More Facts About Schizophrenia
In the United States, more than 2 million people have schizophrenia. Schizophrenia
costs the United States $32.5 billion annually. Worldwide, rates of schizophrenia
are about 1% of the population, very similar from country to country. People
with schizophrenia are far more likely to be victims of violence and crime than
to commit violent acts themselves. People with schizophrenia have an increased
risk of violent behavior only when untreated or when engaging in substance abuse.
Many years of family studies indicate that vulnerability to schizophrenia is
inherited. However, among individuals with schizophrenia who have an identical
twin, and thus share the exact genetic makeup, there is only a 50 percent chance
that both twins will be affected with the disease. Scientists conclude that
some environmental influence, perhaps occurring during fetal development, accounts
for the difference. Advances in neuroimaging technology have shown that some
people with schizophrenia have abnormalities in brain structure consisting of
enlarged ventricles, fluid-filled cavities deep within the brain. Research indicates
that schizophrenia may be a developmental disorder resulting from impaired migration
of neurons in the brain during fetal development.
Schizophrenia Is Not "Split Personality"
There is a common notion that schizophrenia is the same as "split personality"
a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde switch in character. This is not correct.
Are People With Schizophrenia Likely To Be Violent?
News and entertainment media tend to link mental illness and criminal violence;
however, studies indicate that except for those persons with a record of criminal
violence before becoming ill, and those with substance abuse or alcohol problems,
people with schizophrenia are not especially prone to violence. Most individuals
with schizophrenia are not violent; more typically, they are withdrawn and prefer
to be left alone. Most violent crimes are not committed by persons with schizophrenia,
and most persons with schizophrenia do not commit violent crimes. Substance
abuse significantly raises the rate of violence in people with schizophrenia
but also in people who do not have any mental illness. People with paranoid
and psychotic symptoms, which can become worse if medications are discontinued,
may also be at higher risk for violent behavior. When violence does occur, it
is most frequently targeted at family members and friends, and more often takes
place at home.
What About Suicide?
Suicide is a serious danger in people who have schizophrenia. If an individual
tries to commit suicide or threatens to do so, professional help should be sought
immediately. People with schizophrenia have a higher rate of suicide than the
general population. Approximately 10 percent of people with schizophrenia (especially
younger adult males) commit suicide. Unfortunately, the prediction of suicide
in people with schizophrenia can be especially difficult.
When Someone Has Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a devastating mental illness-the most chronic and disabling
of the severe mental disorders. The first signs of schizophrenia, which typically
emerge in young people in their teens or twenties, are confusing and often shocking
to families and friends. Hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking, unusual
speech or behavior and social withdrawal impair the ability to interact with
others. Most people with schizophrenia suffer chronically or episodically throughout
their lives, losing opportunities for careers and relationships. They are stigmatized
by lack of public understanding about the disease. While newer treatments with
fewer side effects have improved the lives of many people with schizophrenia,
only one in five recovers. One in 10 commits suicide.
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