schizophrenia, schizophrenic

A severe and chronic mental illness characterized by distorted recognition and interpretations of reality, affecting how an individual thinks, feels and acts, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Common symptoms include visual and auditory hallucinations, delusional and disordered thinking, unresponsiveness, a lack of pleasure in daily life and other social issues. It does not involve split personalities. Less than 1 percent of the general population has schizophrenia, and it is treated mostly through the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Avoid using schizophrenic as an adjective, but rather refer to a person as diagnosed with schizophrenia or living with schizophrenia. Also avoid using the term for nonpsychiatric conditions, such as a rapidly changing situation or an indecisive person. Similar guidelines apply to words like psychotic, bipolar, anorexic and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).

Refer to someone as having schizophrenia only if the information is relevant to the story and if the person has been formally diagnosed by a licensed medical professional. Use people-first language, stating that someone is a person with schizophrenia or a person diagnosed with schizophrenia rather than a schizophrenic or a schizophrenic person. Do not use the word schizophrenic colloquially as a synonym for something inconsistent or contradictory.


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