Schizophrenia - Describe Your Experience

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Schizophrenia Facts

Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling mental illness. It affects men and women with equal frequency. People suffering from schizophrenia may have the following symptoms:

  • Delusions, false personal beliefs held with conviction in spite of reason or evidence to the contrary, not explained by that person's cultural context
  • Hallucinations, perceptions (can be sound, sight, touch, smell, or taste) that occur in the absence of an actual external stimulus (Auditory hallucinations, those of voice or other sounds, are the most common type of hallucinations in schizophrenia.)
  • Disorganized thoughts and behaviors
  • Disorganized speech
  • Catatonic behavior, in which the affected person's body may be rigid and the person may be unresponsive

The term schizophrenia is Greek in origin, and in Greek meant "split mind." This is not an accurate medical term. In Western culture, some people have come to believe that schizophrenia refers to a split-personality disorder and still use that term colloquially, although it is inaccurate. These are two very different disorders, and people with schizophrenia do not have separate personalities.

Schizophrenia and other mental health disorders have fairly strict criteria for diagnosis. Time of onset as well as length and characteristics of symptoms are all factors in establishing a diagnosis. The active symptoms of schizophrenia must be present at least six months, or only one month if treated.

  • Who is affected?
    • Statistics about how many people are diagnosed with this disorder vary. The illness affects about 1% of the population. More than 2 million Americans suffer from schizophrenia at any given time, and 100,000-200,000 people are newly diagnosed every year. Fifty percent of people in hospital psychiatric care have schizophrenia.
    • Schizophrenia is usually diagnosed in people 17-35 years of age. The onset of the illness appears to be earlier in men (in the late teens or early twenties) than in women (who are affected in the twenties to early thirties). Many of those affected are disabled. They may not be able to hold down jobs or even perform tasks as simple as conversations. Some may be so incapacitated that they are unable to do activities most people take for granted, such as showering or preparing a meal. Many are homeless. Some recover enough to live a life relatively free from assistance.
    • Schizophrenia can affect anyone from any walk of life. This includes famous people, one of the most notable being Dr. John Nash, Nobel Prize winner and subject of the Academy Award-winning movie, A Beautiful Mind.
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Comment from: george, 55-64 Male Published: September 16

I've wondered at times if I have had some symptoms of schiz. I'm now 62. I've always been quite social. I drink too much but I'm not a hard core alcoholic at all. I have always used recreational drugs but not so much now-just a little marijuana two or three times a week-so I wonder if these schizo like experiences at a younger age were the result of excessive drug use. The one schiz. symptom I've had is delusion-maybe three or four of these at the time of using speed, alcohol and marijuana a few times a week. Once my girlfriend (now wife) and I were driving along and we saw this car with fancy lettering on the side and I said to her that it was a sign or message of something to us. Another time a friend and I had been planting marijuana in a space we had cleared in a corn field. While in this space where the surrounding corn was so thick that no large animal like a cow would want to push through it we found cloven hoof tracks all around our plants. The devil! Was what came to mind to me as it wouldn't have been a cow, and as we rode back in the car I said to him "This is how it starts"-implying it's how the force of evil gets into you. Although very social I have always been fearful of being the center of attention. I once saw a psychiatrist after taking LSD (the fear of a bad trip-which I caused by my own thinking) put me into a depression that got quite bad and lasted several weeks. I saw a therapist who got me a scrip for anti-depressants which in two days had me back to normal. The psychiatrist said I was "just a good neurotic". LOL! Yes but extremely painful social events and patterns of behavior! Now I wonder if alcohol all along has been the major cause of my low level of social and career experience. Had there been someone who could have helped me way back I might have had a much better life. I wanted to be a mental health professional and a good musician neither of which were achieved. I'm still working on the piano though.

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Comment from: dragonfly93, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: November 25

Even when I was a child, I always felt that I had odd behaviors. Now, I'm 36 and I still have problems coping with everyday life. I have learned to watch others and follow along so I won't look out of place, but when I go away from them, it stays in my mind and I wonder if anyone noticed my overreactions. It is very difficult to have this disorder, especially because I feel like I have to keep it so private because no one understands... Not to mention the stigma attached to having any sort of mental illness. I feel like we live in a world of perfectionists. When I have good days, I know that no one is quite perfect and that I'm not the only person who feels that they are not doing everything right. When I have bad days, nothing is good enough. The longer I live, though, the more I realize that I'm not the only person who feels this way, and I wonder why I'm trapped under the label of being schizophrenic at all. Maybe I'm just human like everyone else, insecurities, flaws and all.

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