Schizophrenia is a serious brain disorder that distorts the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, perceives reality, and relates to others. People with schizophrenia -- the most chronic and disabling of the major mental illnesses -- often have problems functioning in society, at work and at school, and in relationships. Schizophrenia can leave its sufferer frightened and withdrawn. It is a lifelong disease that cannot be cured but usually can be controlled with proper treatment.
Contrary to popular belief, a person with schizophrenia does not a split personality. Schizophrenia is a psychosis, a type of mental illness in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. At times, people with psychotic disorders lose touch with reality. The world may seem like a jumble of confusing ideas, images, and sounds. The behavior of people with schizophrenia may be very strange and even shocking. A sudden change in personality and behavior, which occurs when people lose touch with reality, is called a psychotic episode.
Schizophrenia varies in severity from person to person. Some people have only one psychotic episode that fully resolves, which isn't considered true schizophrenia, while others have many episodes during a lifetime but lead relatively normal lives between episodes. Schizophrenia symptoms can worsen and improve in cycles known as relapses and remissions.