Schizophrenia involves a disconnection from reality, including hallucinations and delusions. It also affects your ability to recognize your symptoms. It’s a severe condition, but it’s treatable.
Schizophrenia is a psychiatric condition that has severe effects on your physical and mental well-being. It disrupts how your brain works, interfering with things like your thoughts, memory, senses and behaviors. As a result, you may struggle in many parts of your day-to-day life. Untreated schizophrenia often disrupts your relationships (professional, social, romantic and otherwise). It can also cause you to have trouble organizing your thoughts, and you might behave in ways that put you at risk for injuries or other illnesses.
Psychiatrists once referred to different types of schizophrenia, like paranoid schizophrenia and catatonic schizophrenia. But the types weren’t very useful in diagnosing or treating schizophrenia. Instead, experts now view schizophrenia as a spectrum of conditions, including:
Schizophrenia starts between ages 15 and 25 for men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB) and between 25 and 35 for women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB). It also tends to affect men and women in equal numbers. About 20% of new schizophrenia cases occur in people over age 45. These cases tend to happen more in men and people AMAB.
Schizophrenia in children is rare but possible. When schizophrenia does start in childhood, it’s usually more severe and harder to treat.
Schizophrenia is a somewhat common condition. Worldwide, it affects 221 in every 100,000 people.
Many people with schizophrenia can’t recognize that they have symptoms of schizophrenia. But those around you might. These are the five main symptoms of schizophrenia
Because of these symptoms, you might:
There’s no one single cause of schizophrenia. Experts suspect schizophrenia happens for different reasons. The three main reasons include:
While there aren’t any confirmed causes of schizophrenia, there are risk factors for developing the condition:
Is schizophrenia genetic?
Experts haven’t found one specific cause of schizophrenia, so they can’t say for sure if genetics cause schizophrenia. But if you have a family history of schizophrenia — especially a parent or sibling with it — you have a much higher risk of developing this condition.
Your (or your loved one’s) healthcare provider can diagnose schizophrenia or its related disorders based on a combination of questions they ask, the symptoms you describe or by observing your actions. They’ll also ask questions to rule out other potential causes of your symptoms. They then compare what they find to the criteria required for a schizophrenia diagnosis.
According to the DSM-5, a schizophrenia diagnosis requires the following:
There aren’t any diagnostic tests for schizophrenia. But healthcare providers may run tests to rule out other conditions before diagnosing schizophrenia. The most likely types of tests include:
Schizophrenia isn’t curable, but it’s often treatable. In a small percentage of cases, people can recover from schizophrenia entirely. But this isn’t a cure because there’s no way of knowing who will relapse and who won’t. Because of that, experts consider those who recover from this condition “in remission.”
Treating schizophrenia usually involves a combination of medication, therapy and self-management techniques. These include:
Your healthcare provider is the best person to tell you how long it’ll take for medication and therapy to work, as different medications take different amounts of time before their effects are noticeable. Your provider can also tell you about other treatment options that might help if the first treatments don’t work well.
Because experts still don’t know why schizophrenia happens, it’s impossible to prevent it or reduce your risk of it happening.
Schizophrenia is a condition that varies greatly from person to person. You may struggle with work, relationships and self-care. But with treatment, you may be able to work, care for yourself and have fulfilling relationships.
This condition also often affects people in cycles. That means you can go through periods when the condition flares up and your symptoms get much worse. Then, you may have a time when your symptoms improve but don’t completely go away.
Despite how serious this condition is, treatment does make it possible to live with the condition and minimize how it affects your life.
Schizophrenia itself isn’t a deadly condition. But its effects can lead to dangerous or harmful behaviors. About one-third of people with schizophrenia have symptoms that worsen over time. That can happen because your symptoms don’t respond to treatment, or you have trouble following treatment plans closely enough to manage the condition. About 10% of people with schizophrenia die by suicide.
Other people respond to treatment. But they still have periods where symptoms return and worsen. They might also have lingering problems, like trouble focusing or thinking, because of earlier episodes of this condition.
If you have schizophrenia, you should do the following to help care for yourself and manage your condition:
You should see your healthcare provider as recommended. You should also see them if you notice a change in your symptoms, like if they get worse even if you’re taking your medication. You can see your provider if the side effects of your medication cause disruptions in your life, as well. Your healthcare provider can sometimes recommend alternative medications or treatments that might better treat your condition without causing those same effects.
If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (U.S.). If you feel like you’re in immediate danger of harming yourself, call 911, your local emergency services number or go to the nearest emergency room.
If you notice a loved one showing signs of schizophrenia or a related condition, you can try helping them by doing the following:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Schizophrenia can be a frightening condition for you and your loved ones. Despite stereotypes, this isn’t a condition where any thought of recovery or living a happy, fulfilling life is impossible. If you think you have symptoms of schizophrenia, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider as soon as you can. Their job is to help you, and healthcare providers — especially those who specialize in mental health conditions like schizophrenia — have the training to help you not feel judged, ashamed or embarrassed.
If you notice a loved one struggling with symptoms of psychosis or schizophrenia, encourage them gently and supportively to get care. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference in helping people recover and manage this condition.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/28/2023.
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