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What is schizophrenia?

The purpose of this scenario is to provide basic information about schizophrenia.

My relative was diagnosed with schizophrenia. What is schizophrenia?  How does a doctor know someone has schizophrenia? Is schizophrenia different than schizoaffective disorder? When we spoke with the doctor, he used a lot of medical jargon and spent very little time with us. Who gets schizophrenia? What causes schizophrenia? Did my relative get schizophrenia because of something we did wrong? The doctor said that the strange behaviors my relative had when they got sick were symptoms of a psychotic episode.

The doctor mentioned that symptoms of schizophrenia include delusions, hallucinations, problems with thinking, low motivation and disconnected talking. Should we be concerned about them becoming suicidal or violent?

The doctors prescribed medications for their illness called anti-psychotics, or neuroleptics. How do these medications work? Will the medications cure my relative? Do these medications have any side effects?  How do we know if this is the best treatment for my relative? How long will it be before they are back to normal again?