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12 Facts About Schizophrenia Psychiatrists Wish You Knew

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The misinformation about schizophrenia

“There is an unwarranted and unnecessary stigma surrounding mental illness, and especially schizophrenia,” Michael Birnbaum, MD, director of the Early Treatment Program at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York. “We’re sometimes fearful of things we don’t understand.” People often get their knowledge about the condition from movies or television shows. “Myths about schizophrenia are most likely perpetuated because fear sells,” says Philip Yanos, PhD, professor and director of Clinical Training at the Clinical Psychology Training Program John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and author of Written Off: Mental Health Stigma and the Loss of Human Potential.

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may feel like they have lost touch with reality, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Who is at risk?

Several factors can raise the risk, says the NIMH. It may run in families, though scientists also think that brain chemistry and structure play a role. Numerous environmental conditions can raise risk, explains Kim T. Mueser, PhD, a clinical psychologist, and professor of occupational therapy, psychological, and brain sciences at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University in Massachusetts. He’s also the co-author of The Complete Family Guide to Schizophrenia: Helping Your Loved One Get the Most Out of Life. Some environmental risks include negative childhood experiences, living in an urban area, poverty, and being a member of a minority, Dr. Mueser says. If an expecting mother smokes or misses out on proper nutrition during pregnancy, the child may have an increased risk of schizophrenia, he says; a father over 50 at conception also boosts risk. In addition, persistent marijuana use has been found to be a risk factor for developing schizophrenia, says Dr. Yanos.(Related: The Mental Health Issues Youre Most Likely to Get in Every Decade)

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