Described 100 years ago, schizophrenia remains one of the most mysterious psychiatric illnesses and one of the most costly; not only for society (around 15 billion euros in France) but in terms of suffering for the patient, his/her family and loved ones.
Common symptoms are delusions, visual or audio hallucinations, thought and affect disturbances, as well as attention and memory deficits over an extended period (at least 6 months). This disorder is chronic and can lead to serious cognitive and social impairment.
The onset of schizophrenia usually occurs during adolescence or early adulthood. The average delay in diagnosis is more than 5 years which leads to serious consequences because of inappropriate treatment, associated illness that go untreated or are inadequately treated and an increased risk of suicide. WHO classifies schizophrenia as one of the ten most debilitating illnesses. It is a major factor of de-socialisation and employment insecurity and the average life expectancy of patients is ten years less than that of the general population. 40% of people that suffer from schizophrenia attempt suicide and 10% succeed.
Schizophrenia is a complex disorder, apparently caused by a number of different factors. As with bipolar disorder, current research explores the interaction of these different factors (genetic, neuro-biochemical, neuro-developmental, socio- environmental and psychological).
At present, the progression of the illness and the quality of life of patients depend largely on the quality of psychosocial support, access to care and adherence to treatments proposed. Early diagnosis and new antipsychotic medication, reduced long-term hospitalisation and improved psychiatric assistance, favourably alter the long-term course of schizophrenia. Psycho social treatment such as psycho-education, cognitive remediation, cognitive behaviour therapies are also of great importance to improve the prognosis.
What is schizophrenia? by Pr Pierre-Michel Lorca (in french)
Ongoing FondaMental research
Expert Centres: Diagnostic platforms
Psychoeducation: Help patients and their families deal with the illness