Schizophrenia is a psychotic illness that, in its active phase, includes delusions, hallucinations, and disruption of thinking, feeling, and many other mental functions. Many cases run a chronic course, leaving residual psychiatric symptoms and impaired social functioning, in respect of relationships, study, and work. On the positive side, however, the illness appears to be getting less frequent and milder, with severe 'classic' features of the disease such as catatonia (see below) now rare in the UK.

A patient with an acute episode is the general public's idea of a 'mad' person, and probably as a consequence, schizophrenia is often considered the most serious of all psychiatric conditions. It has gained more public prominence in recent years, since patients who would once have spent their lives in the old 'asylum' mental hospitals now live in the community. 'Care in the community' has generally been a success, but a few problem cases (for example, the tragic death of Jonathan Zito: have tended to make the public think the opposite.

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