Can you imagine finding out one's best friend is not real? She is just a figment of one's imagination. About one in every hundred people get this problem or something very similar. It is a disorder called schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is defined as a group of psychotic disorders characterized by disturbances in thought, perception, affect, behavior, and communication lasting longer than six months. The word comes from the Greek words meaning "split" and "mind." Even though they do not have split personalities, they use this word to refer to the way schizophrenics split off from reality. Schizophrenics are not able to tell the difference between what is real and what is their imagination.
The exact cause of schizophrenia is not known. Scientists do know that genetics play some role in the cause but that is not the total reason. They can tell this by twin studies. There have been causes where only one of the identical twins has schizophrenia. They would both have the disorder if genetics were the only factor.
Other factors may include the environment in which the person is living. Family stress, poor social interactions, infections, viruses, or trauma at an early age could cause the development of schizophrenia. With certain combinations of environmental factors and genetic make up schizophrenia occurs.
Studies are also looking at neurotransmitters in the process of developing schizophrenia. Most studies have been concentrated on dopamine. Some scientists have a theory that schizophrenia is caused by an overactive dopamine system in the brain. There is evidence to support and contradict this.
There are many theories about the causes of schizophrenia. Scientists are still not sure of the main reasons but are working diligently to find help with this problem. Many families are separated because of members of the family are hurting with schizophrenia. Once scientists are sure of the reasons they can work with the patients to find the best treatment.