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What Is Schizophrenia?

Learn what schizophrenia is from psychiatrist Ankur Saraiya in this Howcast video.


"Like many other psychiatric illnesses, schizophrenia is often misunderstood because it can look different, depending on how extreme the symptoms are and how they manifest in a particular individual. So it can go from the extreme of people who are very disorganized and barely able to take care of themselves. Often we see people who are on the street who are very dirty and who seem like they're chronically ill but it can also go to the other extreme of people who are quite high functioning but manage to be successful in particular ways and areas despite having what can be very distressing and disruptive symptoms.

The basic symptoms of schizophrenia can be grouped into two areas, what are called positive symptoms and negative symptoms.

The positive symptoms of schizophrenia are hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations usually comprise of hearing voices and the delusions are often of a persecutory nature, but they're basically any beliefs that are a departure from reality. And those are the positive symptoms of schizophrenia and the ones that are usually most noticeable.

But, there's also another group of symptoms of schizophrenia which are called the negative symptoms, and often these are the symptoms are the ones that manifest first and can go unnoticed for awhile, which is the period before full diagnosis is made and this period is called the Prodrome, where you have mainly negative symptoms and symptoms that involve social isolation and a gradual detachment from connections to other people, a reduction in thought process, and things like that which are not as noticeable as the positive symptoms but just as incapacitating.

There's a lot of work being done lately to try to detect these Prodromal symptoms early to see if they can be intervened with early on and prevent the full blown illness. But, the positive symptoms are the ones are usually the ones that lead to a diagnosis and the peak times for manifestation of these symptoms are late teens and early twenties and then again later on in the mid thirties. And these are the peak times that the symptoms can manifest and the diagnosis are often made. "

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