Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling disease of the brain. The causes remain unclear but approximately 1.5 percent of the population will develop schizophrenia during their lifetime. Because it has been misunderstood for so long, it has received relatively little attention or funding and victims have been undeservedly stigmatized. Like cancer or diabetes, schizophrenia has a biological basis and is not a personal weakness.
Although schizophrenia affects men and women with equal frequency, the disorder often appears earlier in men, usually in the late teens or early twenties, than in women, who are generally affected in the twenties to early thirties. People with schizophrenia often suffer terrifying symptoms such as hearing internal voices not heard by others, or believing that other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. These symptoms may leave them fearful and withdrawn. Their speech and behavior can be so disorganized that they may be incomprehensible or frightening to others.
While there is currently no known cure for schizophrenia, it is a very treatable disease. Most will respond to drug therapy and many will lead productive and fulfilling lives.