Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that affects an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behavior. It is the most chronic and disabling of major mental illnesses and can hamper a patient’s relationship, work and functioning in the society.
While the disorder affects men and women equally, men are more likely to have an earlier onset. An individual with schizophrenia may have difficulty distinguishing between imaginary and real life. He or she may be unresponsive or withdrawn and may have difficulty expressing normal emotions in social situations. Though not as common as other mental disorders, schizophrenia affects about 1 percent of the population. A person with schizophrenia can encounter problems like having delusions and hallucinations, lack of motivation and trouble with thinking and concentration.
The severity of schizophrenia varies from person to person and its symptoms seem to improve or deteriorate in cycles known as remissions and relapses. The disorder can be categorized into various subtypes.
- Paranoid Subtype: An individual with paranoid schizophrenia may feel persecuted or spied on.
- Catatonic Subtype: A person with catatonic schizophrenia can be physically immobile or unable to speak.
- Residual Subtype: In a person with residual schizophrenia, symptoms are no longer present or are noticeably reduced.
- Disorganized Subtype: An individual with disorganized schizophrenia may appear confused or disjointed.
- Undifferentiated Subtype: In this category, a schizophrenic shows no symptoms of any of the category.
What causes schizophrenia?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), following are the possible causes of schizophrenia:
Genetics: Schizophrenia can sometimes run in families. No single gene can cause the disorder by itself, but many different genes may increase its risk.
Environment: Interaction between genetics and environmental factors can also be a cause for schizophrenia. Environmental factors may include psychological factors, malnutrition before birth, problems during birth and exposure to viruses.
Brain chemistry: Problems with certain brain chemicals may cause schizophrenia. An imbalance in the complex brain chemical involving neurotransmitters called glutamate and dopamine may play a role in the development of schizophrenia.
Substance use: Some studies have suggested that mind-altering drugs taken during teen years and young adulthood can increase the risk for schizophrenia. As per studies, smoking marijuana may lead to an earlier onset of schizophrenia.