What is Schizophrenia?

FACTS
• Schizophrenia is a disease that strikes young people in their prime.
• The disease distorts the senses, making it very difficult for the individual to
tell what is real from what is not real
• Usual age of onset is between 16 and 25.
• Schizophrenia is a medical illness. Period.
• Treatment works!
• Early diagnosis and stabilization on modern treatment can greatly improve
prognosis for the illness.

SCHIZOPHRENIA IS NOT RARE: NO ONE IS IMMUNE

• Schizophrenia is found all over the world -- in all races, in all cultures and in all social classes
• It affects 1 in 100 people worldwide. That's approximately 40,000 of our B.C. neighbors -- or 290,000 fellow Canadians

MEN AND WOMEN ARE AFFECTED WITH EQUAL FREQUENCY

• For men, the age of onset for schizophrenia is often ages 16 to 20
• For women, the age of onset is sometimes later -- ages 20 to 30

WHAT CAUSES SCHIZOPHRENIA?

"We do not yet understand precisely the cause or the causes of schizophrenia, although research is progressing rapidly."
- Seeman, Littmann, et al.

Researchers now agree that -- while we do not yet know what "causes” schizophrenia -- many pieces of the puzzle are becoming clearer. Areas of study and interest are:

• Biochemistry -- People with schizophrenia appear to have a neurochemical imbalance. Thus, some researchers study the neurotransmitters that allow communication between brain cells. Modern anti psychotic medications now target three different neurotransmitter systems (dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.)

• Cerebral Blood Flow -- With modern brain imaging techniques (PET scans), researchers can identify areas that are activated when the brain is engaged in processing information. People with schizophrenia appear to have difficulty "coordinating" activity between different areas of the brain. For example, when thinking or speaking, most people show increased activity in their frontal lobes, and a lessening of activity in the area of the brain used for listening. People with schizophrenia show the same increase in frontal lobe activity-but there is no decrease of activity ("dampening" or "filtering") in the other area. Researchers have also been able to identify specific areas of unusual activity during hallucinations.
Next