General information

Schizophrenia develops as a result of interplay between biological predisposition (for example, inheriting certain genes) and the kind of environment a person is exposed to.
It is a severe mental disorder characterized by two kinds of symptoms; positive psychotic symptoms - thought disorder, hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia - and negative symptoms - impairment in emotional range, energy, and enjoyment of activities.
Although schizophrenia affects men and women with equal frequency, the disorder often appears earlier in men, usually in the late teens or early twenties, than in women, who are generally affected in the twenties to early thirties.
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There is currently no physical or lab test that can absolutely diagnose schizophrenia - a psychiatrist usually comes to the diagnosis based on clinical symptoms. What physical testing can do is rule out a lot of other conditions (seizure disorders, metabolic disorders, thyroid disfunction, brain tumor, street drug use, etc) that sometimes have similar symptoms.
Current research is evaluating possible physical diagnostic tests (such as a blood test for schizophrenia, special IQ tests for identifying schizophrenia, eye-tracking, brain imaging, 'smell tests', etc), but these are still in trial stages.
Today the diagnosis is usually based on the self-reported experiences of the person as well as abnormalities in behavior reported by family members, friends or co-workers, followed by secondary signs observed by a psychiatrist, social worker, clinical psychologist or other clinician in a clinical assessment.
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The approaches for treatment of schizophrenia are chosen on the basis of their ability to reduce the symptoms and to lessen the chances that symptoms will return. The effectiveness of schizophrenia treatment is often assessed using standardized methods, one of the most common being the positive and negative syndrome scale (PANSS).
The mainstay of psychiatric treatment for schizophrenia is an antipsychotic medication. But Psychotherapy is also widely recommended and used in the treatment of schizophrenia.
The outlook for people with schizophrenia has improved over the last 25 years. Although no totally effective therapy has yet been devised, it is important to remember that many people with the illness improve enough to lead independent, satisfying lives.
Given the complexity of schizophrenia, the major questions about this disorder - its cause or causes, prevention, and treatment - must be addressed with research.
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Further information and patient organisations

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