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Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder, severe and disabling, that affects close to 1% of the population. The persons who suffer from schizophrenia often hear voices that others do no hear, think that others can read their mind, control their thoughts or conspire to harm them. This can cause fear and turn those affected by the illness into withdrawn and easily irritable persons.

Schizophrenia affects men and women equally. Symptoms like hallucinations and delirium generally start between ages 16 – 30 and men tend to exhibit the symptoms earlier than women. In most cases, a person will not develop schizophrenia after age 45.

Symptoms

Schizophrenia symptoms can be classified into three main categories:

  • Positive symptoms: Positive symptoms are psychotic behaviors not generally seen in healthy people (unreal mental contents generated or seen by the patient as real).For some people, these symptoms come and go. For others, they stay stable over time. Sometimes they are severe, and at other times hardly noticeable. The symptoms include auditory hallucinations perceived as voices, the most common hallucination in schizophrenics.
  • Negative symptoms: Negative symptoms are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. These symptoms are harder to recognize as part of the disorder and can be mistaken for depression or other conditions. These patients need help with their daily tasks.
  • Cognitive symptoms: the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are subtle, but for others, they are more severe and patients may notice changes in their memory or other aspects of thinking. Similar to negative symptoms, cognitive symptoms may be difficult to recognize as part of the disorder.  They make it difficult to lead a normal life and can be distressing to individuals with schizophrenia.

Prevention

The exact causes of schizophrenia are unknown although diverse factors that favor its appearance have been discussed. The most known is a genetic predisposition: a 10% of the persons with schizophrenia have a close family member (parents, siblings) who has been diagnosed with it. Diverse genetic mutations related with the development of the disease are also known, although the genetic map of schizophrenia is still being studied.

On the other hand, it is possible that different interactions such as viral infections, psychosocial factors can increase the risk of schizophrenia. There are triggering factors that can be easily avoided, but it seems that hereditary factors play a very important role in developing schizophrenia, which makes it difficult to prevent.

  • Persons whose parents have or have had schizophrenia have a genetic predisposition
  • Social and psychic factors such as trauma, stress and stressful situations can also contribute to bringing on the disease. Persons with genetic predisposition should avoid stress as much as possible
  • Those persons with a genetic predisposition can also avoid schizophrenic episodes by avoiding drug use, especially hallucinogenics such as LSD can trigger schizophrenic psychosis.

Gene or region studied

  • DRD2
  • 6p22.1
  • DRD4
  • SLC18A1
  • TCF4
  • Xp22.33
  • ZNF804A
  • RELN
  • SLC6A3
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