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The splitting that the term schizophrenia("split mind") refers to has nothing whatever to do with the completely distinct syndrome of so-called multiple personality. The medical illness of schizophrenia is the furthest thing possible from several distinct personalities, since the problem of the individual afflicted with schizophrenia is precisely that they cannot successfully maintain a single unified and integrated personality, but instead must struggle with an internal disorganization of the components of the mind such as thinking, feeling and willing.

Long known as dementia praecox(precocious or premature dementia) for its tendency to appear at a young age and result in serious mental impairment, schizophrenia is a global disorder of mental functioning that can cause confusion, inappropriate behavior, peculiar thoughts, delusions and hallucinations and a general reduction in the ability to function.

Some authorities believe that it is more accurate to speak of the schizophrenias, that is, of a group of related but nevertheless distinct disorders perhaps with different causes, different clinical manifestations, and different prognoses and responses to treatment.

Although there is general agreement today that schizophrenia is the result of abnormal brain functioning, the specific causes of such abnormal functioning have yet to be pinpointed with any certainty. Heredity appears to play a role in many but not all cases - and there is continuing interest in the possibility that at least some cases of schizophrenia may be the result of some kind of trauma to the developing nervous system either before or after birth. The notion that parents are somehow wholly to blame for the development of schizophrenia in a child, that schizophrenia is purely a psychological reaction to environmental stressors, while widely held in some quarters in the previous generation, has been discredited by modern research.

The first widely used anti-schizophrenic medication was Thorazine(chlorpromazine), which was found quite by accident to possess a specific ability to relieve such symptoms of schizophrenia as hallucinations, delusions, and disorganization of thinking and behavior. This made it possible for individuals with schizophrenia who previously required custodial hospitalization to live outside an institution for the first time in history. While Thorazine and its many successors and subsequent improvements are unfortunately not a complete cure for schizophrenia, and while such medications do not always provide equal relief of symptoms and improvement of functioning in every case, there is no doubt that the represent the first real advance in the treatment of what is very often the most serious and disabling of all of the mental illnesses, schizophrenia.

Medications alone are seldom the total solution to schizophrenia, the optimal treatment of which usually requires careful and sustained attention to the total psychological, physical and social health of the patient to provide the maximum possible symptom relief and restoration of functioning.

Recommended Books

Frequently Asked Questions About Psychiatry and Mental Health
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A Handbook for Families
Published by Health Canada in Co-operation with the Schizophrenia Society of Canada

Internet Mental Health - Schizophrenia
Diagnostic criteria, web resources, books and pamphlets.

Medline Plus - Schizophrenia
Articles, news, links from the National Library of Medicine.

National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill - Georgia Chapter
Help, information and support groups for families dealing with serious mental illness.

National Institute of Mental Health - Schizophrenia

Diagnosis, treatment, cause, prognosis.

Schizophrenia Resources schizophrenia site.

Treatment Advocacy Center
"The Treatment Advocacy Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating legal and clinical barriers to timely and humane treatment for Americans with severe brain disorders who are not receiving appropriate medical care.  Focusing on schizophrenia and manic-depressive illness (bipolar disorder), TAC works to prevent the devastating consequences of non-treatment: homelessness, suicide, victimization, worsening of symptoms, violence, and incarceration."
From the web site.