Schizophrenia

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Schizophrenia is a class of disorders characterized by fundamental disturbances in thought processes, emotion, or behavior. It is also known as a "split mind"; the person is in a world that has nothing to do with everyday experiences. One to one and a half percent of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with it sometime over the course of their lives. Schizophrenia has a pattern of unique and predictable symptoms. There are two main types of symptoms: positive and negative symptoms. The positive symptoms are delusions or hallucinations; negative symptoms are deficits in behavior or an inability to express emotion. But what exactly are these symptoms and are they easy to detect?

The more obvious types of symptoms are the positive. One characteristic that is often experienced is delusions, which are known as thoughts with meanings that are unrealistic. For example, people with this disorder tend to believe that they are someone else in disguise such as Elvis or Jesus. Another type of delusion is the delusion of grandeur, which is when an individual believes that they are more important than they actually are. A less common but very real type of delusion is a delusion of persecution, which is when an individual is convinced that others are plotting against him. But even more severe is perceptions known as hallucinations.

Hallucinations are perceptions that can not possibly be real because there is nothing external to support them; however, to the person affected, they can be heard, seen, or even felt. Some individuals may see objects change shape or size, which is not very unusual for someone with schizophrenia. On some occasions, individuals claim to hear voices in their heads, telling them to do or say certain things. These voices appear to be so real, that in some instances individuals where known to have committed suicide because that's what the voice told them to do. Less obvious than the positive symptoms but equally serious are the negative symptoms.

It is very common for a person to show flat affect, which means they show little or no emotional reaction. If someone shows a person with this disorder an extremely funny movie or a very sad picture, they are unlikely to even smile or shed a tear. People with schizophrenia also refuse to participate in basic everyday activities. They may refuse to eat or wash themselves.

Some other symptoms that are less common are disorganized speech and catatonia.

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