MentalHelp independently researches, tests, and reviews products and services which may benefit our readers. Where indicated by “Medically Reviewed by”, Healthcare professionals review articles for medical accuracy. If you buy something through our links, or engage with a provider, we may earn a commission.
What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that affects the way an individual thinks and behaves. People with this disorder sometimes appear as if they've become disconnected from reality, increasing stress for family members and friends. (1) Schizophrenia also makes it difficult to work and perform other daily activities, which means spouses, parents, or other family members may have to provide financial support or take on a larger share of the household chores.
Schizophrenia is much less common than other mental health conditions, affecting only 0.32% of the global population as of 2022. (2) In contrast, approximately 5% of all adults have clinical depression. (3) Early treatment offers the best chance of recovery, but schizophrenia is difficult to diagnose, which sometimes leads to treatment delays. No definitive test is available for the disorder, and other medical or mental health conditions may cause the symptoms. (4)
The social stigma of schizophrenia also discourages some people from seeking a diagnosis or getting treatment. This type of stigma typically develops due to inaccurate beliefs or negative attitudes about schizophrenia and the people who have it. (5) Due to social stigma, people with this disorder may isolate themselves from loved ones and avoid shopping for groceries, going to the doctor, or participating in other activities. (6)
THURSDAY, Dec. 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Improper drug treatment is given to nearly 40 percent of people who suffer their first episode of schizophrenia, according to a new study.
Because schizophrenia is typically a chronic illness, early treatment can have an effect on a patient's long-term outcome, the researchers... Read More
THURSDAY, Sept. 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A blood test may help identify people at risk for psychosis, a new study suggests.
Psychosis, which includes hallucinations or delusions, is caused by severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia, according to background information from the study.
Researchers evaluated the experimental blood... Read More
FRIDAY, Sept. 12, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- New research involving stem cells may provide clues about the chemical basis for schizophrenia, scientists report.
Brain cells of people with this chronic and disabling brain disorder give off higher amounts of three neurotransmitters linked to a range of psychiatric disorders, researchers found... Read More
During the early 1960’s, psychologist David Rosenhan conducted a landmark study in which he had eight pseudo or pretend patients signed themselves into the psychiatric wards of hospitals across... Read More
View Comic Strip 68.
I have some exciting news to announce – Asylum Squad is going to be adapted to film! Dramatic Detour Productions’ Eleanore Lindo will be directing, and... Read More
What Causes Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia develops due to chemical imbalances in the brain, along with other brain changes. (7) Researchers don't know exactly what causes these changes, but it's likely that genetic variation plays a role. Genes AKT1, COMT, and YWHAE may be involved in the development of this mental health condition. (8)
AKT1 plays a role in making an enzyme called AKT1 kinase, which is involved in the development of the nervous system. (9) This gene may also help nerve cells communicate with each other. The COMT gene plays a role in producing catechol-O-methyltransferase, an enzyme that helps break down neurotransmitters, or molecules that carry messages from nerve cells to other cells. (10) Variations in COMT may affect the amount of catechol-O-methyltransferase in the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in regulating social behavior and helping people express their personalities. YWHAE plays a role in producing the 14-3-3 epsilon protein, which is necessary for normal brain development. (11)
Variations in any of these genes may interfere with brain development or nervous system functioning, increasing the risk for schizophrenia and other mental health conditions. The family environment may also play a role in the severity of an individual's symptoms. (12)
What Are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia? Signs to Know.
Psychotic symptoms affect thinking and behavior. They also distort the way someone with schizophrenia experiences the world, making it appear as if the individual is no longer connected to reality. Some of the most common psychotic indicators include delusions, hallucinations, abnormal body movements, and illogical thinking.
This disorder also interferes with an individual's cognition, or their ability to acquire new knowledge and apply it. Cognitive symptoms may make it difficult for someone with schizophrenia to carry on a logical conversation, learn new skills, or remember to attend appointments. Some people have difficulty paying attention or making decisions.
Negative symptoms interfere with the ability to maintain social relationships, display appropriate emotions, and function typically. Some of the negative signs of schizophrenia include having difficulty planning and carrying out activities, speaking in a monotonous way, avoiding social interaction, having difficulty experiencing pleasure, and not making appropriate facial expressions while interacting with other people.
People with paranoid schizophrenia experience paranoia in addition to their other symptoms. This term refers to intense thoughts or feelings related to persecution, conspiracies, or threats. (13) Someone with paranoia may be extremely distrustful of others or have an intense fear of being tricked.
Am I Schizophrenic? How Is Schizophrenia Diagnosed?
The first step in getting diagnosed is to have a thorough physical examination. (14) This exam may include blood or urine tests to help rule out a physical cause for the individual's symptoms. It's also important for a licensed clinician to review the individual's medical history, determine if any immediate family members have a history of mental illness, and ask detailed questions about the individual's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. If necessary, the health care provider may also order an MRI or other tests to check the structure and function of the brain.
What Is the Best Treatment for Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia treatment usually consists of medications and psychosocial interventions. Some people take oral antipsychotics, while others receive long-acting injections every two to four weeks. (15) Psychosocial interventions may include social skills training, vocational rehabilitation, individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy. Social skills training and vocational rehabilitation may make it easier for someone with this disorder to maintain employment and build positive relationships with others. When combined with medications, therapy can help people with schizophrenia change their behavior.
How to Cope with a Schizophrenia Diagnosis
Stress increases the risk of a psychotic episode, so one of the best ways to cope with a schizophrenia diagnosis is to create a routine that includes some type of stress relief. (16) Meditation, aromatherapy, deep breathing, and yoga all reduce stress and make it easier to focus. It's also important to stick with a treatment plan, even if it doesn't seem to be working right away. For people who have memory problems as a result of schizophrenia, pill organizers and medication reminder apps are helpful for taking medications as prescribed.
How to Help Someone with Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia often interferes with a person's ability to form and maintain positive relationships. Therefore, it's important for loved ones to keep the lines of communication open. Simply offering assistance can help someone with schizophrenia feel more connected to the people around them. (17) People with this condition may also experience hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia. When these symptoms occur, family members and friends should avoid arguing, getting angry, or using judgmental language. If possible, have important discussions in a calm, quiet place to avoid overwhelming the other person.