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What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a long-term mental disease that affects how your brain works. Schizophrenia may change how you think, feel, and behave. You may not be able to know what is real and what is not real. Your thoughts may not be clear, or may jump from one topic to another.

What increases my risk for schizophrenia?

Healthcare providers do not exactly know what causes schizophrenia. Stressful events or accidents may trigger symptoms. The following may increase your risk:

  • You have a family member with schizophrenia.
  • You were exposed to substances such as amphetamines and opiates.

What are the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia?

  • Delusions: These are false ideas. You may believe that someone is spying on you, or that you are someone famous.
  • Hallucinations: You see, feel, taste, hear, or smell something that is not real.
  • Disordered thinking and speech: When you talk, you move from one subject to another in a way that does not make sense. You make up your own words or sounds.
  • Lack of emotion: You lack facial expressions and do not express emotion.
  • Lack of drive or initiative: You have less ability to start and continue a planned activity.
  • Social withdrawal: You avoid gatherings with family and friends.
  • Cognitive symptoms: These may affect your attention, memory, and to plan and organize things.

How is schizophrenia diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you. He will ask if you have a history of psychological trauma, such as physical, sexual, or mental abuse. He will ask if you were given the care that you needed when you needed it. He will ask if you have a history of alcohol or drug abuse. Your healthcare provider will ask if you want to hurt or kill yourself or others. He will also ask about your hobbies and goals, the people in your life who support you, and how you feel about treatment. The answers to these questions help healthcare providers plan your treatment.

Which medicines are used to treat schizophrenia?

  • Antipsychotics: These help decrease psychotic symptoms and severe agitation. You may need antiparkinson medicine to control muscle stiffness, twitches, and restlessness caused by antipsychotic medicines.
  • Antianxiety medicine: This medicine may be given to decrease anxiety and help you feel calm and relaxed.
  • Antidepressants: These help with symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Mood stabilizers: These control mood swings.
  • Tranquilizers: These increase feelings of being calm and relaxed.

Which therapies are used to treat schizophrenia?

  • Assertive community treatment: A team of healthcare providers and support groups in your community help you with your therapy.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy: This therapy helps you to change certain behaviors. It will help you handle symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions.
  • Illness-management skills: This type of therapy teaches you what you can do to help manage your disease.
  • Family psychoeducation: Your family will be part of your therapy.
  • Social skills training: This training helps you learn how to get along with other people.
  • Supported employment: This is a form of therapy where you are placed into a job that fits your skills. It will help give you independence and self-confidence.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy: This is a type of shock therapy, also called ECT. This therapy passes a small amount of electricity to the brain.

What are the risks of schizophrenia?

If untreated, your signs and symptoms may get worse. Your illness may make it hard to work or get along with others. It may also change the way you eat and sleep. These changes may make you suffer other illnesses and diseases. Schizophrenia may also damage your brain.

How do I find support and more information?

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
    3803 N. Fairfax Dr., Suite 100
    Arlington , VA 22203
    Phone: 1- 703 - 524-7600
    Phone: 1- 800 - 950-6264
    Web Address:
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Public Information & Communication Branch
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9663
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-4513
    Phone: 1- 866 - 615-6464
    Web Address:

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You feel that you are having symptoms of schizophrenia.
  • You are not able to sleep well, or are sleeping more than usual.
  • You cannot eat or are eating more than usual.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You think about killing yourself or someone else.
  • You have a rash, swelling, or trouble breathing after you take your medicine.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Schizophrenia

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference