10 Things to Know About Schizophrenia

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    Schizophrenia is Treatable
    Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling psychiatric disorder that has affected people throughout history. About 1% of Americans have this illness. With antipsychotic medications, schizophrenia symptoms, such as feeling agitated and having hallucinations, usually go away within days. Symptoms such as delusions usually go away within a few weeks. After about six weeks, many people will see a lot of improvement.

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    Types of Symptoms: Positive
    Positive symptoms (such as hallucinations, delusions, thought disorders, and movement disorders) are psychotic behaviors not seen in healthy people. People with positive symptoms often “lose touch” with reality. These symptoms can come and go. Sometimes they’re severe and other times they’re hardly noticeable, depending on whether the person is receiving treatment.

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    Types of Symptoms: Negative
    Negative symptoms (such as lack of pleasure, lack of ability to plan/start/complete activities, and social withdrawal) are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. These symptoms are hard to recognize as part of the disorder and can be mistaken for depression or other conditions.

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    Types of Symptoms: Cognitive
    Cognitive symptoms (such as poor ability to understand information and make plans, trouble focusing/paying attention, inability to use newly learned information to solve problems) are often subtle. Like negative symptoms, cognitive symptoms may be difficult to recognize as part of the disorder. Cognitive symptoms often make it hard to lead a normal life and earn a living. They can cause great emotional distress.

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    Schizophrenics Usually Aren't Violent
    In fact, most violent crimes are not committed by people with schizophrenia. Substance abuse may increase the chance a person will become violent. If a person with schizophrenia becomes violent, it is usually directed at family members and tends to take place at home.

  • Suicide Risk is High
    Suicide Risk is High
    People with the illness attempt suicide much more often than the general population. About 10% die by suicide, especially young adult males. It’s hard to predict which people with schizophrenia are prone to suicide.

  • The Substance Abuse Connection
    The Substance Abuse Connection
    Some people who abuse drugs show symptoms similar to those of schizophrenia. Therefore, people with schizophrenia may be mistaken for people who are affected by drugs. People who have schizophrenia are much more likely to have a substance or alcohol abuse problem than the general population. Some drugs, such as marijuana, amphetamines, or cocaine, may make symptoms worse.

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    Help for Everyday Challenges
    Psychosocial treatments can help people with schizophrenia who are already stabilized on antipsychotic medication. Psychosocial treatments help these people deal with the everyday challenges of the illness, such as difficulty with communication, self-care, work, and forming and keeping relationships. Learning and using coping mechanisms to address these problems allows people with schizophrenia to socialize and attend school and work.

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    Medication Can Have Side Effects
    Some people experience side effects when they start taking medication for schizophrenia. Most of these effects go away after a few days and often can be managed successfully. They may include drowsiness, dizziness when changing positions, blurred vision, rapid heartbeat, sensitivity to the sun, skin rashes, and menstrual problems in women.

    Typical antipsychotic medications can cause side effects related to physical movement, such as rigidity, persistent muscle spasms, tremors, and restlessness. Atypical antipsychotic medications can cause major weight gain and changes in metabolism.

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    Medication Compliance Matters
    Some people stop taking their medication because they feel better or think they don’t need it anymore. But no one should stop taking an antipsychotic medication without talking with his or her doctor. When a doctor says it’s okay to stop taking a medication, it should be gradually tapered off, never stopped suddenly.

10 Things to Know About Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia. National Institutes of Health http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/schizophrenia.html

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 May 24
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.