Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects the way a person behaves, thinks and sees the world. It can alter the way a person sees reality. They may see or hear things that do not exist, speak in strange or confusing ways, believe that others are trying to harm them, or feel like they’re constantly being watched.

Signs and Symptoms

In men, schizophrenia symptoms typically start in the early to mid-twenties. In women, symptoms typically begin in the late 20s. It is uncommon for children to be diagnosed with schizophrenia and rare for those older than 45.

In some people, schizophrenia appears suddenly and without warning. However, for most it comes on slowly with subtle warning signs and a gradual decline in functioning before the first severe episode.

The most common early warning signs of schizophrenia include:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Hostility or suspiciousness
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene
  • Flat, expressionless gaze
  • Inability to cry or express joy
  • Inappropriate laughter or crying
  • Depression
  • Oversleeping or insomnia
  • Odd or irrational statements
  • Forgetful; unable to concentrate
  • Extreme reaction to criticism
  • Strange use of words or way of speaking

Schizophrenia involves a range of problems with thinking, behavior or emotions. Signs and symptoms may vary, but the reflect an impaired ability to function. Symptoms may include:

  • Delusions: These are false beliefs that are not based in reality. E.g., you are being harmed or harassed; certain gestures or comments are directed at you; another person is in love with you; or your body is not functioning properly. Delusions occur in as many as 4 out of 5 people with schizophrenia
  • Hallucinations: These usually involved seeing or hearing things that don’t exist. However, these have the full force and impact of a normal experience for the person with schizophrenia. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination.
  • Disorganized thinking (speech): Disorganized thinking is inferred from disorganized speech. Effective communication is impaired, and answers to questions may be partially or completely unrelated. They may use made-up words or phrases and repeat themselves.
  • Extremely disorganized or abnormal motor behavior: This may exhibit in a number of ways, ranging from childlike silliness to unpredictable agitation. Behavior is not focused on a goal, which makes it hard to perform tasks. Abnormal motor behavior can include resistance to instructions, inappropriate and bizarre posture, a complete lack of response or useless and excessive movement.
  • Negative symptoms: This refers to reduced ability or lack of ability to function normally. E.g., a person appears to lack emotion, such as not making eye contact, speaking in monotone. Also, the person may have a reduced ability to plan or carry out activities.

Causes of schizophrenia

The exact cause of schizophrenia is not fully known. However, it appears that schizophrenia usually results form a complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors:

Genetic causes of schizophrenia: It has a strong hereditary component. However, it is only influenced by genetics, not determined by it.

Environmental causes of schizophrenia: Recent studies are pointing to stress because high levels of stress increase the body’s production of the hormone cortisol.

Other stress-inducing environmental factors are:
- Prenatal exposure to viral infection
- Low oxygen levels during birth
- Exposure to a virus during infancy
- Early parental loss or separation
- Physical of sexual abuse in childhood

Abnormal brain structure: Enlarged brain ventricles are seen in some schizophrenics, indicating a deficit in the volume of brain tissue. While researchers aren’t certain about the significance of these changes, they support evidence that schizophrenia is a brain disease.


Treating Schizophrenia

Although schizophrenia is a chronic disorder, there is help available. Using an integrated approach to mental health care, our team of experienced practitioners will tailor a treatment plan that will help patients with schizophrenia function independently and live a fulfilling life.

Medication: This will reduce the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia such as hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and disordered thinking. The practitioner will work closely with the individual to find the right combination of medications.

Psychotherapy: In conjunction with good medication plan, psychotherapy can help keep a person in treatment, learn social skills, support a person’s weekly goals and activities, and integrate them into your community.

Group Therapy: This is effective for people suffering schizophrenia because it decreases social isolation and increases reality testing. Please check our calendar for the when Group Therapy for Schizophrenia starts.

Source: Mayo Clinic, Help Guide, Psych Central