Schizophrenia is a serious brain disorder that distorts the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, perceives reality and relates to others. People with schizophrenia - the most chronic and disabling of the major mental health illnesses - often have problems functioning in society, at work, at school and in relationships. Schizophrenia can leave its sufferer frightened and withdrawn. It is a life-long disease that cannot be cured, but usually can be controlled with proper treatment.
Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia is not a split personality. Schizophrenia is a psychosis, a type of mental illness in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. At times, people with psychotic disorders lose touch with reality. The world may seem like a jumble of confusing thoughts, images and sounds. The behaviour of people with schizophrenia may be very strange and even shocking. A sudden change in personality and behaviour, which occurs when people lose touch with reality, is called a psychotic episode.
Schizophrenia varies in severity from person to person. Some people have only one psychotic episode while others have many episodes during their lifetime but lead relatively normal lives between episodes. Schizophrenia symptoms seem to worsen and improve in cycles known as relapses and remissions.
Schizophrenia is a term given to a complex group of mental disorders. However, different types of schizophrenia may have some of the same symptoms. There are several types of schizophrenia based on symptoms:
- Paranoid schizophrenia. People with this type of schizophrenia are preoccupied with false beliefs (delusions) about being persecuted or being punished by someone. However, their thinking, speech and emotions remain fairly normal.
- Disorganised schizophrenia. People with this type of schizophrenia often are confused and incoherent, and have jumbled speech. Their outward behaviour may be emotionless, flat or inappropriate, even silly or childlike. Often they have disorganised behaviour that may disrupt their ability to perform normal daily activities such as washing or preparing meals.
- Catatonic schizophrenia. The most striking symptoms of this type of schizophrenia are physical ones. People with catatonic schizophrenia are generally immobile and unresponsive to the world around them. They often become very rigid and stiff, and unwilling to move. Occasionally, these people have peculiar movements like grimacing, or they may assume bizarre postures. They might repeat a word or phrase just spoken by another person. People with catatonic schizophrenia are at increased risk of malnutrition, exhaustion and self-inflicted injuries.
- Undifferentiated schizophrenia. This type of schizophrenia is diagnosed when the person's symptoms do not clearly fall into one of the other types of schizophrenia.
- Residual schizophrenia. With this type of schizophrenia, the severity of schizophrenia symptoms has decreased. Hallucinations, delusions and other symptoms may still be present but are considerably less than when the schizophrenia was originally diagnosed.