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Schizophrenia

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects a person's thoughts, feelings, mood and behavior. It can cause hallucinations, delusions and unusual behaviors. People with the disorder might also have cognitive challenges, such as problems with memory, attention and concentration.  People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality.


What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

Symptoms usually start between the ages of 16 and 30 and in some rare cases, children have schizophrenia too.


  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Thought disorders (unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking)
  • Movement disorders (agitated body movements)
  • "Flat affect" (reduced expression of emotions via facial expression or voice tone)
  • Reduced feelings of pleasure in everyday life
  • Difficulty beginning and sustaining activities
  • Reduced speaking
  • Poor "executive functioning" (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions)
  • Trouble focusing or paying attention
  • Problems with "working memory" (the ability to use information immediately after learning it)


How is it diagnosed and treated?

To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, you have to have at least two of these symptoms for at least 6 months. One of them must be hallucinations, delusions, or disorganized speech. A single voice that offers ongoing comments about your thoughts and actions, or voices that talk to each other, is enough.


Antipsychotic medications may be used to help eliminate some of the symptoms of schizophrenia. Some people may have side effects when they begin taking medications, but most go away within a few days. 


Psychosocial treatments may be helpful after the patient and doctor find a medication that works for them. Learning and using coping skills to address the everyday challenges of schizophrenia helps people to pursue their life goals, such as attending school or work. Patients who participate in regular psychosocial treatments are less likely to have relapses or be hospitalized.


Coordinated specialty care is a treatment model that integrates medication, psychosocial therapies, care management, family involvement, and supported education and employment services, all aimed at reducing symptoms and improving quality of life.