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Schizophrenia is one of the most chronic (long-lasting) and disabling of mental health disorders. People with schizophrenia do not have multiple personalities. It is a disorder that causes symptoms of psychosis, such as:

  • Hallucinations (hearing voices or seeing things that don't exist)
  • Delusions (bizarre thoughts of being persecuted, cheated, poisoned, or harassed and other thoughts that are not based on truth or fact)
  • Disordered thinking
  • Social withdrawal

Although equal numbers of men and women are affected with this disorder, women with schizophrenia may have more depressive symptoms, paranoia, and auditory hallucinations (hearing voices or things that don't exist) than do men.

Some people with schizophrenia have only one psychotic episode. Others have many episodes during a lifetime, but lead relatively normal lives in between episodes.

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Treatments such as medications, when used regularly and as prescribed, can help reduce and control many symptoms. Like diabetes or high blood pressure, schizophrenia is a chronic disorder that needs constant management. At the moment, it cannot be cured, but the number of repeat episodes can be decreased significantly by staying on medication. Although responses vary from person to person, most people with schizophrenia need to take some type of medication for the rest of their lives as well as use other approaches, such as supportive therapy or rehabilitation.

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Content last updated: March 29, 2010.

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