Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally with illogical patterns of thought. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impairs daily functioning, which can be disabling.
People with schizophrenia require lifelong treatment. Early treatment may help get symptoms under control before serious complications develop and may help improve the long-term outlook.
Schizophrenia involves a range of problems with thinking (cognition), behavior and emotions. Signs and symptoms may vary, but usually involve delusions, hallucinations or disorganized speech, and reflect an impaired ability to function. Symptoms may include:
Delusions: These are false beliefs that are not based in reality. For example, you think that you're being harmed or harassed; certain gestures or comments are directed at you; you have exceptional ability or fame; another person is in love with you; or a major catastrophe is about to occur. Delusions occur in most people with schizophrenia.
Hallucinations: These usually involve seeing or hearing things that don't exist. Yet for the person with schizophrenia, they have the full force and impact of a normal experience. Hallucinations can be in any of the senses, but hearing voices is the most common hallucination.
Disorganized thinking (speech): Disorganized thinking is inferred from disorganized speech. Effective communication can be impaired, and answers to questions may be partially or completely unrelated. Rarely, speech may include putting together meaningless words that can't be understood, sometimes known as word salad. When a person has ways of thinking that are unusual or illogical. People with thought disorder may have trouble organizing their thoughts and speech. Sometimes a person will stop talking in the middle of a thought, jump from topic to topic, or make up words that have no meaning.
Extremely disorganized or abnormal motor behavior: This may show in a number of ways, from childlike silliness to unpredictable agitation. Behavior isn't focused on a goal, so it's hard to do tasks. Behavior can include resistance to instructions, inappropriate or bizarre posture, a complete lack of response, or useless and excessive movement.
Negative symptoms: This refers to reduced or lack of ability to function normally. For example, the person may neglect personal hygiene or appear to lack emotion (doesn't make eye contact, doesn't change facial expressions or speaks in a monotone). Also, the person may lose interest in everyday activities, socially withdraw or lack the ability to experience pleasure.
Cognitive symptoms: This include problems in attention, concentration, and memory. These symptoms can make it hard to follow a conversation, learn new things, or remember appointments. A person’s level of cognitive functioning is one of the best predictors of their day-to-day functioning. Cognitive functioning is evaluated using specific tests. Some additional examples include Cognitive symptoms include having trouble processing information to make decisions, trouble using information immediately after learning it, and trouble focusing or paying attention. Risk Factors
Researchers believe that a number of genetic and environmental factors contribute to causation, and life stressors may play a role in the start of symptoms and their course. Since multiple factors may contribute, scientists cannot yet be specific about the exact cause in each individual case.
Though there is no cure for schizophrenia, many patients do well with minimal symptoms. A variety of antipsychotic medications are effective in reducing the psychotic symptoms present in the acute phase of the illness, and they also help reduce the potential for future acute episodes and their severity. Psychological treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy or supportive psychotherapy may reduce symptoms and enhance function, and other treatments are aimed at reducing stress, supporting employment or improving social skills.