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Study Notes

Schizophrenia: What is Schizophrenia?


Last updated 28 May 2018

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that usually occurs in late adolescence or early adulthood, but it can occur at any time in life.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) it is classified as a psychosis, as the sufferer has no concept of reality. Essentially the illness is due to a breakdown of the patient’s personality.

Schizophrenia is a worldwide disease i.e. culturally universal; however, both the symptoms and the incidence (how common it is) vary from culture to culture. Approximately 1% of the population develops schizophrenia during their lifetime, which is an enormous number. More than 2 million Americans suffer from the illness in a given year.

The peak of incidence for onset is 25-30 years and cases prior to adolescence are extremely rare. Overall there are no gender differences: a similar number of men and women are diagnosed with the disorder. However, the disorder often appears earlier in men than women (Warner 1994). Twice as many men as women between the ages of 15 and 24 years are diagnosed, but between 25 to 34 years the incidence of females rises, until after 35 years of age the two sexes are similar in rate of incidence.

Available treatments can relieve many symptoms, but most people with schizophrenia continue to suffer some symptoms throughout their lives; it has been estimated that no more than one in five individuals recovers completely.

Although recovery from schizophrenia is rare (1% of the population suffer from it), recent research has given hope to sufferers and their family members. Research has identified new, safer medications and has started to unravel the complex causes of the disease. New insights into the disorder have come from several areas of Psychology such as molecular genetics, the study of populations, brain imaging (e.g. MRI Scans) and brain function studies.

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