Schizophrenia is long-term severe mental health condition causing symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, disorganised thoughts and behaviour changes.
Schizophrenia does not cause a split personality and is not usually associated with violent behaviour.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition affecting around 1 in 100 at some stage during their lives. It can develop over time, and a schizophrenia diagnosis usually happens between the ages of 15 and 35.
Schizophrenia is usually treated with medication and specialist psychological therapy. This will often be under the care of an NHS local community mental health team (CMHT).
A person can make a recovery from schizophrenia symptoms, but it is possible for relapses to occur.
Schizophrenia symptoms include:
- Confused thinking
- Disorganised behaviour
Doctors categorise these as 'positive' or 'negative'.
Positive symptoms include behavioural and thinking changes.
Negative symptoms include lacking emotions, being more withdrawn or moving less.
There are several types of schizophrenia based on their symptoms:
- Paranoid schizophrenia. A person may have delusions (false beliefs), including feeling persecuted or punished in some way. However, other thinking, speech and emotions remain near normal.
- Disorganised schizophrenia. This is characterised by a person being confused and incoherent. Speech may be jumbled. They may appear emotionless, flat, inappropriate, silly or childlike. Behaviour may be disorganised so that it affects daily activities, such as washing or getting meals ready.
- Catatonic schizophrenia. A person may be immobile and not respond to the world around them. They may seem stiff and rigid and unwilling to move. They may grimace or perform unusual movements or postures. They might repeat a word or phrase just spoken by another person. People with this condition are more likely to have malnutrition, exhaustion and may self-harm.
- Undifferentiated schizophrenia. This category takes in people whose symptoms do not fall into the other schizophrenia types.
- Residual schizophrenia. Here symptoms will have eased from when the person was diagnosed, but some hallucinations, delusions and other symptoms may persist.
The exact cause of schizophrenia is not yet known, although a number of factor play a role, including:
- Genetics. Schizophrenia tends to run in families.
- Brain chemistry. Schizophrenia may be affected by a change in the level of neurotransmitters, in the brain called dopamine and serotonin.
- Brain development. Brain structure and function may have some differences in some people with schizophrenia.
- Pregnancy and birth complications. There is some evidence that problems during pregnancy and delivery may be linked with schizophrenia.
- Stress. A stressful life event, such as bereavement, may be a trigger for schizophrenia for some people.
- Drug abuse: Use of illegal drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, LSD or amphetamines may trigger schizophrenia symptoms in some people.
A doctor will first take a person's medical history and carry out a physical examination.
There are no specific laboratory tests to diagnose schizophrenia, but a doctor may arrange tests to rule out physical causes of the symptoms.
Tests may include X-rays and blood tests.
A referral will usually be made to a psychiatrist (a mental health specialist) to diagnose schizophrenia and plan treatment.
The diagnosis will be made after talking to the person and observing their behaviour.
A person is said to have schizophrenia if their symptoms are present for at least six months.