Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically, to have normal emotional responses, and to behave normally in social situations.
Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Schizophrenia is a complex illness. Even experts in the field are not sure what causes it.
Genetic factors appear to play a role. People who have family members with schizophrenia may be more likely to get the illness themselves.
Some researchers believe that environmental events may trigger schizophrenia in people who are already genetically at risk for the disorder. For example, infection during development in the mother's womb or stressful psychological experiences may increase the risk for developing schizophrenia later in life. Social and family support appears to improve the illness.
Schizophrenia affects about 1% of people worldwide. It occurs equally among men and women, but in women it tends to begin later and be milder. For this reason, males tend to account for more than half of patients in services with high numbers of young adults. Although schizophrenia usually begins in young adulthood, there are cases in which the disorder begins later (over age 45).
Childhood-onset schizophrenia begins after age 5 and, in most cases, after normal development. Childhood schizophrenia is rare and can be difficult to tell apart from other developmental disorders of childhood, such as autism.
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