Schizophrenia (pronounced skit-suh-FREH-nee-uh) is a psychotic disorder or group of psychotic disorders that cause a patient to lose touch with reality. It is marked by severely impaired reasoning and emotional instability and can cause violent behavior.

Schizophrenic patients are often unable to make sense of the signals they receive from the world around them. They imagine objects and events to be very different from what they really are. If untreated, most people with schizophrenia gradually withdraw from the outside world.

Exactly what schizophrenia is has been the source of considerable disagreement among psychiatrists (doctors who deal with mental disorders). There is some thought that the disease psychiatrists call schizophrenia is actually a number of different conditions classified under a single heading.

Paranoid Schizophrenia

Patients diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia tend to suffer from delusions and hallucinations. A delusion is a belief about the world that is not consistent with the facts. For instance, a patient may believe he or she is someone other than who he or she really is. A patient suffering from a paranoid delusion may believe, unrealistically, that someone intends to do the patient harm.

Hallucinations often take the form of hearing imaginary voices and a patient may believe that he or she is receiving messages from a supernatural or unknown source.

Although people with paranoid schizophrenia have relatively normal emotions and cognitive (thinking) functions, compared to those who suffer other forms of schizophrenia, their delusions and hallucinations, put them at high risk for violent or suicidal behavior.

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