Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others. It is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves.

People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality. Schizophrenia affects approximately 1 percent of all adults, globally, or it is believed to affect about one in 100 individuals, and usually develops in late adolescence or early adulthood (between the age 0f 16 and 30).

Persons suffering from the disorder have trouble living independently, caring for them, working or studying and enjoying close relationships, among other issues. In many cases, the disorder develops so slowly that the individual does not know that they have had it for many years. However, in other cases, it can strike suddenly and develop quickly.

The symptoms of this disorder are varied. These generally comprise of hallucinations, false sensory perceptions that do not result from external cause or stimuli. Hearing voices, conversations, seeing people—these are some common examples of hallucinations. And sometimes these hallucinations are insistent enough to guide the actions of patients, leading them to self-injury and other risky behavior. Then there are delusions, false beliefs that persist even when evidence to the contrary is offered. Patients might feel like their thoughts, actions and feelings are being controlled, that he or she is being watched by malicious others, or that their spouses are being unfaithful, generally becoming very paranoid. On the other hand, some patients may even have heightened illusions about their own beauty, intelligence and influence.

Other symptoms include affect, which is the external manifestation of internal feelings, where schizophrenics generally maintain impassive expressions and unchanging tone of voice; anhedonia, which refers to the inability to experience or derive pleasure even from things that were once exciting; and self-neglect, where patients are found to be unmindful about cleanliness and hygiene. Genetic factors remain the most important contributors to schizophrenia. Other factors, such as nutrition during pregnancy and exposure to drugs, toxins, viruses and birth trauma, also have some role to play.

It is important to get the right treatment for those suffering schizophrenia and they often require immediate treatment, instead of taking them to faith healers and spending a lot of time and money in trying various alternative treatments. Some are even kept chained and locked in rooms. It is thus very important to hand out information regarding this disorder among communities both urban and rural so as to minimize stigma and encourage timely intervention.