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Schizophrenia

Definition

Schizophrenia is a lasting mental health disorder. It causes problems with the way a person thinks, feels, and acts.

Causes

The cause is not clear. Genetic and environmental risk factors are thought to play a role.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Having family members with schizophrenia
  • Trauma during childhood, such as abuse, death of a parent, or bullying
  • Personal or family history of migration
  • Marijuana or other drug use
  • Having a father who is 55 years or older at the time of birth
  • Problems during pregnancy or birth

Symptoms

Symptoms usually start when a person is in their late teens to mid-30s. Schizophrenia is rare in children.

Problems begin slowly and worsen over time. They get in the way of relationships, school, and work. Common problems are:

  • Hearing things that are not there
  • Having strange beliefs that are not based in reality
  • Disorganized thinking, speech, and behavior
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Hopelessness
  • Flat speech and a lack of facial expression
  • Problems feeling pleasure

Diagnosis

A doctor will ask about your symptoms. You will also be asked about your physical and mental health history. A loved one or caregiver may be asked for this information if you cannot provide it. A physical exam will be done. A psychological exam may also be done. This may be enough to make the diagnosis.

Testing may be done to rule out other health problems with similar symptoms, such as substance use disorder and dementia.

Treatment

There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms and slow the disorder. Options may be:

  • Antipsychotic medicine to block certain chemicals in the brain
  • Exercise to improve overall health and mood
  • Counseling, such as social skills training, cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, and support groups

Prevention

There are no current guidelines to prevent schizophrenia. The exact cause is not known.

RESOURCES:

National Alliance on Mental Illness
https://www.nami.org

National Institute of Mental Health
https://www.nimh.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Psychiatric Association
https://www.cpa-apc.org

Mental Health Canada
http://www.mentalhealthcanada.com

REFERENCES:

Counseling therapies for shizophrenia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/management/counseling-therapies-for-schizophrenia. Accessed September 2, 2020.

Edmunds AL. Psychotic and Bipolar Disorders: Schizophrenia. FP Essent. 2017 Apr;455:11-17.

Help with schizophrenia. American Psychiatric Association website. Available at: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/schizophrenia. Accessed September 2, 2020.

Medications for schizophrenia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/management/medications-for-schizophrenia. Accessed September 2, 2020.

Schizophrenia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/schizophrenia. Accessed September 2, 2020.

Schizophrenia. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml. Accessed September 2, 2020.

Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 9/2/2020