Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. If you have schizophrenia, you may lose touch with reality and see or hear things that aren't there, believe things that aren't true, and/or not display emotions.
You may be schizophrenic if you have certain signs and symptoms that are characteristic of schizophrenia, such as:
- Abnormal behaviors that occur (psychotic manifestations called “positive symptoms”)
- Hallucinations: You may hear, see, feel, smell, or taste things that aren't there
- Delusions: You may be paranoid, believe things that are untrue, or have irrational fears
- Disorganized thinking or speech
- Normal behaviors that stop (called “negative symptoms”)
- You may lack emotional displays or not show facial expressions (“flat affect”)
- You may not move or speak much
- You may lack of basic hygiene
- You have no interest in spending time with others or doing things that once were enjoyable
- You have decreased motivation
- You experience difficulty planning, starting, and sustaining activities
- Cognitive symptoms affecting thinking and memory
- You may have problems with:
- Learning and remembering
- Making sense of new information
- Solving problems
- Focusing or paying attention
- Decision making
- Understanding speech or other types of communication
- You may have problems with:
- Emotional symptoms
How Is Schizophrenia Diagnosed?
Schizophrenia is diagnosed with an assessment by a mental health professional. A diagnosis of schizophrenia is made when a person has two or more of the following symptoms occurring persistently along with reduced functioning:
- Negative symptoms
- Disorganized speech
- Disorganized or catatonic behavior
In some cases, tests may be performed to rule out other psychiatric diagnoses such as bipolar disorder, brain tumors, or other medical conditions that may be responsible for the symptoms.
What Is the Treatment for Schizophrenia?
Treatment for schizophrenia includes medications combined with counseling and support.
The main types of medications used to treat schizophrenia are antipsychotics. Patients typically must take these drugs for the rest of their lives.
Antipsychotics can cause unpleasant side effects and many patients stop taking them as a result. Never stop taking a prescribed medication without first talking to your doctor. It may be possible to change the dosage or regimen, or switch to a different medication to find one that works best for you and also minimize side effects. It usually takes several attempts with different medications to find the right one for each individual patient.
Counseling and other support for schizophrenia includes:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Cognitive remediation interventions to help address the negative and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia
- Behavioral skills training
- Supported employment
- Family education and support programs
- Coordinated specialty care (CSC), which is recovery-oriented treatment programs for people with first episode psychosis, an early stage of schizophrenia
- Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) for individuals with schizophrenia who are at risk for repeated hospitalizations or homelessness