- About 7 or 8 out of every 1,000 individuals will have schizophrenia in their lifetime
Though the disease itself is not that common, it can affect people of every gender, race and ethnicity. Slightly more men than women will develop schizophrenia.
- Schizophrenia usually presents itself during adolescence or young adulthood
It remains hidden during childhood and develops between the ages of 16 and 30. A number of factors, including isolating oneself and withdrawing from others, an increase in unusual thoughts and suspicions, and a family history of psychosis, can predict the onset of schizophrenia. “Schizophrenia hits when young adults are starting their life,” said Andrew Cutler, MD, of Meridien Research. “Imagine the effect it has on them. And it’s horrible for families to go through.”
- You have a greater chance of developing schizophrenia if a family member has it
It is well known among scientists that schizophrenia can run in families. About 10 percent of people who have a first-degree relative, like a parent or sibling, with the disorder will develop it themselves. However, as there are many people with schizophrenia who do not have relatives with the condition, genetics is just one factor that causes schizophrenia.
- Schizophrenia is caused by a number of genes, not just one
While they do not know which specific gene variations and mutations lead to the disorder, scientists do know that there are many combinations are directly related to schizophrenia. This is just one reason why clinical trials, like the ones conducted at Meridien Research, are so important. It is not yet possible to predict who will develop schizophrenia through genetic testing, so clinical research will help narrow down which genetic combinations are most likely to cause the disorder.
- Environmental factors play a large role in the development of schizophrenia
A person might have genes that indicate they are likely to have schizophrenia at some point in their life, but their environment determines whether or not those genes are turned on. Some of the environmental factors involving pregnancy and/or birth that have been linked to the development of schizophrenia include prenatal infections like the flu or rubella, pregnancy or delivery complications, like central nervous system damage or preeclampsia, toxic exposures during pregnancy, low birth weight and maternal stress. Childhood and adolescent risk factors include high stress, drug use, social isolation, living in an urban environment, abuse and head injuries.
- There are three categories of schizophrenia symptoms
Positive symptoms are behaviors not normally seen in healthy people. These include hallucinations, delusions, thought disorders – or unusual ways of thinking – and movement disorders, including repetitive motions or catatonia. Negative symptoms, like reduced expressions of emotion (flat affect), reduced feelings of pleasure in everyday life, reduced speaking and a difficulty starting and sustaining tasks, are disruptions to normal behavior and emotions. Finally, cognitive symptoms can be difficult to identify or determine to be associated with schizophrenia. These include a poor ability to use information learned to make decisions, trouble focusing or paying attention and problems with working memory.
- Most people with schizophrenia are not violent
They are actually much more likely to hurt themselves than others. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are very common among people with schizophrenia. Substance abuse increases the likelihood that people with the disorder will become violent or suicidal.
- Substance abuse is the most common co-occurring disorder in people with schizophrenia
Abusing drugs or alcohol can interfere with treatment for schizophrenia or cause individuals to be less likely to seek treatment for schizophrenia. In particular, heavy marijuana use has been linked to a more severe and earlier onset of the disorder. The most effective treatment for someone with both schizophrenia and a substance abuse disorder is one that treats both conditions.
- In conjunction with anti-psychotic drugs, a number of non-medical therapies can help manage the effects of schizophrenia
Psychosocial treatments can help individuals with the challenges to everyday life posed by schizophrenia, including difficulty communicating, holding a job, and forming and maintaining relationships. Illness management skills, rehabilitation, family education and support, cognitive behavioral therapy and self-help groups can also help those who have controlled their symptoms improve their quality of life.
- Research is the key to understanding, treating and preventing schizophrenia
“We don’t really have very good treatments for schizophrenia,” Dr. Cutler said. “While the majority of patients respond to some degree, significant and meaningful recovery is rare.” Because of the huge variations in genetic and environmental factors in individuals with schizophrenia, participation in clinical trials is imperative to give researchers a better understanding of what contributes to the development of the disorder and how to treat it.
Meridien Research regularly conducts research studies on schizophrenia. Please check our current study listings here if you are interested in participating and for more information.