More than two million adults have schizophrenia, or over 1 percent of the American population. The most disabling of the severe mental illnesses, schizophrenia typically appears in men in their late teens or early 20s and in women in their 20s and 30s. Other statistics show that:
- Only one in five people with the illness recovers
- One out of 10 eventually commits suicide
- Less than half receive adequate treatment, including appropriate medication dosage and use of various therapies
Searching for a Cause
- Research shows that schizophrenia may be a developmental disorder from impaired migration of neurons in the brain during fetal development.
- Scientists have found a link between epilepsy and schizophrenia. A history of epilepsy more than doubles the risk of developing schizophrenia or similar psychosis.
- Imaging of live brains indicates that people with schizophrenia have enlarged ventricles, which are fluid-filled cavities located deep within the brain.
- Scientists are using new molecular tools to identify and isolate genes that might make people more susceptible to schizophrenia by affecting brain development.
Medication Management Trends
- Medications developed in the past decade cause fewer side effects, but symptoms such as social withdrawal and lack of motivation are still unaffected by drugs.
- New long-acting, injectable antipsychotic medications are available that eliminate the need to take pills every day. The medication treatment adherence rate among people with schizophrenia is low because they often believe that they are not ill, or are bothered by side effects, among other reasons.
- Antipsychotic medications significantly improve symptoms for a majority of people with the illness, but not for everyone.
- An individualized treatment regimen is critical since people vary on how much medication is needed to eliminate symptoms without producing side effects.
- Recent studies show that reality-oriented individual psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral approaches can be beneficial for people with schizophrenia.
- Rehabilitation programs often provide social and vocational training, counseling, job training, money management, and social skills training. Even when hallucinations are managed with medication, people with schizophrenia may still have difficulty with communication, self-care, motivation, and developing relationships.
- Education helps family members understand the illness and develop coping strategies and problem-solving skills.
National Institute of Mental Health
Reuters Health News