5 Facts About Schizophrenia – World Mental Health Day 2014

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Today is being observed as World Mental Health Day (WMHD). The theme for this year is ‘Living with schizophrenia.’ According to the World Health Organization (WHO), World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, and the objective is to raise awareness of mental health issues affecting people around the world and mobilise in support of mental health.

This Fact Friday, we share some information on schizophrenia.

  1. Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder, characterized by profound disruptions in thinking, affecting language, perception, and the sense of self. It often includes psychotic experiences, such as hearing voices or delusions. It can impair functioning through the loss of an acquired capability to earn a livelihood, or the disruption of studies.
  2. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), experts think schizophrenia is caused by several factors, such as genes and the environment, an imbalance in the chemical reactions of the brain, a different brain structure (for instance, the brains of people with schizophrenia tend to have less gray matter, and some areas of the brain may have less or more activity.)
  3. Schizophrenia typically begins in late adolescence or early adulthood. The NIMH explains that symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions usually start between ages 16 and 30. Men tend to experience symptoms a little earlier than women. Generally speaking, people do not get schizophrenia after the age of 45. Additionally, schizophrenia rarely occurs in children, but awareness of childhood-onset schizophrenia is increasing.
  4. People with schizophrenia can recover, says the WHO’s WMHD document Living with Schizophrenia. There are effective treatments for schizophrenia and people affected by it can lead a productive life and be integrated in society. The NIMH adds, “Because the causes of schizophrenia are still unknown, treatments focus on eliminating the symptoms of the disease. Treatments include antipsychotic medications and various psychosocial treatments.”
  5. The WHO’s WMHD document Living with Schizophrenia also states that evidence suggests that people with schizophrenia have higher prevalence rates of cardiovascular problems; they are more likely to become overweight, develop diabetes, hyperlipidaemia, dental problems, impaired lung function, osteoporosis, altered pain sensitivity and sexual dysfunction, among other complications. Schizophrenic women also have higher prevalence rates of obstetric complications.

Read more in the NIMH’s schizophrenia fact sheet.