What You May Not Know about Schizophrenia




Schizophrenia, a chronic or recurring psychosis, is a severe form of mental illness most commonly manifested in delusions or auditory or visual hallucinations. The condition has received widespread coverage in the news and in popular culture, although much of this material has contributed to misconceptions among the general public.




Contrary to some sensationalized media portrayals, most people who suffer from schizophrenia do not exhibit violent behavior. Also contrary to popular perceptions, schizophrenia is not the same as the condition often called “multiple” or “split” personality, which psychiatrists consider a dissociative identity disorder. While the word “schizophrenia” comes from root words meaning “split mind,” it specifically connotes an imbalance in thought and emotion, rather than a true splitting off into various individually functioning personalities. In addition, not all people with schizophrenia present with the same symptoms; behavioral responses can vary widely from one patient to another.




Individuals with schizophrenia interpret reality in maladaptive ways. Most exhibit disorganized, illogical thinking and bizarre behaviors. Delusions may take the form of belief that one is being harassed or pursued, or that a major disaster or catastrophic event is about to occur. Patients may express their disordered thoughts in haphazard speech patterns, with nonsensical words strung together. Hallucinations usually involve the hearing of voices, although they may take other forms.

The condition is usually diagnosed during a person’s 20s, with initial diagnosis very rare in childhood or middle age. People with schizophrenia typically require ongoing treatment over the course of their lifetimes.

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