Popular usage to the contrary, Schizophrenia is not synonymous with split personality (which falls closest to Dissociative Identity Disorder). Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that causes severe problems in thinking, feeling, and behavior. People with Schizophrenia experience difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy. They also have trouble relating to other people, communicating through language, controlling their emotions, and making everyday decisions.
Schizophrenia affects approximately two million Americans, or almost 1 percent of the entire U.S. population, with men and women represented in equal numbers. The illness usually strikes at a relatively young age—the early twenties for men and the late twenties for women. As compared to men, women with Schizophrenia generally display more mood symptoms and have a better lifetime course and response to treatment.
If left untreated, Schizophrenia is one of the most disabling of the mental illnesses. Fortunately, ongoing treatment combining antipsychotic medications with support, rehabilitation, and psychotherapy is increasingly effective in controlling the illness and helping the person to lead an independent and productive life. Early diagnosis and treatment will dramatically improve the overall course of the illness. Being psychotic is bad for the brain. The more episodes you have the harder it is to treat each subsequent episode and the more likely that your overall functioning will eventually deteriorate. Early treatment helps prevent more severe and more frequent relapses and also reduces the risk of suicide, which is highest during the earliest years of the illness.
According to the diagnostic manual, you have Schizophrenia if:
– You have periods lasting at least six months in which at least two of the following are prominent and cause serious problems for you:
- Delusions : You hold on to strange beliefs with complete conviction—for example, that there is a conspiracy to harm you; that strangers are always talking about or laughing at you; that your thoughts are being broadcast out loud; that a bugging device has been implanted in your head.
- Hallucinations : You hear voices that no one else can hear !! ( for example, a voice continually commenting on your behavior, calling you bad names, or telling you to do things.)
- Disorganized Thinking or Speech : Other people have commented that your speech is extremely hard to follow because your thoughts keep sliding off the track and do not seem to connect.
- Disorganized or Catatonic Behavior : Other people have told you that you act strangely and in a way that does not make sense.
- Negative Symptoms : You are not motivated to do anything, take no pleasure in things, hardly speak at all, and show very little or no emotion.
– These problems very seriously affect your ability to work, study, deal with other people, or take care of yourself.
– All other causes (particularly Mood Disorder, substance use, medication side effects, and medical conditions) have been considered and ruled out.