Schizophrenia can be a devastating mental illness. It causes an altered perception of reality and in severe cases, this may lead to significant loss of contact with reality, which can prevent the patient from functioning in everyday life and may also require hospitalisation. In most people with schizophrenia, symptoms start slowly with subtle warning signs and a gradual decline in functioning long before the first severe episode.
The significant effect on perception and blurring of the line between the real and the imaginary in schizophrenia makes it difficult for the person to negotiate the activities of daily life. This often causes the person to behave in a withdrawn manner from the outside world or act in a confused or bewildered way.
Consult a doctor if you (or any family or friend) have one or more of the early warning signs of schizophrenia. Having these symptoms does not mean that you have schizophrenia. Many other medical and psychological problems can cause similar symptoms. Your doctor can diagnose the cause of the symptoms and treat it. Fortunately, in most patients with schizophrenia, symptoms can be effectively controlled with treatments such as medication and psychosocial therapy. Response to treatment and prognosis is better if treatment is started in the early stages of illness. With early and appropriate treatment, many patients are able to lead independent and satisfying lives.
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