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Definition

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

Regions of the Brain
Colored brain segments

Schizophrenia affects many areas of the brain.

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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 symptoms and physical and mental health past. 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. Antipsychotic medicine is the main form of treatment. The exact choice of medicine can be adjusted for each persons needs. Some are taken by mouth, others can be given as a long term injection. Other steps that may help include:

  • Support program to address concerns like such as social skills training, family therapy, and support groups
  • Crisis management plan—to help identify signs of recurrence and have support ready to help
  • Hospitalization for severe symptoms
  • Regular exercise and yoga

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 schizophrenia. 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 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 02/19/2021