Schizophrenia is a brain disorder characterized by a variety of different symptoms, many of which can dramatically affect an individual’s way of thinking and ability to function. Most scientists think that the disorder is due to one or more problems in the development of the brain that results in neurochemical imbalances, although no one fully understands why schizophrenia develops.
People with schizophrenia have trouble distinguishing what’s real from what’s not. They are not able to fully control their emotions or think logically, and they usually have trouble relating to other people. They often suffer from hallucinations; much of their bizarre behavior is usually due to individuals acting in response to something they think is real but is only in their minds.
Unfortunately, because of the way schizophrenia has been inaccurately portrayed in the media over many decades, the illness is one of the most feared and misunderstood of all the physical and mental disorders. Schizophrenia is a long-term relapsing disorder because it has symptoms that wax and wane, worsen and get better, over time. Similar to many physical illnesses (such as diabetes, asthma, and arthritis), schizophrenia is highly treatable — although it isn’t yet considered curable.
But the long-term outcomes of schizophrenia aren’t as grim as was once believed. Although the disorder can have a course that resulted in long-term disability, one in five persons recovered completely. Some people have only one psychotic episode, others have repeated episodes with normal periods of functioning in between, and others have continuing problems from which they never fully recover.