What Exactly Is Schizophrenia?

Reviewed on 1/26/2022

Multifaceted image of a woman with mental illness
Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that can cause the person to lose touch with reality. Symptoms may include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking or speech, lack of emotional display, not moving or speaking much, lack of basic hygiene, and others.

Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People who have schizophrenia can lose touch with reality and see or hear things that aren't there, believe things that aren't true, and/or not display emotions. 

It is considered a type of mood disorder that affects fewer than one percent of the U.S. population. 

Schizophrenia is not the same as split personality or multiple-personality disorder, and most people with schizophrenia are no more violent or dangerous than people who do not have schizophrenia in the general population. 

What Are Symptoms of Schizophrenia?

Symptoms of schizophrenia may include:

  • Abnormal behaviors that occur due to schizophrenia (psychotic manifestations called “positive symptoms”)
    • Hallucinations
    • Delusions
    • Disorganized thinking or speech 
  • Normal behaviors that stop due to schizophrenia, called “negative symptoms”
    • Lack of emotional display or display of facial expressions (“flat affect”)
    • Reduced motivation 
    • Not moving or speaking much
    • Lack of basic hygiene
    • No interest in being with others or doing things that once were enjoyable
    • Difficulty planning, starting, and sustaining activities
  • Cognitive symptoms that affect thinking and memory, such as difficulty with:
    • Learning and remembering
    • Problem solving
    • Making decisions
    • Making sense of new information
    • Focusing or paying attention
    • Understanding speech or other types of communication
  • Emotional symptoms

How Is Schizophrenia Diagnosed?

Schizophrenia is diagnosed by a mental health professional when a person has two or more of the following symptoms occurring persistently along with reduced functioning:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Negative symptoms
  • Disorganized speech
  • Disorganized or catatonic behavior

Tests may sometimes be performed to rule out other psychiatric diagnoses such as bipolar disorder, brain tumors, or other medical conditions that may cause similar symptoms.

What Is the Treatment for Schizophrenia?

Treatment for schizophrenia includes medications combined with counseling and support to manage the illness and improve quality of life.

Antipsychotics are the main types of medications used to treat schizophrenia. Patients usually need to take these drugs for the rest of their lives. 

Antipsychotics can cause unpleasant side effects and many patients stop taking them as a result. 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. Never stop taking a prescribed medication without first talking to your doctor.

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


Schizophrenia: Symptoms, Types, Causes, Treatment See Slideshow

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Reviewed on 1/26/2022
Image Source: iStock Images