Overview Of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia Definition

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that can be caused by different circumstances.

People with schizophrenia struggle with symptoms like hallucinations and confusion about what is happening inside their minds.

Schizophrenia is usually considered a dangerous and scary disorder, but it is treatable and can be managed with the right commitment to therapy.

People tend to think of schizophrenia as a disorder that makes a person ‘crazy’, but this is not the case as long as you teach yourself about what schizophrenia is and how to cope with the symptoms.

Symptoms Of Schizophrenia

There are two categories of symptoms of schizophrenia.

Behavioral Symptoms

With behavioral symptoms you will experience psychotic and emotional issues.

Behavioral symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Dysfunctional ways of thinking
  • Restlessness or unusual mannerisms
  • Flat affect
  • Limited communication
  • Low interest in activities or interacting with others
  • Distractibility

Cognitive Symptoms

Cognitive symptoms will affect your ability to think and reason.

Cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Delusions
  • Poor information processing skills
  • Poor decision making skills
  • Learning and memory impairments
  • Paranoia
  • Impulsivity
  • Impaired motor function

Risk Factors Of Schizophrenia

Research has found many causes and risk factors for schizophrenia.

Onset for schizophrenia is typically in the early 20’s, but can occur in children as young as 3 years old.

Extensive research has been performed to understand the reasons why people develop schizophrenia. Many risk factors have been found to contribute to the onset of symptoms. The risk factors include:

  • Genetics – Research has found that there is a genetic component to schizophrenia. This means that schizophrenia tends to run in families. Research also suggests there are environmental factors that contribute to schizophrenia.
  • Upbringing – A person has an increased risk of schizophrenia if they were raised in an unstable, negligent or abusive environment.
For example

Many children who develop schizophrenia were malnourished as a result of neglect.

  • Birth Complications – People who had birth complications have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia.
  • Emotional Issues – A child is at risk for schizophrenia if he or she has behavioral or emotional issues that are not addressed by a professional.
Schizophrenia United States Map

What Causes Schizophrenia?

what is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that causes many scary experiences for patients. People with schizophrenia will have many different symptoms, like:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Depression

Schizophrenia is a very difficult disorder to cope with on a daily basis. It affects many areas of the patient’s life. Day to day activities and interpersonal relationships are negatively affected by symptoms. It is important to know if you are at risk for schizophrenia if you are experiencing symptoms. Typically, a person with schizophrenia will begin to show symptoms around age 19-25. However, there are cases of people showing symptoms as late as age 35 and as early as 5 years old. Professionals have identified several different causes for the onset of schizophrenia. There are genetic, biological, environmental, and neurological components to consider for diagnosis.

Brain Structure and Chemistry

Research has found evidence that the brain structure and chemistry is different in a person with schizophrenia. The differences found between a typical brain and a brain of a schizophrenic include:

  • An Enlarged Ventricle causes other areas of the brain to be compromised. This serves as a contributing factor to the psychotic features of schizophrenia.
For example

The thalamus is typically smaller as a result of the enlarged ventricle. The thalamus is responsible for receiving and interpreting sensory information.

  • An Imbalance of Dopamine – There is a dopamine imbalance that causes too much dopamine to be released. This results in psychotic symptoms.
  • Reduced Memory Function – Research has indicated that people with schizophrenia have reduced function of the memory centers of the brain. This reduced memory function contributes to the symptoms experienced by a schizophrenic patient.

Birth Complications

Birth complications are risk factors for schizophrenia. The following are common complications that have occurred with people with schizophrenia:

  • Exposure to infection during the prenatal stages or early infancy
  • Head trauma during birth or in early infancy
  • Low oxygen levels at birth
  • Abuse or neglect during infancy and/or childhood


There is also a genetic component to schizophrenia. It has been found that there is a hereditary predisposition to schizophrenia. This means that you are at risk for having schizophrenia if you have a direct family member who has it as well. Parents, grandparents, and siblings are considered direct family members. A person is 10% more likely to have schizophrenia if they have a direct family member who is diagnosed.

Substance Abuse

It has been found that the recreational use of illegal psychotropic drugs puts a person at risk. Psychotropic drugs affect thoughts and emotions. It also affects how the world is perceived and interpreted. Psychotropic drugs include:

  • LSD
  • cocaine
  • MDMA (ecstasy)
  • amphetamines
  • marijuana

There are many contributing factors for the onset of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a scary diagnosis. It takes courage to come to terms with the need to address symptoms. However, if left untreated schizophrenia can cause major life complications. It could even cause the patient to de-compensate, or lose touch with reality. It is important that you seek professional attention if you feel you may be suffering from schizophrenia. With treatment schizophrenia can be managed. If left untreated it could have serious consequences on your overall mental and physical health.

Warning Signs Of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a disorder that is scary for both the patient and those around them. It affects friends, family, peers, and in severe cases, the general public. People who are schizophrenic tend to have alarming behaviors and thoughts. Sometimes these behaviors and thoughts confuse and frighten others. This is especially the case for those who are not familiar with what it means to have schizophrenia.

Warning Signs of Schizophrenia

Typically while cases of schizophrenia are treatable, it will affect the lifestyle of the patient. If you know what warning signs to look out for you may be able to catch the symptoms early. By being able to identify the warning signs of schizophrenia you will be able to get help quickly. Here is a list of warning signs of schizophrenia:

Genetic Influence

There is a hereditary component to schizophrenia. Patients with schizophrenia typically have family members with schizophrenia. You are at risk if you have a parent, sibling, or grandparent who suffers from schizophrenia.

Social Withdrawal

Those who are showing early signs of schizophrenia will present with social withdrawal. This means the way the patients interact with others will change. They may:

  • Withdraw from friends and family
  • Begin canceling, forgetting about or failing to show up for plans
  • Show a lack of interest interacting with others
  • Be disengaged with conversations
  • Appear disinterested in maintaining relationships

Decline in Functioning

A patient with schizophrenia will show a decline in functioning. This can manifest in many different ways, like:

  • Change in mood or emotional expression
  • Flat affect
  • Decline in school or work performance and motivation
  • Cognitive decline
  • Poor hygiene (not showering, having an odor, not dressing presentably, etc.)
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Inability to express emotion
  • Change in sleep patterns: Sleeping a lot or not at all
  • Consistent or recurring state of confusion

Bizarre or Unpredictable Behavior

The most telling sign of schizophrenia is bizarre or unpredictable behavior. These behaviors will be out of the patient’s typical character. There are several bizarre behaviors that can be indicative of schizophrenia, including:

  • Paranoid thoughts or beliefs
  • Disappearing for extended periods of time
  • Disorganized of nonsensical speech
  • Drug use
  • Delusional thinking (conspiracy theories, believing he or she is being sent coded messages through innocuous objects, etc.)
  • Drastic change in body language or self-presentation
  • Grandiose beliefs (magical thinking, believing in possessing divine powers, etc.)
  • Seeing things that others cannot see
  • Hearing things that others cannot hear

Treatment For Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a severe mental health disorder that requires long-term treatment. In the United States, 64% of people with schizophrenia follow through with long term treatment services. A schizophrenia diagnosis will almost always need psychiatric medication. Antipsychotics are often prescribed to schizophrenic patients. They aid in decreasing the hallucinations, delusions, and odd or eccentric behavior.

Schizophrenia causes a chemical imbalance in the brain. That is why it is important to consider working with a doctor to help treat schizophrenia. Medication will help the patient experience less psychotic symptoms.

Therapy is also important for treating Schizophrenia. Often people with schizophrenia will have emotional and social issues. It is difficult to feel in control with schizophrenia. Sometimes dealing with the symptoms can be disheartening. That is why it is important to seek therapy in conjunction with medication. Therapy can teach the patient how to cope with their symptoms and the other challenges they face.

For example

Schizophrenia affects emotions and behavior. It also affects the ability to socialize. With counseling, the patient will gain an understanding of why they struggle with these areas.

They will also learn about what it means to have schizophrenia. Therapy teaches people ways to remain in control despite their symptoms and struggles.

Living with schizophrenia is scary. Many people do not understand what it like to live with the struggles that come with this mental illness. Fortunately, professionals have made great progress in understanding the disorder. It is possible for you to live a happy, productive life with schizophrenia. It starts with seeking the professional help you need to get better.

What Are The Different Types Of Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder with many different kinds of symptoms. There are different subtypes of schizophrenia recognized by professionals. Each subtype of schizophrenia has its own features and symptoms. Here is a list of the different subtypes of schizophrenia:

Catatonic subtype

People with catatonic subtype schizophrenia will show two extremes in their overall personality. They will either:

  • Catatonic – This means they will show limited movement and activity. There will be unusual behavior, like being completely immobile and non-communicative. It will seem as though the person is frozen and non-responsive.
  • Excited – This is called catatonic excitement. There may be behaviors on the other side of the spectrum from catatonic symptoms. Such behaviors include unusual movements of the face, limbs, and posture. A person with schizophrenia may also seem to nonsensically speak. Such speech behavior includes arguing with oneself, counting, or repeating a sentence. Those with catatonic excitement will also engage in mimicking behaviors. With these behaviors the patient will mimic the moves and words of other people.

Those with catatonic subtype will appear to be out of touch with reality. They will present themselves in ways that seem contorted or unnatural to others.

Disorganized subtype

People who suffer from disorganized subtype schizophrenia experience disorganized thoughts. The disorganized thoughts will lead to erratic behavior. This could manifest in different ways, including difficulty or disinterest in communicating. Emotional instability is also common in this type of schizophrenia. The emotional processing capabilities will be diminished. This results in a flat affect. It also results in inappropriate behavior and emotions in different situations.

Paranoid subtype

Paranoid subtype is the most well known form of schizophrenia. People with paranoia subtype schizophrenia experience:

  • Hallucinations – Hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not real.
  • Delusions – Believing things that are not real.

As a result of the hallucinations and delusions the patient will experience paranoia. The paranoia can manifest in several different ways. Some may become paranoid of close friends and family. Others may begin to believe conspiracy theories. It is even possible for some to believe they are being sent secret messages through innocuous objects. Such objects can include television, radio, newspaper, or innocent inquiries from others. They will experience psychotic symptoms and fall out of touch with reality.

Undifferentiated subtype

People diagnosed with undifferentiated subtype will experience symptoms of schizophrenia. However, they do not fit the criteria for a specific subtype. This means that there will not be one symptom that dominates over other symptoms.

Residual subtype

If a person goes without experiencing symptoms for a period of one year they may receive a diagnosis of residual schizophrenia. This is another term for a schizophrenia case being in remission.

Please note that diagnosing schizophrenia has changed in recent years. Doctors and mental health professionals no longer use subtypes as specifiers. Instead, they determine the diagnosed based on a spectrum. Subtypes are still utilized by pinpointing the most affecting symptom. Professionals may use the most affecting symptom in the diagnosis, such as auditory hallucinations.

Myths About Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a complicated disorder that is often misunderstood by the general public. It is a disorder that causes many unique and sometimes scary symptoms that are often misunderstood by others.

It can be easy to draw conclusions about people who suffer from schizophrenia. People often believe negative things about schizophrenia, but many of the things you hear about it are myths. Common myths about schizophrenia include:

Symptoms Of Schizophrenia

1. People with schizophrenia have multiple personalities.

This is not true. Schizophrenia is often mistaken for dissociative identity disorder (DID). Schizophrenia and DID are two different diagnoses. The myth stems from the symptoms: hallucinations, psychosis and mood swings. Severe cases can look like the taking on different personalities, but this is not the case.

2. People with schizophrenia cannot lead normal lives.

Schizophrenia does cause scary and difficult symptoms. The symptoms are sometimes severe, but with treatment, a patient can live a normal life. Treatment often involves education and medication to keep the symptoms under control. With commitment to treatment, a patient can learn how to cope and live a live as normal as anyone else.

3. People with schizophrenia are crazy and dangerous.

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that can cause people to seem odd or not act like themselves. The symptoms of schizophrenia are unusual and can make people feel uncomfortable. This leads to the belief that schizophrenia makes people lose their minds and become dangerous. This is not the case. People with schizophrenia are suffering from mental illness.

Schizophrenia causes people to act erratically. With treatment and medication, a person will remain stabilized. In short, people with schizophrenia are not crazy or dangerous. In rare cases, untreated patients may lose touch with reality. This is not the case for all who suffer from schizophrenia.

4. Having schizophrenia means you are ‘psychotic’.

A person with schizophrenia is not psychotic. Psychosis is a symptom of schizophrenia, but is not present in all cases. Psychosis is a condition in which a person loses touch with reality. It is typically temporary, only lasting a few days. A person with schizophrenia may suffer from a psychotic episode. With medical intervention, he or she will re-stabilize.

5. You can’t develop schizophrenia if it does not run in your family.

A person can develop schizophrenia if it does not run in his or her family. Schizophrenia does have a strong genetic component. This means people with a genetic predisposition for schizophrenia are at higher risk. This does not mean that you must be genetically predisposed to develop schizophrenia. The following factors also contribute to the onset of schizophrenia:

History of trauma or abuse.

A history of trauma or abuse puts people at risk for developing schizophrenia.

Traumatic birth.

A traumatic birth can cause complications that result in schizophrenia. Some prenatal conditions also put the baby at higher risk.

Environmental influences.

Growing up in a chaotic environment may cause a person to develop schizophrenia. Children who suffered from emotional and behavioral issues are also at higher risk.

Quality of upbringing.

Those who had a non-nurturing, cold, or unsafe upbringing may develop schizophrenia. Children with parents with substance abuse issues or households with domestic violence are at high risk.

How Families Are Affected By A Patient’s Schizophrenia

It can be difficult to cope with a family member’s diagnosis of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia causes many alarming symptoms. These symptoms cause the patient to act in an unusual manner. It can also cause a patient to become fearful or act erratically.

Schizophrenia typically shows symptoms in early adulthood. This causes the patient to display a dramatic shift in his or her personality. This dramatic shift can be upsetting for a loved one to see. It can be difficult to know what to do in such an upsetting situation.

What To Do If You Suspect Schizophrenia Or Mental Illness In A Loved One

Be Aware Of The Warning Signs.

It will be important to know the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia. The warning signs will help you identify potential symptoms if you are suspicious that your loved one may be suffering from schizophrenia. It will also help you rule out certain suspicions. This can be helpful in understanding the situation.

Consult A Professional.

Before confronting your loved one about your concerns, consult a professional. A mental health professional will be able to help you understand what you are seeing. Sometimes the signs will point to schizophrenia. That does not always mean your loved one is suffering from schizophrenia. He or she may be suffering from something else. A mental health professional will help you understand the warning signs. He or she will also help you with confronting and being supportive of your loved one. This will be important while they come to terms with their condition.

Be Patient And Understanding.

Your loved one is likely going through a lot of mental and emotional issues. It is scary for everyone, but especially for your loved one. It is also a frustrating process to learn how to cope with treatment for this condition. Despite the frustration, it is important to remain supportive, patient, and understanding.

Do Not Take On Too Much.

As someone who loves the patient, you will want to help any way you can. However, as just one person, you will not be able to do it all. Always remember to take care of yourself first. If you need a break, take a break. If you do not know how to be supportive, ask. If you are confused, frustrated, or want to know more, consider seeing a therapist for yourself.

Action Plan For Talking To Your Loved One

It can be scary to deal with suspicions of schizophrenia in a loved one, but it does help to have an action plan for addressing your concerns for him or her. If you feel a loved one may be suffering from schizophrenia, follow this action plan:

  • 1Consult with a mental health professional. They will be able to help you develop a plan by talking to you about intervention options. Find a reputable therapist who can help you today, here.
  • 2Find peer support. If you noticed a change in the disposition of the patient, it is likely others have noticed as well. Ask your trusted friends and family for some support as you learn to cope with your loved one’s struggles.
  • 3Approach patiently and sensitively. The patient probably knows something is wrong. He or she may be afraid or ashamed of what they are going through. Approach the situation sensitively and create a safe and supportive space for the patient.

Let's Talk About Schizophrenia

Join in the discussion about Schizophrenia.

Do you have a question or comment you'd like to share or contribute?

Together, we can stamp out the stigma and help one another.


  1. Darren

    In the last couple days I’ve been feeling off. I don’t like when I feel like this. It’s a scary feeling. I don’t how to make this feeling go away. I try to ignore it but it feels like it gets worse.

    • Feeling off or not like yourself can be scary, and sometimes ignoring the feeling can make it stronger. Instead, consider seeking some peer support and professional attention. A good start would be to find a mental health professional in your area.

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