All About Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia occurs in about 1 percent of the general U.S. population. That means that more than 3 million Americans suffer from the illness.
The disorder manifests itself in a broad range of unusual behaviors, which cause profound disruption in the lives of the patients suffering from the condition and in the lives of the people around them. Schizophrenia strikes without regard to gender, race, social class or culture.
One of the most important kinds of impairment caused by schizophrenia involves the person’s thought processes. The individual can lose much of the ability to rationally evaluate his surroundings and interactions with others.
There can be hallucinations and delusions, which reflect distortions in the perception and interpretation of reality. The resulting behaviors may seem bizarre to the casual observer, even though they may be consistent with the schizophrenic’s abnormal perceptions and beliefs.
Nearly one-third of those diagnosed with schizophrenia will attempt suicide. About 10 percent of those with the diagnosis will commit suicide within 20 years of the beginning of the disorder.
Patients with schizophrenia are not likely to share their suicidal intentions with others, making life-saving interventions more difficult. The risk of depression needs special mention due to the high rate of suicide in these patients.
The most significant risk of suicide in schizophrenia is among males under 30 who have some symptoms of depression and a relatively recent hospital discharge. Other risks include imagined voices directing the patient toward self-harm (auditory command hallucinations) and intense false beliefs (delusions).
The relationship of schizophrenia to substance abuse is significant. Due to impairments in insight and judgment, people with schizophrenia may be less able to judge and control the temptations and resulting difficulties associated with drug or alcohol abuse.