Schizophrenia is a brain disease that usually starts in the late teenage years or early adulthood, but has been known to occur in children as well. It is a chronic disease in which symptoms worsen or improve at times. With appropriate treatment, most symptoms can be controlled. Schizophrenia affects about one in 100 people.
The cause of schizophrenia is complex. There is probably more than one cause, just as there is more than one way to treat the disease. There is evidence that genetics play a role in schizophrenia. People with a family history of schizophrenia are more susceptible to developing the disease than the general population.
Studies of brain chemistry show that there is a chemical imbalance in the brains of people with schizophrenia. It is this imbalance that is thought to cause psychotic symptoms such as hearing voices or experiencing thought disturbances.
Schizophrenia involves a breakdown in the experience of reality, thinking and emotions. A person with schizophrenia often hears voices, experiences delusions and hallucinations and may believe their thoughts, feelings and actions are controlled or shared by someone else. Other symptoms include emotional flatness, lack of facial expression, inability to start or finish activities, speech that is brief and without content, a lack of pleasure or interest in life and other symptoms in common with depression and other mood disorders. A person with schizophrenia may be unaware or unable to understand that they have the condition.