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Health ZONE: SCHIZOPHRENIA - THE FACTS.

SCHIZOPHRENIA affects one in a 100 people at some point in their lives. Both men and women can develop it. Men tend to show symptoms in their teens or early 20s and women a few years later.

Common symptoms include hallucinations, delusions that you're someone famous or people are out to get you, apathy, depression, confused thinking, poor concentration and speech and inappropriate emotional responses, such as laughing at sad situations.

According to Paul Corry, spokesman for the National Schizophrenia Fellowship, violence is not a symptom of the illness.

"People with schizophrenia are far more likely to harm themselves than be violent towards the public," he says. "Statistics show that a person with schizophrenia is 100 times more likely to kill themselves than someone else."

Another common misconception is that schizophrenia is a split personality. "A schizophrenic has a breakdown of communication between different parts of their brain," explains Paul. "The activity of chemical messengers at certain nerve endings in the brain is unusual."

Nobody knows exactly what causes the illness and it's thought that it can be triggered by factors such as stress, bereavement or drug experimentation.

Some schizophrenics have larger spaces in particular parts of their brains which could suggest abnormal development in infancy.

"Although schizophrenia can't be cured, it can be treated and most people live ordinary lives," says Paul. "Medication can help to relieve symptoms, but people with schizophrenia need practical care from family, friends and employers."

About 25 per cent of people with schizophrenia experience just one episode in their lives, then make a full recovery. Half continue to experience symptoms, often at infrequent intervals. A further 25 per cent have a chronic form, with symptoms frequently present. And one in 10 people with schizophrenia die an unnatural death, usually suicide.

Where to go for help

- National Schizophrenia Fellowship Advice Service - 020 8974 6814. This is manned 10am-3pm, Monday to Friday, or e-mail them at advice@nsf.org.uk

- Mind Helpline - 08457 660 163

- The Samaritans - 08457 909090

- Sane - 08457 7678000
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 21, 2002
Words:336
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