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Overview - Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a severe long-term mental health condition. It causes a range of different psychological symptoms.

Doctors often describe schizophrenia as a type of psychosis. This means the person may not always be able to distinguish their own thoughts and ideas from reality.

Symptoms of schizophrenia

Symptoms of schizophrenia include: 

  • hallucinations – hearing or seeing things that do not exist outside of the mind
  • delusions – unusual beliefs not based on reality 
  • muddled thoughts based on hallucinations or delusions
  • losing interest in everyday activities
  • not caring about your personal hygiene
  • wanting to avoid people, including friends

Schizophrenia does not cause someone to be violent and people with schizophrenia do not have a split personality.

When to seek medical advice

If you're experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, see a GP as soon as possible. The earlier schizophrenia is treated, the better.

There's no single test for schizophrenia. It's usually diagnosed after an assessment by a mental health care professional, such as a psychiatrist.

Causes of schizophrenia

The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. But most experts believe the condition is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

It's thought that some people are more vulnerable to developing schizophrenia, and certain situations can trigger the condition such as a stressful life event or drug misuse.

Treating schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is usually treated with a combination of medicine and therapy tailored to each individual.

In most cases, this will be antipsychotic medicines and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

People with schizophrenia usually receive help from a community mental health team, which offers day-to-day support and treatment.

Many people recover from schizophrenia, although they may have periods when symptoms return (relapses).

Support and treatment can help reduce the impact the condition has on daily life.

Living with schizophrenia

If schizophrenia is well managed, it's possible to reduce the chance of severe relapses.

This can include:

  • recognising the signs of an acute episode
  • taking medicine as prescribed
  • talking to others about the condition

There are many charities and support groups offering help and advice on living with schizophrenia.

Most people find it comforting talking to others with a similar condition.

Page last reviewed: 11 November 2019
Next review due: 11 November 2022