What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that affects one percent of the population worldwide.
The disease represents a significant public health problem and affects millions of people and their families worldwide. In Europe, the total cost for individuals with psychotic disorders was recently estimated to be 94 billion € per year.
The clinical presentation shows considerable variability, but core symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, trouble with thinking and concentration, and lack of motivation.
Symptoms are divided into the following main categories:
- Positive psychotic symptoms: Hallucinations, i.e., hearing voices, paranoid delusions, and distorted perceptions and beliefs.
- Negative symptoms: A decrease or even a loss in the ability to initiate plans, speak, express emotions or find pleasure.
- Impaired cognition including disorganization symptoms: Disordered thinking or speech, problems with logical thinking and occasionally bizarre behavior. The patient may also have problems with attention, concentration, memory and declining educational performance.
Although treatment with antipsychotics will greatly improve most symptoms, and in some cases lead to remission, there is at present no cure for the disease.
Schizophrenia is among the few remaining endemic diseases with largely unknown pathophysiology. Clearly, this has hampered the development of effective pharmacological treatment.
It may be noted that schizophrenia is not related to a split personality or multiple-personality. Most individuals with schizophrenia are not dangerous or violent, and they lead a relatively normal family life, in their own homes or group homes.
The disease affects men and women equally but has a somewhat earlier onset in males. Co-morbidity with other conditions are common, e.g., cardiovascular diseases and patients with schizophrenia are more likely to die at a younger age than the general population.