AskDefine | Define schizophrenia

Dictionary Definition

schizophrenia n : any of several psychotic disorders characterized by distortions of reality and disturbances of thought and language and withdrawal from social contact [syn: schizophrenic disorder, schizophrenic psychosis, dementia praecox]

User Contributed Dictionary



First attested 1910, from germanized Greek Schizophrenie "split mind", coined by Eugen Bleuler, from σχιζοφρένεια (schizofreneia), from prefix σχιζο- schizo-, from Ancient Greek σκίζω (schizo) "to tear, to split, to cut" + Ancient Greek φρήν (fren) "mind, brain, diaphragm".


  • AHD: [skĭt′səfrēnēə] or [skĭt′səfrĕnēə]


  1. A psychiatric diagnosis denoting a persistent, often chronic, mental illness variously affecting behavior, thinking, and emotion
  2. Any condition in which disparate or mutually exclusive activities coexist


informal: condition in which disparate activities coexist
  • German: Schizophrenie

Extensive Definition

Schizophrenia (pronounced /ˌskɪtsəˈfriːniə/), from the Greek roots schizein (σχίζειν, "to split") and phrēn, phren- (φρήν, φρεν-, "mind"), is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a mental illness characterized by impairments in the perception or expression of reality, most commonly manifesting as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions or disorganized speech and thinking in the context of significant social or occupational dysfunction. Onset of symptoms typically occurs in young adulthood, with approximately 0.4–0.6% of the population affected. Diagnosis is based on the patient's self-reported experiences and observed behavior. No laboratory test for schizophrenia currently exists.
The disorder is primarily thought to affect cognition, but it also usually contributes to chronic problems with behavior and emotion. People diagnosed with schizophrenia are likely to be diagnosed with comorbid conditions, including clinical depression and anxiety disorders; the lifetime prevalence of substance abuse is typically around 40%. Social problems, such as long-term unemployment, poverty and homelessness, are common and life expectancy is decreased; the average life expectancy of people with the disorder is 10 to 12 years less than those without, owing to increased physical health problems and a high suicide rate.

Signs and symptoms

A person experiencing schizophrenia may demonstrate symptoms such as disorganized thinking, auditory hallucinations, and delusions. In severe cases, the person may be largely mute, remain motionless in bizarre postures, or exhibit purposeless agitation; these are signs of catatonia. The current classification of psychoses holds that symptoms need to have been present for at least one month in a period of at least six months of disturbed functioning. A schizophrenia-like psychosis of shorter duration is termed a schizophreniform disorder. No one sign is diagnostic of schizophrenia, and all can occur in other medical and psychiatric conditions.
Late adolescence and early adulthood are peak years for the onset of schizophrenia. These are critical periods in a young adult's social and vocational development, and they can be severely disrupted by disease onset. To minimize the effect of schizophrenia, much work has recently been done to identify and treat the prodromal (pre-onset) phase of the illness, which has been detected up to 30 months before the onset of symptoms, but may be present longer. Those who go on to develop schizophrenia may experience the non-specific symptoms of social withdrawal, irritability and dysphoria in the prodromal period, and transient or self-limiting psychotic symptoms in the prodromal phase before psychosis becomes apparent.

Schneiderian classification

The psychiatrist Kurt Schneider (1887–1967) listed the forms of psychotic symptoms that he thought distinguished schizophrenia from other psychotic disorders. These are called first-rank symptoms or Schneider's first-rank symptoms, and they include delusions of being controlled by an external force; the belief that thoughts are being inserted into or withdrawn from one's conscious mind; the belief that one's thoughts are being broadcast to other people; and hearing hallucinatory voices that comment on one's thoughts or actions or that have a conversation with other hallucinated voices. The reliability of first-rank symptoms has been questioned, although they have contributed to the current diagnostic criteria.

Positive and negative symptoms

Schizophrenia is often described in terms of positive (or productive) and negative (or deficit) symptoms. Positive symptoms include delusions, auditory hallucinations, and thought disorder, and are typically regarded as manifestations of psychosis. Negative symptoms are so-named because they are considered to be the loss or absence of normal traits or abilities, and include features such as flat or blunted affect and emotion, poverty of speech (alogia), anhedonia, and lack of motivation (avolition). Despite the appearance of blunted affect, recent studies indicate that there is often a normal or even heightened level of emotionality in schizophrenia, especially in response to stressful or negative events. A third symptom grouping, the disorganization syndrome, is commonly described, and includes chaotic speech, thought, and behaviour. There is evidence for a number of other symptom classifications.


Diagnosis is based on the self-reported experiences of the person as well as abnormalities in behavior reported by family members, friends or co-workers, followed by secondary signs observed by a psychiatrist, social worker, clinical psychologist or other clinician in a clinical assessment. There is a list of criteria that must be met for someone to be so diagnosed. These depend on both the presence and duration of certain signs and symptoms. borderline personality disorder, drug intoxication, brief drug-induced psychosis, and schizophreniform disorder.
Investigations are not generally repeated for relapse unless there is a specific medical indication. These may include serum blood sugar level (BSL) if olanzapine has been prescribed previously, liver function tests if chlorpromazine, or creatine phosphokinase (CPK) to exclude neuroleptic malignant syndrome. Assessment and treatment are usually done on an outpatient basis; admission to an inpatient facility is considered if there is a risk to self or others.
The most widely used criteria for diagnosing schizophrenia are from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the current version being DSM-IV-TR, and the World Health Organization's International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, currently the ICD-10. The latter criteria are typically used in European countries while the DSM criteria are used in the USA or the rest of the world, as well as prevailing in research studies. The ICD-10 criteria put more emphasis on Schneiderian first rank symptoms although, in practice, agreement between the two systems is high. The WHO has developed the tool SCAN (Schedules for Clinical Assessment in Neuropsychiatry) which can be used for diagnosing a number of psychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia.

DSM IV-TR Criteria

To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, a person must display: part of a larger criticism of the validity of psychiatric diagnoses in general. One alternative suggests that the issues with the diagnosis would be better addressed as individual dimensions along which everyone varies, such that there is a spectrum or continuum rather than a cut-off between normal and ill. This approach appears consistent with research on schizotypy and of a relatively high prevalence of psychotic experiences and often non-distressing delusional beliefs amongst the general public. this is particularly relevant to the evaluation of delusions and thought disorder. More recently, it has been argued that psychotic symptoms are not a good basis for making a diagnosis of schizophrenia as "psychosis is the 'fever' of mental illness — a serious but nonspecific indicator".
Perhaps because of these factors, studies examining the diagnosis of schizophrenia have typically shown relatively low or inconsistent levels of diagnostic reliability. Most famously, David Rosenhan's 1972 study, published as On being sane in insane places, demonstrated that the diagnosis of schizophrenia was (at least at the time) often subjective and unreliable. More recent studies have found agreement between any two psychiatrists when diagnosing schizophrenia tends to reach about 65% at best. This, and the results of earlier studies of diagnostic reliability (which typically reported even lower levels of agreement) have led some critics to argue that the diagnosis of schizophrenia should be abandoned.
In 2004 in Japan, the Japanese term for schizophrenia was changed from Seishin-Bunretsu-Byo (mind-split-disease) to Tōgō-shitchō-shō (integration disorder). In 2006, campaigners in the UK, under the banner of Campaign for Abolition of the Schizophrenia Label, argued for a similar rejection of the diagnosis of schizophrenia and a different approach to the treatment and understanding of the symptoms currently associated with it.
Alternatively, other proponents have put forward using the presence of specific neurocognitive deficits to make a diagnosis. These take the form of a reduction or impairment in basic psychological functions such as memory, attention, executive function and problem solving. It is these sorts of difficulties, rather than the psychotic symptoms (which can in many cases be controlled by antipsychotic medication), which seem to be the cause of most disability in schizophrenia. However, this argument is relatively new and it is unlikely that the method of diagnosing schizophrenia will change radically in the near future.
The diagnosis of schizophrenia has been used for political rather than therapeutic purposes; in the Soviet Union an additional sub-classification of sluggishly progressing schizophrenia was created. Particularly in the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic), this diagnosis was used for the purpose of silencing political dissidents or forcing them to recant their ideas by the use of forcible confinement and treatment. In 2000 there were similar concerns regarding detention and 'treatment' of practitioners of the Falun Gong movement by the Chinese government. This led the American Psychiatric Association's Committee on the Abuse of Psychiatry and Psychiatrists to pass a resolution to urge the World Psychiatric Association to investigate the situation in China.


Schizophrenia occurs equally in males and females although typically appears earlier in men with the peak ages of onset being 20–28 years for males and 26–32 years for females. and late- (middle age) or very-late-onset (old age) schizophrenia. The lifetime prevalence of schizophrenia, that is, the proportion of individuals expected to experience the disease at any time in their lives, is commonly given at 1%. A 2002 systematic review of many studies, however, found a lifetime prevalence of 0.55%. within countries, and at the local and neighbourhood level. One particularly stable and replicable finding has been the association between living in an urban environment and schizophrenia diagnosis, even after factors such as drug use, ethnic group and size of social group have been controlled for. Schizophrenia is known to be a major cause of disability. In a 1999 study of 14 countries, active psychosis was ranked the third-most-disabling condition, after quadriplegia and dementia and before paraplegia and blindness.


While the reliability of the diagnosis introduces difficulties in measuring the relative effect of genes and environment (for example, symptoms overlap to some extent with severe bipolar disorder or major depression), evidence suggests that genetic and environmental factors can act in combination to result in schizophrenia. Evidence suggests that the diagnosis of schizophrenia has a significant heritable component but that onset is significantly influenced by environmental factors or stressors. The idea of an inherent vulnerability (or diathesis) in some people, which can be unmasked by biological, psychological or environmental stressors, is known as the stress-diathesis model. The idea that biological, psychological and social factors are all important is known as the "biopsychosocial" model.


Estimates of the heritability of schizophrenia tend to vary owing to the difficulty of separating the effects of genetics and the environment although twin studies have suggested a high level of heritability. It is likely that schizophrenia is a condition of complex inheritance, with several genes possibly interacting to generate risk for schizophrenia or the separate components that can co-occur leading to a diagnosis. Genetic studies have suggested that genes that raise the risk for developing schizophrenia are non-specific, and may also raise the risk of developing other psychotic disorders such as bipolar disorder. Recent research has suggested that rare deletions or duplications of tiny DNA sequences within genes (known as copy number variants) are also linked to increased risk for schizophrenia.


It is thought that causal factors can initially come together in early neurodevelopment, including during pregnancy, to increase the risk of later developing schizophrenia. One curious finding is that people diagnosed with schizophrenia are more likely to have been born in winter or spring, (at least in the northern hemisphere). There is now evidence that prenatal exposure to infections increases the risk for developing schizophrenia later in life, providing additional evidence for a link between in utero developmental pathology and risk of developing the condition.


Living in an urban environment has been consistently found to be a risk factor for schizophrenia. and migration related to social adversity, racial discrimination, family dysfunction, unemployment or poor housing conditions. Childhood experiences of abuse or trauma have also been implicated as risk factors for a diagnosis of schizophrenia later in life. Parenting is not held responsible for schizophrenia but unsupportive dysfunctional relationships may contribute to an increased risk.

Substance use

The relationship between schizophrenia and drug use is complex, meaning that a clear causal connection between drug use and schizophrenia has been difficult to distinguish. There is strong evidence that using certain drugs can trigger either the onset or relapse of schizophrenia in some people. It may also be the case, however, that people with schizophrenia use drugs to overcome negative feelings associated with both the commonly prescribed antipsychotic medication and the condition itself, where negative emotion, paranoia and anhedonia are all considered to be core features. Amphetamines trigger the release of dopamine and excessive dopamine function is believed to be at least partly responsible for the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia (a theory known as the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia). This is, in part, supported by the fact that amphetamines reliably worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia can be triggered by heavy use of hallucinogenic or stimulant drugs. One study suggests that cannabis use can contribute to psychosis, though the researchers suspected cannabis use was only a small component in a broad range of factors.


A number of psychological mechanisms have been implicated in the development and maintenance of schizophrenia. Cognitive biases that have been identified in those with a diagnosis or those at risk, especially when under stress or in confusing situations, include excessive attention to potential threats, jumping to conclusions, making external attributions, impaired reasoning about social situations and mental states, difficulty distinguishing inner speech from speech from an external source, and difficulties with early visual processing and maintaining concentration. Some cognitive features may reflect global neurocognitive deficits in memory, attention, problem-solving, executive function or social cognition, while others may be related to particular issues and experiences. Despite a common appearance of "blunted affect", recent findings indicate that many individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia are highly emotionally responsive, particularly to stressful or negative stimuli, and that such sensitivity may cause vulnerability to symptoms or to the disorder. Some evidence suggests that the content of delusional beliefs and psychotic experiences can reflect emotional causes of the disorder, and that how a person interprets such experiences can influence symptomology. Further evidence for the role of psychological mechanisms comes from the effects of therapies on symptoms of schizophrenia.


Studies using neuropsychological tests and brain imaging technologies such as fMRI and PET to examine functional differences in brain activity have shown that differences seem to most commonly occur in the frontal lobes, hippocampus, and temporal lobes. These differences have been linked to the neurocognitive deficits often associated with schizophrenia. The role of antipsychotic medication, which nearly all those studied had taken, in causing such abnormalities is also unclear.
Particular focus has been placed upon the function of dopamine in the mesolimbic pathway of the brain. This focus largely resulted from the accidental finding that a drug group which blocks dopamine function, known as the phenothiazines, could reduce psychotic symptoms. An influential theory, known as the Dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia, proposed that a malfunction involving dopamine pathways was the cause of (the positive symptoms of) schizophrenia. This theory is now thought to be overly simplistic as a complete explanation, partly because newer antipsychotic medication (called atypical antipsychotic medication) can be equally effective as older medication (called typical antipsychotic medication), but also affects serotonin function and may have slightly less of a dopamine blocking effect.
Interest has also focused on the neurotransmitter glutamate and the reduced function of the NMDA glutamate receptor in schizophrenia. This has largely been suggested by abnormally low levels of glutamate receptors found in postmortem brains of people previously diagnosed with schizophrenia and the discovery that the glutamate blocking drugs such as phencyclidine and ketamine can mimic the symptoms and cognitive problems associated with the condition. The fact that reduced glutamate function is linked to poor performance on tests requiring frontal lobe and hippocampal function and that glutamate can affect dopamine function, all of which have been implicated in schizophrenia, have suggested an important mediating (and possibly causal) role of glutamate pathways in schizophrenia. Further support of this theory has come from preliminary trials suggesting the efficacy of coagonists at the NMDA receptor complex in reducing some of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia.
There have also been findings of differences in the size and structure of certain brain areas in schizophrenia, starting with the discovery of ventricular enlargement in those for whom negative symptoms were most prominent. However, this has not proven particularly reliable on the level of the individual person, with considerable variation between patients. More recent studies have shown various differences in brain structure between people with and without diagnoses of schizophrenia. While brain structure changes have been found in people diagnosed with schizophrenia who have never been treated with antipsychotic drugs there is evidence that the medication itself might cause additional changes in the brain's structure. However, as with earlier studies, many of these differences are only reliably detected when comparing groups of people, and are unlikely to predict any differences in brain structure of an individual person with schizophrenia.

Treatment and services

The concept of a cure as such remains controversial, as there is no consensus on the definition, although some criteria for the remission of symptoms have recently been suggested. The effectiveness of schizophrenia treatment is often assessed using standardized methods, one of the most common being the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS). Management of symptoms and improving function is thought to be more achievable than a cure. Treatment was revolutionized in the mid 1950s with the development and introduction of chlorpromazine. A recovery model is increasingly adopted, emphasizing hope, empowerment and social inclusion.
Hospitalization may occur with severe episodes of schizophrenia. This can be voluntary or (if mental health legislation allows it) involuntary (called civil or involuntary commitment). Long-term inpatient stays are now less common due to deinstitutionalization, although can still occur. and patient-led support groups.
In many non-Western societies, schizophrenia may only be treated with more informal, community-led methods. The outcome for people diagnosed with schizophrenia in non-Western countries may actually be better than for people in the West. The reasons for this effect are not clear, although cross-cultural studies are being conducted.


The mainstay of psychiatric treatment for schizophrenia is an antipsychotic medication. These can reduce the "positive" symptoms of psychosis. Most antipsychotics take around 7–14 days to have their main effect. Numerous international studies have demonstrated favorable long-term outcomes for around half of those diagnosed with schizophrenia, with substantial variation between individuals and regions.Harrison G, Hopper K, Craig T, Laska E, Siegel C, Wanderling J, Dube KC, Ganev K, Giel R, an der Heiden W, Holmberg SK, Janca A, Lee PW, León CA, Malhotra S, Marsella AJ, Nakane Y, Sartorius N, Shen Y, Skoda C, Thara R, Tsirkin SJ, Varma VK, Walsh D, Wiersma D. (2001) Recovery from psychotic illness: a 15- and 25-year international follow-up study. Br J Psychiatry. Jun;178:506-17. PMID 11388966 One retrospective study found that about a third of people made a full recovery, about a third showed improvement but not a full recovery, and a third remained ill. A clinical study using strict recovery criteria (concurrent remission of positive and negative symptoms and adequate social and vocational functioning continuously for two years) found a recovery rate of 14% within the first five years. A 5-year community study found that 62% showed overall improvement on a composite measure of symptomatic, clinical and functional outcomes. Rates are not always comparable across studies because an exact definition of what constitutes recovery has not been widely accepted, although standardized criteria have been suggested. despite the fact antipsychotic drugs are typically not widely available in poorer countries, raising questions about the effectiveness of such drug-based treatments.
Several factors are associated with a better prognosis: Being female, acute (vs. insidious) onset of symptoms, older age of first episode, predominantly positive (rather than negative) symptoms, presence of mood symptoms and good premorbid functioning. Most studies done on this subject, however, are correlational in nature, and a clear cause-and-effect relationship is difficult to establish. Evidence is also consistent that negative attitudes towards individuals with schizophrenia can have a significant adverse impact. In particular, critical comments, hostility, authoritarian and intrusive or controlling attitudes (termed high 'Expressed emotion' or 'EE' by researchers) from family members have been found to correlate with a higher risk of relapse in schizophrenia across cultures.


In a study of over 168,000 Swedish citizens undergoing psychiatric treatment, schizophrenia was associated with an average life expectancy of approximately 80–85% of that of the general population. Women with a diagnosis of schizophrenia were found to have a slightly better life expectancy than that of men, and as a whole, a diagnosis of schizophrenia was associated with a better life expectancy than substance abuse, personality disorder, heart attack and stroke. There is a high suicide rate associated with schizophrenia; a recent study showed that 30% of patients diagnosed with this condition had attempted suicide at least once during their lifetime. Another study suggested that 10% of persons with schizophrenia die by suicide. Other identified factors include smoking, poor diet, little exercise and the negative health effects of psychiatric drugs. Studies have indicated that 5% to 10% of those charged with murder in Western countries have a schizophrenia spectrum disorder.
The occurrence of psychosis in schizophrenia has sometimes been linked to a higher risk of violent acts. Findings on the specific role of delusions or hallucinations have been inconsistent, but have focused on delusional jealousy, perception of threat and command hallucinations. It has been proposed that a certain type of individual with schizophrenia may be most likely to offend, characterized by a history of educational difficulties, low IQ, conduct disorder, early-onset substance misuse and offending prior to diagnosis. Another consistent finding is a link to substance misuse, particularly alcohol, among the minority who commit violent acts. Violence by or against individuals with schizophrenia typically occurs in the context of complex social interactions within a family setting, and is also an issue in clinical services and in the wider community.

Screening and prevention

There are no reliable markers for the later development of schizophrenia although research is being conducted into how well a combination of genetic risk plus non-disabling psychosis-like experience predicts later diagnosis. People who fulfil the 'ultra high-risk mental state' criteria, that include a family history of schizophrenia plus the presence of transient or self-limiting psychotic experiences, have a 20–40% chance of being diagnosed with the condition after one year. The use of psychological treatments and medication has been found effective in reducing the chances of people who fulfill the 'high-risk' criteria from developing full-blown schizophrenia. However, the treatment of people who may never develop schizophrenia is controversial, in light of the side-effects of antipsychotic medication; particularly with respect to the potentially disfiguring tardive dyskinesia and the rare but potentially lethal neuroleptic malignant syndrome. The most widely used form of preventative health care for schizophrenia takes the form of public education campaigns that provide information on risk factors, early detection and treatment options.

Alternative approaches

An approach broadly known as the anti-psychiatry movement, most active in the 1960s, opposes the orthodox medical view of schizophrenia as an illness. Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz argued that psychiatric patients are not ill, but rather individuals with unconventional thoughts and behavior that make society uncomfortable. He argues that society unjustly seeks to control them by classifying their behavior as an illness and forcibly treating them as a method of social control. According to this view, "schizophrenia" does not actually exist but is merely a form of social construction, created by society's concept of what constitutes normality and abnormality. Szasz has never considered himself to be "anti-psychiatry" in the sense of being against psychiatric treatment, but simply believes that treatment should be conducted between consenting adults, rather than imposed upon anyone against his or her will. Similarly, psychiatrists R. D. Laing, Silvano Arieti, Theodore Lidz and Colin Ross have argued that the symptoms of what is called mental illness are comprehensible reactions to impossible demands that society and particularly family life places on some sensitive individuals. Laing, Arieti, Lidz and Ross were notable in valuing the content of psychotic experience as worthy of interpretation, rather than considering it simply as a secondary but essentially meaningless marker of underlying psychological or neurological distress. Laing described eleven case studies of people diagnosed with schizophrenia and argued that the content of their actions and statements was meaningful and logical in the context of their family and life situations. In 1956, Palo Alto, Gregory Bateson and his colleagues Paul Watzlawick, Donald Jackson, and Jay Haley articulated a theory of schizophrenia, related to Laing's work, as stemming from double bind situations where a person receives different or contradictory messages. Madness was therefore an expression of this distress and should be valued as a cathartic and trans-formative experience. In the books Schizophrenia and the Family and The Origin and Treatment of Schizophrenic Disorders Lidz and his colleagues explain their belief that parental behaviour can result in mental illness in children. Arieti's Interpretation of Schizophrenia won the 1975 scientific National Book Award in the United States.
The concept of schizophrenia as a result of civilization has been developed further by psychologist Julian Jaynes in his 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind; he proposed that until the beginning of historic times, schizophrenia or a similar condition was the normal state of human consciousness. This would take the form of a "bicameral mind" where a normal state of low affect, suitable for routine activities, would be interrupted in moments of crisis by "mysterious voices" giving instructions, which early people characterized as interventions from the gods. Researchers into shamanism have speculated that in some cultures schizophrenia or related conditions may predispose an individual to becoming a shaman; the experience of having access to multiple realities is not uncommon in schizophrenia, and is a core experience in many shamanic traditions. Equally, the shaman may have the skill to bring on and direct some of the altered states of consciousness psychiatrists label as illness. Psychohistorians, on the other hand, accept the psychiatric diagnoses. However, unlike the current medical model of mental disorders they argue that poor parenting in tribal societies causes the shaman's schizoid personalities. Speculation regarding primary and important religious figures as having schizophrenia abound. Commentators such as Paul Kurtz and others have endorsed the idea that major religious figures experienced psychosis, heard voices and displayed delusions of grandeur.
Psychiatrist Tim Crow has argued that schizophrenia may be the evolutionary price we pay for a left brain hemisphere specialization for language. Since psychosis is associated with greater levels of right brain hemisphere activation and a reduction in the usual left brain hemisphere dominance, our language abilities may have evolved at the cost of causing schizophrenia when this system breaks down.

Alternative medical treatments

A branch of alternative medicine that deals with schizophrenia is known as orthomolecular psychiatry. Orthomolecular psychiatry considers the schizophrenias to be a group of disorders; management entails performing the appropriate diagnostic tests and then providing the appropriate therapy. Vitamin B-3 (Niacin) has been proposed as an effective treatment in some cases. The body's adverse reactions to gluten are implicated in some alternative theories; proponents of orthomolecular psychiatric thought claim that an adverse reaction to gluten is involved in the etiology of some cases. This theory—discussed by one author in three British journals in the 1970s—is unproven. A 2006 literature review suggests that gluten may be a factor for patients with celiac disease and for a subset of patients afflicted with schizophrenia, but that further study is needed to conclusively confirm such a link. In a 2004 Israeli study, anti-gluten antibodies were measured in 50 schizophrenic patients and a matched control group. All antibody tests in both groups were negative leading to the conclusion that "it is unlikely that there is an association between gluten sensitivity and schizophrenia." Some researchers suggest that dietary and nutritional treatments may hold promise in the treatment of schizophrenia.


Descriptions of schizophrenia-like symptoms date back to circa 2000 BC in the Book of Hearts—part of the ancient Egyptian Ebers Papyrus. However, study of the ancient Greek and Roman literature shows that although the general population probably had an awareness of psychotic disorders, there was no recorded condition that would meet the modern criteria for schizophrenia. Symptoms resembling schizophrenia were, however, reported in Arabic medical and psychological literature during the Middle Ages. In The Canon of Medicine, for example, Avicenna described a condition somewhat resembling schizophrenia which he called Junun Mufrit (severe madness), which he distinguished from other forms of madness (Junun) such as mania, rabies and manic depressive psychosis.
Although a broad concept of madness has existed for thousands of years, schizophrenia was only classified as a distinct mental disorder by Emil Kraepelin in 1893. He was the first to make a distinction in the psychotic disorders between what he called dementia praecox (literally 'early dementia'—developed from a syndrome first outlined by psychiatrist Bénédict Morel in 1853 and labelled démence précoce) and manic depression. Kraepelin believed that dementia praecox was primarily a disease of the brain, and particularly a form of dementia, distinguished from other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease, which typically occur later in life.
The word schizophrenia—which translates roughly as "splitting of the mind" and comes from the Greek roots schizein (σχίζειν, "to split") and phrēn, phren- (φρήν, φρεν-, "mind")—was coined by Eugen Bleuler in 1908 and was intended to describe the separation of function between personality, thinking, memory, and perception. Bleuler described the main symptoms as 4 As: flattened Affect, Autism, impaired Association of ideas and Ambivalence. Bleuler realized that the illness was not a dementia as some of his patients improved rather than deteriorated and hence proposed the term schizophrenia instead.
The term schizophrenia is commonly misunderstood to mean that affected persons have a "split personality". Although some people diagnosed with schizophrenia may hear voices and may experience the voices as distinct personalities, schizophrenia does not involve a person changing among distinct multiple personalities. The confusion arises in part due to the meaning of Bleuler's term schizophrenia (literally "split" or "shattered mind"). The first known misuse of the term to mean "split personality" was in an article by the poet T. S. Eliot in 1933.
In the first half of the twentieth century schizophrenia was considered to be a hereditary defect, and sufferers were subject to eugenics in many countries. Hundreds of thousands were sterilized, with or without consent—the majority in Nazi Germany, the United States, and Scandinavian countries. Along with other people labeled "mentally unfit", many diagnosed with schizophrenia were murdered in the Nazi "Action T4" program.
The diagnostic description of schizophrenia has changed over time. It became clear after the 1971 US-UK Diagnostic Study that schizophrenia was diagnosed to a far greater extent in America than in Europe. This was partly due to looser diagnostic criteria in the US, which used the DSM-II manual, contrasting with Europe and its ICD-9. This was one of the factors in leading to the revision not only of the diagnosis of schizophrenia, but the revision of the whole DSM manual, resulting in the publication of the DSM-III.

Sociological and cultural aspects

Popular views and misconceptions

Stigma has been identified as a major obstacle in the recovery of patients with schizophrenia. 12.8% of a large, representative sample of Americans in a 1999 study believed that individuals with schizophrenia were "very likely" to do something violent against others, and 48.1% said that they were "somewhat likely" to. Over 74% said that people with schizophrenia were either "not very able" or "not able at all" to make decisions concerning their treatment, and 70.2% said the same of money management decisions. The perception of individuals with psychosis as violent has more than doubled in prevalence since the 1950s, according to one meta-analysis.
As public understanding of mental illness as a neurobiological disorder is yet developing, patients may be discouraged by friends or family members from taking prescribed medication. Consumers' views on treatment and recovery may differ from those of mental health professionals. later made into a movie.
In Bulgakov's Master and Margarita the poet Ivan Bezdomnyj is institutionalized and diagnosed with schizophrenia after witnessing the devil (Woland) predict Berlioz's death. The book The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut recounts his struggle with schizophrenia and his recovering journey.


Further reading

  • Bentall, R. (2003) Madness explained: Psychosis and Human Nature. London: Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 0-7139-9249-2
  • Dalby, J.T. (1997) Mental Disease in History: A selection of translated readings. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. ISBN 0-8204-3056-0
  • Fallon, James H. et al. (2003) The Neuroanatomy of Schizophrenia: Circuitry and Neurotransmitter Systems. Clinical Neuroscience Research 3:77–107. Available at Elsevier article locater.
  • Green, M.F. (2001) Schizophrenia Revealed: From Neurons to Social Interactions. New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-70334-7
  • Keen, T. M. (1999) Schizophrenia: orthodoxy and heresies. A review of alternative possibilities. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 1999, 6, 415–424. PMID 10818864
  • Laing, R.D. (1999) The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness. London: Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 0-140-13537-5
  • Lidz, Theodore, Stephen Fleck & Alice Cornelison, Schizophrenia and the Family. International Universities Press, 1965. ISBN 978-0823660018
  • Noll, Richard (2007) The Encyclopedia of Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders, Third Edition ISBN 0-8160-6405-9
  • Open The Doors - information on global programme to fight stigma and discrimination because of Schizophrenia. The World Psychiatric Association (WPA)
  • Read, J., Mosher, L.R., Bentall, R. (2004) Models of Madness: Psychological, Social and Biological Approaches to Schizophrenia. ISBN 1-58391-906-6. A critical approach to biological and genetic theories, and a review of social influences on schizophrenia.
  • Scientific American Magazine (January 2004 Issue) Decoding Schizophrenia
  • Shaner, A., Miller, G. F., & Mintz, J. (2004). Schizophrenia as one extreme of a sexually selected fitness indicator. Schizophrenia Research, 70(1), 101–109. PMID 15246469Full text (PDF), Retrieved on 2007-05-17.
  • Szasz, T. (1976) Schizophrenia: The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-07222-4
  • Tausk, V. : "Sexuality, War, and Schizophrenia: Collected Psychoanalytic Papers", Publisher: Transaction Publishers 1991, ISBN 0-88738-365-3 (On the Origin of the 'Influencing Machine' in Schizophrenia.)
  • Wiencke, Markus (2006) Schizophrenie als Ergebnis von Wechselwirkungen: Georg Simmels Individualitätskonzept in der Klinischen Psychologie. In David Kim (ed.), Georg Simmel in Translation: Interdisciplinary Border-Crossings in Culture and Modernity (pp. 123–155). Cambridge Scholars Press, Cambridge, ISBN 1-84718-060-5
schizophrenia in Arabic: فصام
schizophrenia in Bosnian: Shizofrenija
schizophrenia in Bulgarian: Шизофрения
schizophrenia in Catalan: Esquizofrènia
schizophrenia in Czech: Schizofrenie
schizophrenia in Danish: Skizofreni
schizophrenia in German: Schizophrenie
schizophrenia in Estonian: Skisofreenia
schizophrenia in Modern Greek (1453-): Σχιζοφρένεια
schizophrenia in Spanish: Esquizofrenia
schizophrenia in Esperanto: Skizofrenio
schizophrenia in Persian: روان‌گسیختگی
schizophrenia in French: Schizophrénie
schizophrenia in Galician: Esquizofrenia
schizophrenia in Korean: 정신분열증
schizophrenia in Croatian: Shizofrenija
schizophrenia in Ido: Skizofrenio
schizophrenia in Indonesian: Skizofrenia
schizophrenia in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Schizophrenia
schizophrenia in Icelandic: Geðklofi
schizophrenia in Italian: Schizofrenia
schizophrenia in Hebrew: סכיזופרניה
schizophrenia in Kalaallisut: Skizofrenii
schizophrenia in Kurdish: Şîzofrenî
schizophrenia in Latin: Morbus dissidentiae phreneticae
schizophrenia in Lithuanian: Šizofrenija
schizophrenia in Hungarian: Skizofrénia
schizophrenia in Malay (macrolanguage): Skizofrenia
schizophrenia in Dutch: Schizofrenie
schizophrenia in Japanese: 統合失調症
schizophrenia in Norwegian: Schizofreni
schizophrenia in Polish: Schizofrenia
schizophrenia in Portuguese: Esquizofrenia
schizophrenia in Romanian: Schizofrenie
schizophrenia in Quechua: Waq'akay
schizophrenia in Russian: Шизофрения
schizophrenia in Simple English: Schizophrenia
schizophrenia in Slovak: Schizofrénia
schizophrenia in Slovenian: Shizofrenija
schizophrenia in Serbian: Схизофренија
schizophrenia in Serbo-Croatian: Shizofrenija
schizophrenia in Finnish: Skitsofrenia
schizophrenia in Swedish: Schizofreni
schizophrenia in Turkish: Şizofreni
schizophrenia in Ukrainian: Шизофренія
schizophrenia in Urdu: انفصام
schizophrenia in Chinese: 精神分裂症

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

alternating personality, brain disease, catatonia, catatonic schizophrenia, crack-up, dementia praecox, depersonalization, disconnection, dissociation, dissociation of personality, double personality, dual personality, emotional disorder, emotional dissociation, emotional instability, functional nervous disorder, hebephrenia, hebephrenic schizophrenia, insanity, maladjustment, manic-depressive psychosis, melancholia, mental disorder, mental dissociation, mental illness, multiple personality, nervous breakdown, nervous disorder, neurosis, paranoia, paranoid personality, paranoid psychosis, paraphrenia, personality disorder, personality disorganization, problems in living, psychosis, reaction, schizoid personality, schizoidism, schizothymia, social maladjustment, split personality
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