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Resource Library Glossary

Key Definitions

The following are definitions associated with mental health care. Information sources include the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

What is Schizophrenia

With any condition, a comprehensive medical evaluation is essential in order to obtain the best diagnosis. For a diagnosis of schizophrenia, some of the following symptoms are present in the context of reduced functioning for at least six months:

Hallucinations: These include a person hearing voices, seeing things or smelling things others cannot perceive. An hallucination is very real to the person experiencing it, and it may be very confusing for a loved one to witness. The voices in the hallucination may be critical or threatening. Voices may involve people who are known or unknown to the person hearing them.

Delusions: These are false beliefs that do not change even when the person who holds them is presented with new ideas or facts. People who have delusions often also have problems concentrating, confused thinking or the sense that their thoughts are blocked.

Negative symptoms are ones that diminish a person’s abilities. Negative symptoms often include being emotionally flat or speaking in a dull, disconnected way. People with negative symptoms may be unable to start or follow through with activities, show little interest in life or sustain relationships. Negative symptoms are sometimes confused with clinical depression.

Cognitive issues/disorganized thinking: People with the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia often struggle to remember things, organize their thoughts or complete tasks. Commonly, people with schizophrenia have ansognosia or “lack of insight.” This means the person is unaware that he or she has the illness, which can make treating or working with him or her much more challenging.

Treatment helps relieve many symptoms of schizophrenia, but most people who have the disorder cope with symptoms throughout their lives. However, many people with schizophrenia can lead rewarding and meaningful lives in their communities. Researchers are developing more effective medications and using new research tools to understand the causes of schizophrenia. In the years to come, this work may help prevent and better treat the illness.

Learn more at: http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Schizophrenia

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