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Powerful Atypical Antipsychotics Used to Treat Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Autism

Genetically, schizophrenia has a lot in common with bipolar disorder, and some genetic similarities to autism. All three conditions respond to antipsychotic medications, making antipschotics the top-selling class of prescription drugs in the US.

Schizophrenia is a severe, disabling mental illness characterized by disruptions in thinking and emotional responses. Sufferers often experience psychosis a disconnection from reality characterized by delusions, hallucinations and disordered thinking. Schizophrenia affects about one percent of the population, or 2 million Americans. Typically, the illness strike males in late adolescence or early adulthood, and females in their late twenties or early thirties. There are five main types of schizophrenia:

1) Paranoid schizophrenia characterized by suspicion, and hallucinations and delusions of being persecuted.

2) Disorganized schizophrenia involves incoherent and disorganized speech, emotions and behavior.

3) Catatonic schizophrenia symptoms include extreme withdrawal and lethargy - even stupor, or the opposite extreme of agitation and abnormal purposeless movement. They may also repeat what others do and say.

4) Undifferentiated schizophrenia involves psychosis and meets the general criteria for the illness, but does not fall clearly into the first three subsets.

5) Residual schizophrenia less severe or no active symptoms, but the person still exhibits a lack of motivation and interest in life.

Schizophrenia is often described in terms of positive and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms are symptoms that are present in schizophrenia that are not present in the average population, such as delusions, hallucinations and disordered thinking. Negative symptoms are symptoms that are present in the average population, but are often absent in schizophrenia, such as "normal" speech patterns, activity and motivation levels, and the ability to take pleasure in life and interact with others.

Scientists are still baffled by the causes of schizophrenia, but are convinced that it arises from a complex interaction of genetic, environmental and psychological factors. Oddly, the illness is more common in people born in the winter or spring. Researchers have also uncovered a connection between prenatal exposure to infection and schizophrenia. Genetically, the disease has a lot in common with bipolar disorder, which can also involve episodes of psychosis. There also appears to be genetic similarities between schizophrenia and autism.

Antipsychotic medications are the first line of treatment for psychosis in both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and are increasingly used to treat non-psychotic disorders such as Tourette syndrome, anxiety and even autism. As a result, antipsychotic drugs are the most commonly prescribed class of drugs in the United States, with sales of $14.6 billion in 2009. Antipsychotic medications are believed to act by blocking the chemical receptors in the brain normally linked by the chemical nerve messenger dopamine, and are classified into two groups, the first generation typical antipsychotics, and the second generation atypical antipsychotics.

Antipsychotics are powerful drugs, and antipsychotic side effects tend to be troubling. Fortunately, the newer atypical antipsychotics such as Seroquel or Abilify are safer and better tolerated. Atypical antipsychotics are expensive, but cheaper yet chemically identical generic Seroquel (quetiapine) and generic Abilify (aripipozole) are now available. Common Abilify and Seroquel side effects such as weight gain, drowsiness, sexual dysfunction and constipation can often be addressed by changing the dose of the medication, switching antipsychotic medicationsArticle Search, or taking an additional medication to treat the side effect.

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Lynn Woods researches and writes about medications, and feels strongly that everyone should have access to affordable medicine. She recommends the online Canadian pharmacyBig Mountain Drugs as an economical source of Seroquel 25 mg, generic Seroquel, Abilify 10 mg and generic Abilify.

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