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What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves, and how they interpret reality. It affects about one percent of all adults, but the onset, extent, and persistence of symptoms can vary.

What causes schizophrenia?

Experts are not sure why some people develop schizophrenia and others don’t, but it tends to run in certain families and a history of childhood abuse or trauma is associated with a higher risk.

What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

Symptoms typically begin between the ages of 15 and 30 and the condition is just as common among men than women, although symptoms typically present earlier in men.

Symptoms may come on quickly (over several weeks) or develop slowly (over several years). About one-third of people with schizophrenia have ongoing problems and continuing symptoms, such as hearing voices.

Symptoms of schizophrenia may include:

  • Changeable or bizarre moods or over-the-top happiness
  • Delusions (a belief that seems real to you)
  • Difficulties with problem-solving
  • Hallucinations (hearing, seeing or smelling things that aren’t there)
  • Loss of insight (not realizing that the symptoms you are experiencing are because of your illness)
  • Loss of motivation
  • Poor self-care or appearance
  • Social withdrawal
  • Thought disturbances (eg, disorganized speech, erratic topic changing, racing thoughts.

How is schizophrenia diagnosed?

Talk to your doctor if you are having difficulty coping with your day to day life or if you are experiencing hallucinations or delusions. Your doctor will ask you a few questions and they may ask you to complete a questionnaire or refer you to a psychiatrist. They may ask to talk to your friends or family to get a better understanding of what has been happening.

How is schizophrenia treated?

Early, effective treatment allows a better outcome for the condition and symptoms tend to reduce in many people as they age.

Treatment may include:

  • Talk therapy
  • Counseling
  • Medications (such as antipsychotics or antidepressants)
  • Increasing your physical activity.