Essay by carla545 June 2005

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Schizophrenia is a devastating mental illness, and is probably the most distressing and disabling of the severe mental disorders. The first signs of schizophrenia typically emerge in adolescence or young adulthood. The effects of the illness are confusing and often shocking to families and friends. People with schizophrenia suffer from difficulties in their thought processes, which lead to hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking, and unusual speech or behavior. All these symptoms mean that people affected with the illness become limited in their ability to interact with other people, and often withdraw from the outside world. Contrary to popular belief, people with schizophrenia do not have 'split personalities', and the great majority of people who suffer from schizophrenia are not dangerous to others. People with schizophrenia are far more likely to be victims of violence and crime than to commit violent acts them. Most people with schizophrenia suffer throughout their lives, thereby losing opportunities for careers and relationships.

As a result of the lack of public understanding about the disease, people with schizophrenia often feel isolated and stigmatized, and may be reluctant or unable to talk about their illness. While the availability of new treatments with fewer side effects has improved the lives of many people, even now, only one person in five can be said to 'recover' from the illness, and one in ten people with schizophrenia commits suicide. Of all the mental illnesses, schizophrenia is probably the most difficult for everyone involved. Patients clearly suffer great disruption to their lives. However, families and friends may also be deeply affected, due to the distress of seeing the effects of the disease on their relative, and as a result of the burden associated with supporting the patient. Coping with the symptoms of schizophrenia can be especially difficult for family members who...