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Links to our Schizophrenia Support Group & Information

Schizophrenia Index Introduction To Schizoprenia What Is Schizophrenia? Facts About Schizophrenia
Treatment For Schizophrenia Schizophrenia & Research Schizophrenic Medications Getting Help For Schizophrenia
Side Effects For Schizophrenic Medications How Long on Medications What About Psychosocial Treatments? Individual Psychotherapy
Schizophrenia & Rehabilitation Symptoms of Schizophrenia Distorted Perceptions of Reality Hallucinations and Illusions
Delusions Substance Abuse Disordered Thinking Emotional Expression
What Causes Schizophrenia? Self Help for Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia Introduction

Schizophrenia, in many ways, is the most severe of the mental illnesses. One in every one hundred Americans has schizophrenia. This disease, once thought to be psychological, is clearly a brain disease. Throughout the world, whether in Washington or New York City or in rural Kenya, the rate of schizophrenia is still the same: one percent of the population. Schizophrenia is not a cultural artifact but a brain disease in which vulnerability is caused by genes; something happens during brain development that converts this genetic vulnerability into disease. Exactly what happens is the subject of neuroscientific research.

In some ways, schizophrenia is like other diseases. People who develop diabetes or heart disease have a genetic vulnerability, and then external circumstances convert this vulnerability into disease. Rather than being unusual and mysterious entities, mental illnesses are real diseases of an organ - in this case, the brain.

Schizophrenia is particularly tragic because its onset usually occurs in the late teens or early 20s, just when families, society, and educational institutions have already put their full effort into launching a person into the world. Tragically, then, we lose them, often to chronic and persistent hallucinations and delusions, fixed false beliefs about the world, and an inability to live up to their potential; often they withdraw from society and lose their ability to cope with everyday life.

Our current medications do a better job of controlling symptoms with fewer of the terrible side effects that characterized older drugs. They are far from perfect, however; they palliate, but they do not cure, and their side effects are still far from benign. More research is desperately needed.

Medication, furthermore, is not the only component of optimal treatment. People with schizophrenia need medication, yet to treat someone this ill a doctor cannot just write a prescription and send the person away. The medical treatment of mental illness has to be embedded in thoughtful and comprehensive psychosocial and rehabilitative treatments. For the most impaired, such treatment must include assertive outreach or else the most effective pills will stay in the bottle and the most effective crisis interventions will go unused. Too often, the result is needless tragedy.

As good as our current treatments are, they are not cures. We continue our research because we are a long way from cures and a longer way from prevention. This situation mirrors that in many other severe chronic diseases. Insulin controls the symptoms of diabetes but does not cure the disease. The best drugs we now have for schizophrenia and for other severe and persistent mental illnesses control symptoms but do not cure the illnesses. And we have not yet resolved the vital issue of delivering these available treatments to the people who need them.

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