Schizophrenia is probably the most distressing and disabling mental disorder. The first signs of schizophrenia tend to surface in adolescence or young adulthood. Symptoms are confusing and can be distressing to family and friends.
Schizophrenia is a life-long illness and most patients will need treatment for the rest of their lives. This means they will miss out on career opportunities, stable relationships and friendships. Because of the lack of public understanding, people with schizophrenia often feel isolated and stigmatised, and may be reluctant or unable to talk about their illness.
Despite clear evidence to the contrary, many people still believe that schizophrenia is caused by poor parenting or a lack of will power. Nothing is further from the truth. Schizophrenia is a complex illness and scientists believe it is caused by a number of different factors that act together. These factors include: genetic influences, trauma (injury) to the brain occurring during or around the time of birth, as well as the effects of social isolation and/or stress. In some cases the use of drugs, such as cannabis can also be a contributing factor. However, as yet no single factor has been identified as the cause of schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia affects between 1 and 2% of people. The illness occurs all over the world and the incidence (or the rate of the illness) is similar in different countries and different cultures. Men and women are at equal risk of developing the illness. Whereas in men the illness tends to surface between the ages of 16 and 25, most females develop symptoms between the ages of 25 and 30.
When taken regularly and followed as prescribed, medications and other treatments for schizophrenia, can help reduce and control symptoms. However, some people don't experience the benefits of available treatments, or may prematurely discontinue treatment because of unpleasant side effects, including weight gain, or intolerance to the medication. Even when treatment is effective, patients often find it difficult to persevere with treatment. Lost career opportunities, stigma, ongoing symptoms and/or side effects can cause many difficulties and prevent patients from leading a normal life.