Schizophrenia is a group of mental illnesses characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and distorted views of reality. It affects roughly one hundred fifty people out of one hundred thousand and accounts for more than half of all hospitalizations. Schizophrenia usually appears between the late-teens and mid-thirties. It is the most chronic and disabling mental illness; it affects the way people think, feel, and act. The disorder impairs a person's ability to manage emotions, interact with others, and think clearly. It generally occurs in periods of remission and relapse. Symptoms will often disappear, only to return later. Often, a schizophrenic has trouble determining the difference between what is reality and what is imaginary.
There is no cure for schizophrenia; however, there are many treatment options available. There is no known single cause of schizophrenia, however, there are several theories that explain what factor or factors lead to schizophrenia. One belief is that genetics cause the disorder.
However, it is believed that the genetic make-up may not be sufficient for the development of the illness and that environmental factors may play a role as well (certain stresses may result in schizophrenia). The fact that monozygotic twins, identical twins, raised in different families and different environments, both having schizophrenia was fairly high (about 47 percent), shows that genetic factors may outweigh environmental factors. One of the more heavily studied theories is the dopamine theory. This theory states that increased levels of dopamine in the brain may cause schizophrenia. This hypothesis appears to have some evidence that makes it credible.
For example, some experiments have shown that several schizophrenics have increased concentrations of homovanillic acid (HVA), the major dopamine metabolite. Studies have shown that the higher the concentrations of HVA in the plasma of schizophrenics, the more severe the symptoms of the disease and the...