Essay by poloking April 2004

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Schizophrenia is often thought of as a mental illness in which those effected have a split personality or multiple personalities. It is also commonly thought that schizophrenics are psychotic. These common beliefs however are false. Schizophrenia, a disease of the brain, is one of the most disabling and emotionally devastating illnesses known to man. But because it has been misunderstood for so long, it has received relatively little attention and its victims have been unfairly mistreated. Like cancer and diabetes, schizophrenia has a biological basis. It is not caused by bad parenting or personal weakness. Schizophrenia is actually a relatively common disease. An estimated one percent to one and a half percent of the U.S. population are diagnosed with it over the course of their lives.

Schizophrenia is characterized by several distinct and predictable symptoms. These include thought disorder, delusions, and hallucinations. Thought disorder is the lack of ability to think clearly and logically.

Often it is marked by disconnected and irrational language that causes the person with schizophrenia incapable of participating in conversation, contributing to his alienation from his family, friends, and society. Delusions are common among individuals with schizophrenia. An affected person may believe that he is being conspired against, or that his thoughts can be heard by others. Hallucinations can be heard, seen, or even felt. Most often they take the form of voices heard only by the afflicted person. Such voices may describe the person's actions, warn him of danger or tell him what to do. At times the individual may hear several voices carrying on a conversation. Other symptoms of schizophrenia include the lack of emotional expression, apathy, and social withdrawal.

The true cause of schizophrenia is unknown. It is, however, more common in those persons who have a genetic link to the disease.