> Disorders and Conditions > Schizophrenia
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder. This
mental condition can manifest itself in a variety of ways. The predominant difficulties
associated with schizophrenia are related to a person's thinking, which is unusual or
bizarre. Because the person's thinking is intermittently disordered, a person with
schizophrenia may have a variety of behaviors that appear odd or strange to others. In
addition, the person's speech is irrational or disjointed.
There are several types of schizophrenia including the following:
- Paranoid - Delusions and hallucinations tend to be the most prominent feature of this
type of schizophrenia.
- Catatonic - Unusual body movements such as a loss of or scarcity of motion are usually
present. On the other hand, there may be agitation and excessive body movements that seem
to be without direction. Mutism is common.
- Disorganized - Speech and behavior are disordered or jumbled. The patient displays
emotional responses which are not appropriate for the given situation.
- Residual - In this type, signs of the disorder continue beyond the acute episode but in
a mild or less active form.
- Undifferentiated - In this type, the person may meet the criteria for more than one
What characteristics are associated with
Some people with schizophrenia have delusions;
others have hallucinations; still others have delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are
described as false, inaccurate beliefs that a person holds onto or adheres to even when
he/she is presented with true, accurate information. Hallucinations are episodes of
sensory perceptions, such as sights or sounds, that are not actually present.
In addition to delusions and/or hallucinations, an individual with schizophrenia
frequently has incoherent or disorganized speech. And his/her behavior may be unusual or
bizarre. For example, the person may talk to himself/herself or exhibit inappropriate
laughter or rage. In some instances, the persons affect may be flat, meaning that
his/her emotional responses and expressions appear fixed or neutral. The unusual thoughts,
behaviors, and speech exist over a period of at least six months in order for
schizophrenia to be considered as a diagnosis. In addition, the person with this disorder
almost always performs considerably below a normal level of functioning at work or in
school. Interpersonal relationships and personal hygiene are frequently forsaken during
the schizophrenic episode.
Are there genetic factors associated with
Schizophrenia tends to run in some families. A
close relative of a person with schizophrenia is several times more likely to develop
schizophrenia than the average person.
Does schizophrenia affect males, females, or
Males and females develop schizophrenia in
about equal numbers. Generally, females develop the disorder later in life than males.
At what age does schizophrenia appear?
Most of the time, the onset of symptoms of
schizophrenia occur during late adolescence or early adulthood.
How common is the incidence of schizophrenia
in our society?
About one percent (1%) of the population of the
United States suffers from schizophrenia.
How is schizophrenia diagnosed?
Schizophrenia is usually diagnosed when a
person's disorganized thinking and/or bizarre behavior brings them to the attention of a
medical or mental health professional. Frequently, the person is brought in involuntarily
for evaluation and treatment. The person being evaluated often demonstrates delusions,
hallucinations, incoherent or disorganized speech, and/or disorganized behavior. The
mental health professional arrives at the diagnosis of schizophrenia by conducting a
mental status examination and by taking a very careful personal history from the
patient/client. It is very important not to overlook a physical illness that might mimic
or contribute to a psychological disorder. If there is any doubt about a medical problem,
the mental health professional should refer the person to a physician, who will perform a
physical examination and request any necessary laboratory tests.
How is schizophrenia treated?
Schizophrenia is almost always treated with
medications called antipsychotic medications. Well known antipsychotic medications include
Clozaril (clozapine), Haldol (haloperidol), Risperdal (risperidone), and Zyprexa
(olanzapine). In addition to medication, individual, group, or family therapy is almost
always advised. For the acutely disorganized schizophrenic, hospitalization may be
required. However, chronic schizophrenics are often treated as outpatients. Because of
their disorganized, irrational thinking, many schizophrenics refuse treatment and continue
to live in their psychotic states.
What happens to someone with schizophrenia?
The course of schizophrenia varies greatly.
Some people will have one brief episode and have no further problems during their
lifetime. Others will suffer from the condition throughout much of their lives.
Schizophrenia tends to be episodic, and many people can function normally if they are
What can people do if they need help?
If you, a friend, or a family member would like
more information and you have a therapist or a physician, please discuss your concerns
with that person.
Page last modified or reviewed on January 11, 2012
for Mental Illness