Psychosis is a syndrome characterised by the presence of symptoms where people have difficulty determining reality because of their experience of false perceptions (hallucinations), false beliefs (delusions) and disorganised thinking. It affects approximately 1 in 30 people at some point in their life.
Schizophrenia is a low prevalence disorder affecting less than 1% of people. It is a persistent psychotic disorder where illness and impairment are present for at least 6 months. In addition to the psychotic symptoms, there are frequently problems with mood symptoms (depression or mania), impairment in memory, problem solving, motivation and social skills. The psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia most commonly arise between the ages of 15 and 25 years although for many there are subtle changes in the development of speech, cognition and behaviour that are evident from very early ages. For others, the onset is rapid and occurs without any indicators of risk.
The course of psychosis and schizophrenia are highly variable ranging from people being minimally affected and completely recovering with treatment through to those who remain severely unwell despite the most comprehensive care. For these reasons, it is recognised that psychosis and schizophrenia are not single illnesses but rather syndromes which have many causes and require more specific therapies as the causes and the underlying changes in the brain are better understood.
Our research is identifying environmental and genetic risk factors for psychosis and schizophrenia, examining the neurobiological changes that occur in people with these syndromes and trialling new treatments to prevent the onset of psychosis as well as to reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia. This research is essential to improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Australians who are currently living with psychosis.