‘One in every 200 population stands risk of getting the illness’

Schizophrenia is a mental illness wherein the individual fails to make difference between real and unreal experiences. This is called loss of reality touch by the mental health professionals. "Schizophrenics think abnormally and illogically. They believe that they are being persecuted and people are after their life," general secretary of the Indian Psychiatric Society and Superintendent of Government Hospital for Mental Care N.N. Raju said.

Both men and women are affected by schizophrenia one in every 200 population stands risk of getting the illness, he says. The risk increases to 40 in hundred if both parents have schizophrenia, he said on the eve of World Schizophrenia Day, underscoring the importance of family support for the treatment of the patients.

The problem usually starts in the adolescent stage and the highest incidence is between 15-25 years. It is rare in childhood and if at all it would start only after the age of five, he said.

What exactly causes this problem is not identified yet while genetic factor seems to be a major reason. There is a consensus on excess functioning of dopamine chemical-needed for communication between nerve cells-causing this problem. Disturbed family life and compromised psychosocial factors could also be the reasons, but the exact reason is yet to be found, he said.

No test can confirm schizophrenia and the expertise of the doctor detects and confirms the disease. The doctor makes a thorough enquiry of the family along with thorough observation for some days. Some psychological tests might help in doubtful cases, Dr. Raju said. “With early detection, proper treatment and better understanding can bring the person back to normalcy,” he points out.

“Support from the family and community is the key in good management. Unfortunately the knowledge even among the educated is sorely missing,” he said.

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