Contrary to what some believe, schizophrenia is not a “split personality,” but is a brain disease and one of the most serious mental illnesses in Canada. It’s also relatively common, affecting approximately one percent of the population. Schizophrenia symptoms usually appear first in the late teens or twenties.
People with schizophrenia experience severe symptoms of mixed-up thoughts or delusions and bizarre behaviour (Psychosis).
There are different types of schizophrenia, each with particular symptoms. In general, the following are some characteristics of schizophrenia:
- Hallucinations (something a person sees, hears, smells, or feels that no one else can see, hear, smell, or feel). “Voices” are the most common type of hallucination in schizophrenia;
- Delusions (false personal beliefs) that are not part of the person’s culture and do not change, even when other people present proof that the beliefs are not true or logical;
- Disordered thinking (unusual thought processes);
- Movement disorders – People with schizophrenia can be clumsy and uncoordinated. They may also exhibit involuntary movements and may grimace or exhibit unusual mannerisms. They may repeat certain motions over and over or, in extreme cases, may become catatonic;
- Flat affect (immobile facial expression, monotonous voice);
- Social withdrawal (lack of pleasure in everyday life, diminished ability to initiate and sustain planned activity, and speaking infrequently, even when forced to interact);
- Cognitive deficits or impairments often interfere with the patient’s ability to lead a normal life and earn a living. They can cause great emotional distress.
Some people will have only one episode of very severe symptoms, and others will have many episodes throughout their lives but manage to live a relatively normal life between these episodes of psychosis. A wide variety of treatment programs are available, as the course of schizophrenia varies with each individual.