Schizophrenia is one of the most common serious psychiatric illnesses. It affects one percent of the general population. This is a socially and financially devastating disease that robs people of their most productive years of life. Schizophrenia still continues to be one of the most complex, puzzling and disabling of the major mental illnesses. .
Most symptoms develop in men around the age of sixteen and twenty-five years old, and around twenty-five to thirty years old in women. Schizophrenia rarely develops in children and most schizophrenics appear to have a normal childhood. .
A delusion, which is a false belief that defies logic and common sense, is a common symptom of schizophrenia. The person thinks someone is watching them constantly or they think people can read their mind. Hallucinations, hearing, seeing or sensing something that isn't there, are another common symptom of schizophrenia. Some people experience heightened senses, which is hypersensitivity of sense that leads to visual distortions. Others experience auditory hallucinations. They sometimes carry on conversations or are told to do things by one or may voices that are not there. Very rarely, but still as devastating, some experience visual hallucinations or smell odd smells coming from themselves. (Young, 67-68) More that 300,000 adults in this country are unable to distinguish their imaginations from reality (Cookson). .
In the 1700's and the 1800's, before much was known about mental diseases, schizophrenia was thought of as witchcraft (Nichols). Anyone who displayed signs of this .
disease was thought to have been possessed. The Puritans believed "distraction", as they called it, was either possession by the devil, or punishment for sins. Yet, the strange behavior of those afflicted was looked upon with tolerance. Through much of the 1700's, family or friends were expected to take care of the mentally ill.