel). Each medication has its own set of side effects, so it’s important to discuss this with your doctor. Choosing the right medication is a process. An individual might try several medications or combinations of medications before finding the best one.

Psychotherapy can take various forms. In individual therapy, people with schizophrenia see a therapist, who helps them learn to cope with stress, more realistically assess their beliefs and hallucinations and learn more about their illness. Family therapy educates families about schizophrenia and how they can best help their loved one. Group therapy allows individuals to share their experiences, brainstorm solutions and reduce the tendency to isolate themselves.

In addition, communities typically offer programs for individuals with schizophrenia that help them find employment and housing and learn important skills necessary for daily life.

Sometimes, a person with schizophrenia will need to be hospitalized. Usually this happens if a person has severe delusions and hallucinations, has threatened to harm themselves or has suicidal thoughts.

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