When Someone Has Schizophrenia
In the United States, more than 2 million
people have 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.
Some 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
*Research indicates that schizophrenia may be a developmental
disorder resulting from impaired migration of neurons in the brain
during fetal development.
Treatments for Schizophrenia
A number of new, effective medications for schizophrenia with
fewer side effects than older medications have been introduced
in the past decade. The newer drugs are very effective in the
treatment of psychosis, including hallucinations and delusions,
and may also be helpful for treating reduced motivation or blunted
Because of the nature of the disorder, some people with schizophrenia
may deny that they need medications and may either refuse to take
them or stop taking them because of undesired side effects. Remembering
to take medications may be difficult because of the disorganized
thinking characteristic of people with schizophrenia. A major
goal of research at NIMH is the discovery of new, effective and
safe treatments that can be given in longer-acting doses.
Present and Future Research Directions
In addition to the development of new treatments, NIMH research
is focusing on the relationships among genetic, behavioral, developmental,
social and other factors to identify the cause or causes of schizophrenia.
Utilizing increasingly precise imaging techniques, scientists
are studying the structure and function of the living brain. New
molecular tools and modern statistical analyses are enabling researchers
to close in on the particular genes that affect brain development
or brain circuitry involved in schizophrenia. Scientists are continuing
to investigate possible prenatal factors, including infections,
that may affect brain development and contribute to the development
For More Information About NIMH
The Office of Communications and Public Liaison carries out
educational activities and publishes and distributes research
reports, press releases, fact sheets, and publications intended
for researchers, health care providers, and the general public.
A publications list may be obtained on the web at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publist/puborder.cfm
or by contacting:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison, NIMH
Information Resources and Inquiries Branch
6001 Executive Blvd
Room 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663
Source: June 2000