Schizophrenia can affect the way a person thinks, feels, and acts. It is a fairly common disorder – about one in every hundred people (1%) develop schizophrenia.
Some common symptoms of schizophrenia are:
- Hallucinations: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, or feeling things that are not there.
- Delusions: strongly held false beliefs. For example, a person experiencing a delusion might believe she is being watched or followed when she is not.
- Confused thinking: thoughts do not make sense, are jumbled, or are racing or too slow.
- Changes in feelings and behaviors: changes in mood, not caring for oneself, or doing things that don’t make sense, such as laughing while someone is talking about something sad.
- Difficulty feeling and expressing positive emotions: lack of motivation to start and complete goals and activities, difficulty experiencing pleasure when engaged in activities or around people, reduced range of emotional expression (such as limited facial expressions or poor eye contact). For example, a person may have difficulty getting out of the house, doing things with other people, or pursuing goals such as work, school, or relationships.
- Cognitive symptoms: difficulties with mental processes such as trouble concentrating or paying attention, poor memory, or slow thinking.
Some ideas about what causes schizophrenia are:
- Biological: Research has linked schizophrenia to problems with certain neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that transmit impulses throughout a person’s brain and central nervous system. In addition, the relatives of people who experience schizophrenia are more likely to experience schizophrenia themselves.
- Environmental stressors: Research suggests that environmental stressors including malnutrition before birth, obstetric complications, poverty, and early parental loss or separation may also be associated with increased risk of developing schizophrenia. The onset of schizophrenia can be triggered by stressful life events or may happen gradually.
- Drug Abuse: Research suggests that the onset of schizophrenia can also be triggered by drug use (especially use of marijuana, speed, or LSD).
The current thinking is that a combination of these factors causes schizophrenia, and the combination can differ from person to person.
However, recovery is possible, and people with schizophrenia can lead full and productive lives. For many, helpful therapies, education in managing one’s illness and supports to provide assistance and encouragement can lead to experiencing fewer symptoms, improving relationships with other people, and achieving meaningful and fulfilling life goals.