Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness in which a person loses contact with reality (psychosis). A person with schizophrenia may have hallucinations (see or hear things that aren’t real) or believe unusual things that aren't true.
Schizophrenia isn't just unusual or odd behavior, it keeps people from living a normal life
People have problems at work, in their relationships with other people, or with taking care of themselves
If schizophrenia isn't treated, people may lose their job, lose touch with family or friends, or become homeless
Schizophrenia usually starts in the early to mid-20s for men and a little later for women—childhood schizophrenia is rare
Schizophrenia runs in families—it's more likely if a parent, brother, or sister has schizophrenia
Treatments include antipsychotic medicines, talking with a psychiatrist, and support from family and friends
Taking medicines regularly helps a lot with symptoms and the ability to function
Doctors think schizophrenia is caused by a problem with how the brain developed.
Doctors aren't sure exactly what causes the brain problem. However, schizophrenia is more likely if:
Schizophrenia isn't caused by poor parenting or a difficult childhood. However, bad and stressful things sometimes trigger schizophrenia in someone who's already at risk of it.
Schizophrenia may appear suddenly (in a few days or weeks) or slowly (over several years).
People with schizophrenia often have:
Delusions are beliefs that aren't true. But delusions in schizophrenia aren't like ordinary mistaken ideas. Lots of people believe things that others don't think are true. But in schizophrenia, people believe things even if there's strong evidence they're wrong or clearly unrealistic. For example, people may believe that:
Hallucinations are hearing, seeing, tasting, or physically feeling things that aren’t there. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination. The voices often say mean things about the person or give orders.
Other symptoms of schizophrenia include:
Schizophrenia isn't just unusual thinking and behavior. Schizophrenia causes symptoms severe enough to cause problems at home, at work, and with other people.
About 1 in 5 people with schizophrenia try to kill themselves, and many more have thought about it.
Although people with schizophrenia may have emotional outbursts and sometimes seem scary, they're only slightly more likely to be violent than other people.
There's no test for schizophrenia. Doctors diagnose schizophrenia based on the person's symptoms. The symptoms have to be:
Doctors may also do tests to check for other medical or drug problems that may be causing the behavior and need other types of treatment.
The sooner treatment is started, the better a person usually does. Treatments include: