Schizophrenia is a neurological disorder that interferes with a person's ability to consistently process reality. It results in the development of false beliefs, confused and disorganised thinking, and distorted self-experience that often includes hallucinations.
Many of those with the condition also experience problems with motor control, and can display tics or unusually slow movements.
They may have long periods of reduced motivation and impeded social functioning as a result of the condition's effects. Symptoms usually develop progressively in early adulthood, affecting roughly 7 in every 1,000 people at some point in their life.
A common misconception is that schizophrenia is a form of multiple-personality disorder. Those with the condition often find it challenging to distinguish certain internal mental processes from external stimuli, but typically retain a consistent sense of self.
The latest classification of schizophrenia in the DSM-V has moved away from 'subtypes' and instead categorises the condition based on symptoms experienced - such as the condition's intensity, the presence and nature of hallucinations, and how it affects movement and motivation.
Causes of schizophrenia
As far as mechanisms and causes go, schizophrenia remains a largely mysterious disease.
Like most complex neurological conditions such as autism spectrum disorder and mood disorders, its development is the result of a broad mix of genetic and environmental factors, which can include contributions from substance abuse, childhood trauma, and maternal stress.
These factors seem to affect the growth and development of a variety of brain functions, such as the management of dopamine levels in certain areas of the brain and activity in the hippocampus and the frontal and temporal lobes.
Treatment of schizophrenia
Antipsychotic medications are often used in conjunction with psychological therapy and forms of social support. Unfortunately a significant proportion of individuals with the condition find it difficult to accept they have schizophrenia, making ethical and consensual management difficult.
While the condition itself does not seem to directly impact on health or life span, its effects do have a significant impact on risk taking and other life choices. Individuals with the condition face higher suicide risks, obesity, other complications from being sedentary, and risk of taking up habits such as smoking.