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Schizophrenia is a lifelong mental health problem. People with it may have a hard time knowing what is real and what is not (psychosis). Reality is distorted by hearing voices not heard by others, or believing that other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. These symptoms may leave them afraid and withdrawn. People with schizophrenia can also have disorganized speech and behavior, a hard time with emotions, lack of interest, and problems with day to day tasks. Despite this, many people can live full lives with proper, ongoing treatment.

Schizophrenia can cause disability in those who have it. For some, it can be severe. About 1 in 10 people get schizophrenia during their lifetime. It starts in men in the late teens to early 20s. But in women it can start in their 20s to early 30s.

The exact cause is not known. Problems with brain structure and chemistry are thought to play a role. There may also be a link to certain genes, but it is not caused by one gene. Schizophrenia may run in families. Other things, such as problems during pregnancy (from your mother), or abuse as a child may also be factors.

Having schizophrenia leads to a higher risk of suicide, self-harm, and substance abuse. It also causes problems with keeping a job and can lead to homelessness or jail. Other mental health problems, such as Obsessive-compulsive disorder, are common with schizophrenia.


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Schizophrenia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated November 29, 2018. Accessed August 13, 2019.

Schizophrenia. Mental Health America website. Available at: Accessed August 13, 2019.

Schizophrenia. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: Updated February 2016. Accessed August 13, 2019.

Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 8/13/2019