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What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a complex brain disorder. It runs in families and can cause troubling symptoms. They may include hearing voices, trouble thinking clearly, and relating to others, among others. It often starts suddenly in early adulthood. There is no cure for this illness, but it can be managed with medication.

What causes schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia caused by a chemical imbalance and other changes in the brain. It tends to run in families, but the environment may also play a role.

While it affects men and women the same, symptoms tend to start earlier in men than in women. It’s rare in childhood.

What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

Each person may feel symptoms differently. These are the most common symptoms:

  • False beliefs not based on reality (delusions)
  • Seeing, hearing, smelling, or feeling things that are not real ( hallucination)
  • Disorganized speech and behavior
  • Lack of emotion
  • Feeling like someone or something is out to get them (paranoia)
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Inflated self worth

These symptoms can make it very hard to function in the world and take care of yourself. People with this illness are usually not violent.

The symptoms of schizophrenia may look like other problems or mental health conditions. Always consult a health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is schizophrenia diagnosed?

To diagnose this disease, your health care provider will ask about your medical history and symptoms. You may also have a physical exam. You may also have lab tests to rule out other conditions.

Mental health care professionals diagnose and treat this illness. They often interview family members. This helps doctors get a complete picture of the symptoms.

How is schizophrenia treated?

Managing schizophrenia is a lifelong process. It can’t be cured. But, symptoms can often be managed with medication and therapy. Often, more than one method is needed. Types of treatment that may be helpful include:

  • Antipsychotic medications. These are the main drugs used to reduce the most troubling symptoms such as delusions and paranoia.
  • Other drugs that may help include antidepressants or other mood stabilizers.
  • Therapy. Individual and family therapy (including cognitive and behavioral therapy)
  • Training. These may include learning social skills, job skills, or structured activity.
  • Self-help and support groups.

Early treatment and supportive services helps affected people live productive lives. It’s very important to take medications exactly as prescribed and continue to take them even if you feel better. Many people may continue to have some symptoms, even with treatment. At times, symptoms may get worse and treatment will need to be adjusted.

Always consult your health care provider for more information.


Living with schizophrenia

When you have schizophrenia, it is very important to take care of yourself and make good choices.

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Using alcohol or drugs can make treating this illness more difficult.
  • Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can trigger a worsening of symptoms.
  • Eat healthy and exercise regularly. These can help reduce symptoms, help you sleep well and keep stress at bay.
  • Manage stress. Stress can worsen symptoms. Learn ways to keep it under control.
  • Seek help right away. Call your doctor if you notice a change or increase in symptoms. Doing so can help avoid a relapse.

Key points

  • Schizophrenia is a complex brain disorder. It runs in families and can cause troubling symptoms.
  • It’s caused by a chemical imbalance and other changes in the brain.
  • Symptoms include a break from reality, paranoia, seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, and disorganized thinking.
  • Treatment includes antipsychotic medicines, support services, and a healthy lifestyle.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.
Schizophrenia - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS
Last Review Date: 2014-02-26T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2016-07-28T00:00:00
Published Date: 2016-07-28T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2007-03-30T00:00:00
© 2016 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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