Spring 1996 Mission

What is schizophrenia?

PictureSchizophrenia is a psychosis characterized by personality and thought disorganization, and it affects an estimated 1 percent of all people. Schizophrenics occupy more mental hospital beds than patients with any other single diagnosis.

Patients have "positive" symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions, and "negative" symptoms such as lack of speech, expressionless or unemotional demeanor, lack of speech and thinking deficits such as poor memory, problems carrying tasks to achieve a goal and an inability to focus attention.

The disorder crosses lines of gender, ethnicity and intelligence. Its causes are unknown, but the disorder has been associated with family environment, in utero brain damage, birth trauma and a genetic factor as yet undefined.

The term schizophrenia was coined by Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler. The word refers to a split between the subjective feeling, or affect, and the thought being experienced, not a "split personality" in the sense of the story "Sybil" or the personality of Eve in the motion picture "Three Faces of Eve" or other rare cases of multiple personality. The two disorders are different, although schizophrenia is frequently misunderstood as "split personality" by laymen. The split in schizophrenia refers to the discrepancy between thinking and feeling.

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