Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that can make people with the condition seem like they have lost touch with reality. Though schizophrenia is a relatively uncommon condition, affecting about 1% of the world’s population, its symptoms can make it chronic and debilitating. Globally, approximately 1.5 million people are diagnosed with schizophrenia each year.
Most often, new cases of schizophrenia occur in the teen years, with people reaching a peak of vulnerability between the ages of 16 and 25. The full onset of schizophrenia is normally preceded by a prodromal period where the individual experiences unusual behaviors such as restlessness, hallucinations and anxiety. During the prodromal period, the behaviors and thoughts generally present gradually, but not yet with their fullest force. It is common for the individual to notice the changes a few months before anyone else visibly recognizes the differences in behavior. If left untreated, the symptoms of schizophrenia can expand and present more persistently later in life.
Several factors contribute to the risk of developing schizophrenia, including genetics, one’s environment, and brain structure and function. While genetic studies strongly suggest that many different genes increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, no single gene causes the condition by itself. Environmental risk factors may include living in poverty, having stressful surroundings, and being exposed to viruses or nutritional problems before birth.
As per the focus of our ASPIRe program, our personal experiences, and the research advancements being made by our schizophrenia focused Rising Star Awardees, One Mind firmly believes that early interventions can significantly improve the course of schizophrenia. When delivered in a timely, coordinated, and consistent manner, treatment can help those affected engage in school or work, achieve independence, and enjoy personal relationships. One Mind is also a proud partner in the NIH’s Accelerating Medicines Partnership for Schizophrenia (AMP-SCZ), a pivotal initiative that will help identify biomarkers and develop research infrastructure that will enable early detection of schizophrenia and lead to new treatments.
The symptoms of schizophrenia generally fall into the following three categories:
- Hallucinations, such as hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there
- Delusions, which are firmly held beliefs not supported by objective facts (e.g., paranoia)
- Thought disorder, which includes unusual thinking or disorganized speech
- Reduced motivation and difficulty planning, beginning, and sustaining activities
- Diminished feelings of pleasure in everyday life
- “Flat affect,” or reduced expression of emotions via facial expression or voice tone
- Reduced speaking
- Difficulty processing information to make decisions
- Problems using information immediately after learning it
- Trouble focusing or paying attention
Approximately half of individuals with schizophrenia have co-occurring mental and/or behavioral health conditions, the most common of which are substance abuse, anxiety disorders, and depression.
The wide range of symptoms that someone with schizophrenia may experience can also affect their loved ones. Their ability to function as a family member or friend may be impacted, increasing stress on their relationships.
If You Are In Crisis
Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to everyone. All calls are confidential. Contact social media outlets directly if you are concerned about a friend’s social media updates or dial 911 in an emergency.
If you are thinking about harming yourself or thinking about suicide:
- Tell someone who can help right away.
- Call your licensed mental health professional if you are already working with one.
- Call your doctor or health care provider.
- Go to the nearest hospital emergency department or call 911.