By Margery Wakefield, MSW
- Here are some interesting facts about the illness:
- It is estimated that more than 2.7 million Americans now have schizophrenia. There are more Americans with schizophrenia than there are residents of North Dakota and Wyoming combined.
- One of every hundred Americans will fall victim to schizophrenia.
- Three-quarters of persons with schizophrenia develop the illness between 16 and 25 years of age. Initial onset before age 14 and after age 30 is unusual.
- Schizophrenia is not the same as “split personality.” The illness depicted in The Three Faces of Eve” and “Sybil” is multiple personality disorder, or dissociative disorder — different from schizophrenia.
- Perhaps the most familiar symptoms of schizophrenia are hallucinations and delusions. Three-quarters of all persons with schizophrenia have these symptoms, although not all people who exhibit these symptoms have schizophrenia.
- The most common form of hallucinations are auditory experiences such as “voices.” Other forms of hallucinations include visions that cannot be externally validated, or certain perceptions of touch, smell or taste.
- Another “mistaken belief’ of a person with schizophrenia is a paranoid delusion in which a person may feel that he or she is being persecuted, when there is no basis for this in reality. Examples include a mistaken belief that the FBI or CIA is tapping one’s phone or that the Mafia is arranging for a hit man to “put one away.”
- Sometimes persons with schizophrenia have “delusions of grandeur” in which they may believe that they are exalted persons, such as Jesus or Moses, or that they have been given some special message for humanity.
- Studies have indicated that 25 percent of those having schizophrenia recover completely, 50 percent are improved over a ten-year period, and 25 percent do not improve over time. Recent advances in medication treatment have decreased the percentage of people who previously were deemed as unimproved.
- Scientists do not have unanimous agreement as to the cause of schizophrenia. Evidence indicates that the brains of persons with schizophrenia, as a group, are different than those who do not have the illness, and persons with schizophrenia have an overabundance of the brain chemical dopamine.
- By far the most effective treatments to date for schizophrenia are antipsychotic medications. Studies indicate that these drugs are highly effective for 70 percent of persons with schizophrenia.
- More mental health hospital beds are occupied by persons with schizophrenia than any other illness.