Font Size


Schizophrenia Facts

  • Schizophrenia is a severe, chronic mental illness that affects about 1% of the population.
  • Schizophrenia is typically characterized by symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations, delusions, and/or disorganized speech and behavior.
  • The causes of schizophrenia are not known but likely include genetics (hereditary factors), neurodevelopmental and medical conditions, and drug abuse.
  • Schizophrenia is not related to multiple or split personalities, and people with schizophrenia do not tend to be violent.
  • Some people with schizophrenia are very successful and accomplished; however, many end up homeless.
  • Treatments for schizophrenia include antipsychotic medications and certain types of therapy.
  • A small number of people with schizophrenia may recover completely, but most have symptoms throughout their lives.

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and often disabling mental illness. It affects men and women with equal frequency. People suffering from schizophrenia have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Delusions: false beliefs held with conviction in spite of reason or evidence to the contrary, not explained by that person's cultural context
  • Hallucinations are sensory perceptions that occur in the absence of an actual external stimulus (for example, seeing or hearing something that no one else does and is not present). These can involve any of the senses: auditory (sound), visual (sight), tactile (touch), olfactory (smell), or gustatory (taste). Auditory hallucinations (hearing voice[s] or other sounds) are the most common type of hallucinations in people with schizophrenia.
  • Disorganized thought (often inferred by one's speech) and behavior

The term schizophrenia is derived from Greek and literally means "split mind." Despite this meaning of the word, schizophrenia is not related to multiple or split personalities, and people with schizophrenia do not have separate personalities. Multiple personality disorder (or split personality disorder, now formally known as dissociative identity disorder [DID]) is a controversial and uncommon condition that is not at all related to schizophrenia. Unfortunately, many people, even in the news, in movies, and on television, incorrectly use the term schizophrenia in this context.

Mental-health disorders are defined by specific diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM 5) used by mental-health practitioners. A diagnosis of schizophrenia and other mental-health disorders have fairly strict criteria for diagnosis. Time of onset as well as length and characteristics of symptoms are all factors in establishing a diagnosis. The active symptoms of schizophrenia must be present at least six months, or only one month if treated. Symptoms must include two of the following categories of symptoms (with at least one from the first three categories):

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganized speech (evidence of disorganized thought)
  • Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior
  • Negative symptoms (decreased emotional expression, reduced range of interest, avolition [lack of drive or motivation])

These symptoms must be causing a significant impairment in function at work, school, relationships, or self-care. The person's level of functioning is significantly below that present before symptoms started. To make the diagnosis, symptoms can't be better explained by a different diagnosis (for example, depression or bipolar disorder with psychosis, autism spectrum disorder, other medical conditions, or medications/substances [prescription or illicit drugs]).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2017
Medical Author:

Must Read Articles Related to Schizophrenia Health

Anxiety Anxiety as a medical condition is characterized ...learn more >>
Clinical Depression
Depression Health Depression is a mental illness that affects 19 million Americans annually. Causes are genetic, environmental, and biological. Symptoms and signs include weight ...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Schizophrenia:

Schizophrenia - Describe Your Experience

Please describe your experience with schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia - Symptoms

What are your schizophrenia symptoms? If a loved one has schizophrenia, please describe his/her symptoms.

Schizophrenia - Treatment

How is your schizophrenia being treated? If a loved one has schizophrenia, please describe the treatment for his/her schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia - Prognosis

What is your schizophrenia prognosis? If a loved one has schizophrenia, please discuss his/her prognosis.

Schizophrenia - Medications

What medications were prescribed for your schizophrenia? If a loved one has schizophrenia, please describe what medications he/she takes for schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia - Diagnosis

Please describe how your schizophrenia was diagnosed. If a loved one has schizophrenia, please discuss how his/her schizophrenia was diagnosed.

Schizophrenia - Type

What type of schizophrenia do you have?

Schizophrenia - Medication Complications

Have you experienced any complications or side effects from your schizophrenia medication? If a loved one has schizophrenia, please describe any medication complications he/she has experienced.

Read about causes of schizophrenia.

Causes of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is characterized by the following symptoms: disorganized speech, catatonic behavior, negative symptoms, delusions, and hallucinations. It is estimated that about 1% of the population suffers from schizophrenia. Though the causes of schizophrenia are unknown, environmental, genetic, medical conditions, and drug use are believed to be influential factors in the development of this chronic mental illness.

Medical Dictionary