Defining Schizophrenia

Edited by Dwight L. Evans, Edna B. Foa, Raquel E. Gur, Herbert Hendin, Charles P. O'Brien, Martin E.P. Seligman and B. Timothy Walsh

in Treating and Preventing Adolescent Mental Health Disorders

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780195173642
Published online August 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199951024 | DOI:

Series: Adolescent Mental Health Initiative

 Defining Schizophrenia

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  • Psychiatry
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Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder with a typical onset in adolescence and early adulthood and a lifetime prevalence of about 1%. On average, males have their illness onset 3 to 4 years earlier than females. Onset of schizophrenia is very rare before age 11, and prior to age 18 the illness has been called “earlyonset schizophrenia” (EOS), while onset before age 13 has been termed “very early-onset schizophrenia” (VEOS). Prior to examining topics in schizophrenia, we must address a basic question as to the definition of adolescents and adults. The way these groups will be defined is partly related to the question being asked. That is, research studies that emphasize the study of neural development or finding links between endocrine changes and onset of schizophrenia are likely to place more emphasis on defining adolescence in terms of body or brain maturation. For example, adolescence could be defined as the period between the onset and offset of puberty. Alternatively, it could be defined on the basis of our current knowledge of brain development, which suggests that maturational processes accelerate around the time of puberty but that they continue on into what is often considered young adulthood. Most recent studies of normal brain development suggest that brain maturation continues to the early 20s. If this rather extended definition of adolescence is used, then the appropriate adult contrast groups are likely to be somewhat older–people in their late 20s, 30s, or even 40s.

Under the general rubric of phenomenology, four major topics need to be considered as we explore the relevance of research on adults to the understanding of adolescents. These four topics are diagnostic criteria, phenomenology, the relationship of phenomenology to neural mechanisms, and the use of phenomenology to assist in identifying the phenotype for genetic studies.

Chapter.  18239 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Psychiatry ; Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

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