Schizophrenia refers to a class of disorders in which severe distortion of reality occurs. Thinking, perception, and emotion may deteriorate; the individual may withdraw from social interaction; and the person may display bizarre behavior. Although there are several types of schizophrenia, the distinctions between them are not always clear-cut. Moreover, the symptoms displayed by persons with schizophrenia may vary considerably over time, and people with schizophrenia show significant differences in the pattern of their symptoms even when they are labeled with the same diagnostic category. Nonetheless, a number of characteristics reliably distinguish schizophrenia from other disorders.

Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with the environment, noticeable deterioration in the level of functioning in everyday life and disintegration of feeling, thought and conduct. Individuals with schizophrenia often hear internal voices not heard by others (hallucinations) or believe things that other people find absurd (delusions). The symptoms also may include disorganized speech and grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior. Individuals with schizophrenia have marked impairment in social or occupational functioning.

Schizophrenia is the most common category of psychosis and one which covers a wide variety of symptoms and behaviour. The term schizophrenia comes from the Greek words schizo (split) and phrenia (mind) and this is the source of an almost universal popular misconception. Split mind (or split personality) is the popular term for multiple personality, in which the split occurs between what appear to be different personalities within the same person. The split in schizophrenia however is between the processes of thinking and feeling within the same person, so that the harmony normally found between a people’s thought, feelings and actions is disrupted. A schizophrenic may smile or show no emotion at all when discussing a tragic event, for instance. Difficulties in communication with others, delusions and hallucinations are also common symptoms of schizophrenia.

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