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Schizophrenia is a collection of related psychiatric disorders of unknown etiology that follow a specific pattern of behavior. Typical behavior seen in schizophrenia includes psychotic episodes in which there is a severe mental disturbance and perceptions of reality are distorted. Psychotic episodes may also involve hallucinations. Schizophrenics often have delusions about personal identity, immediate surroundings or society, and paranoia. Schizophrenia has a component of heredity, but many factors other than genetics are involved. Schizophrenia is treated with antipsychotic medication.
Schizophrenia involves a specific type of disordered thinking and behavior. It could be described as the splitting of the mind's cognitive functions pertaining to thought, perception, and reasoning from the appropriate emotional responses. Family history of schizophrenia increases an individual's chance of having the disorder, but the exact mode of inheritance is unknown. Only some schizophrenic patients have detectable anatomical brain abnormalities. The cause of schizophrenia has not been determined, yet drugs effective in its treatment have been identified. Schizophrenia is treated with antipsychotic drugs that primarily act on receptors in the brain for the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are chemicals that the brain uses to communicate normal functioning behavior. Receptors for neurotransmitters are sites on the surface of neurons that bind to the neurotransmitters and allow the communication. In schizophrenia, some of the communication mediated by the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin and their receptors is abnormal. By inhibiting the activity of these receptors, antipsychotics are effective at decreasing some of the bizarre behavior patterns associated with schizophrenia. Unfortunately, the medication necessary for schizophrenic patients also has severe and pronounced adverse side effects, mostly affecting the control of movement. Schizotypal personality disorder is a milder form of the disease.
Schizophrenia is estimated to afflict 1% of the world's population, whereas schizotypal personality disorder afflicts 2–3%. Approximately 2.7 million people have schizophrenia in the United States. The incidence of schizophrenia among parents, children, and siblings of patients with the disease is 15%. The rate of adopted children with schizophrenic parents is also 15%. However, the disease is not caused entirely by genetic factors, as identical twins have only a 30–50% tendency to have the same schizophrenic illness. Schizophrenia occurs equally in males and females. The disease may be seen at any age, but the average age for the initiation of treatment is from 28–34 years. Schizophrenia is associated with low economic status, probably due to a lack of proper health care during fetal development.
Author Info: Maria Basile PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Neurological Disorders, 2005
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