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Understanding the basics of schizophrenia.


Schizophrenia is a group of of disorders that affects 1 percent of American adults. There are five subtypes, and each disorder can range from mild to severe. Schizophrenia is a lifelong condition, but it can be managed successfully with treatment.

Signs & Symptoms

Schizophrenia looks different in each person. Symptoms vary greatly both among and within the various types of the disorder. These are the most common symptoms:

• False beliefs (i.e., delusions)
• Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
• Little interest in daily life
• Lack of emotion
• Inappropriate emotion (such as laughing at a funeral)
• Neglecting personal hygiene
• Inability to process information
• Memory problems
• Disorganized speech or behavior
• Catatonic or unresponsive behavior


Schizophrenia is a brain disease, which means that various chemicals in the brain play an important role. Specifically, research has suggested that the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate are involved. Also, some evidence has shown that the brains of individuals with schizophrenia are different than individuals without the condition.

Schizophrenia also runs in families. Other factors such as severe stress, trauma and complications during pregnancy might boost the risk for schizophrenia as well.


Treatment varies depending on the type of schizophrenia, the severity and the person’s specific situation. However, schizophrenia can be successfully treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Two types of medications are usually used to treat schizophrenia: typical antipsychotics and atypical antipsychotics. Each medication has its own set of side effects, so it’s important to discuss this with your doctor. Choosing the right medication is a process. An individual might try several medications or combinations of medications before finding the best one.

Psychotherapy can take various forms. In individual therapy, people with schizophrenia see a therapist, who helps them learn to cope with stress, challenge their beliefs and hallucinations and learn more about their illness. Family therapy educates families about schizophrenia and how they can best help their loved one. Group therapy allows individuals to share their experiences, brainstorm solutions and reduce the tendency to isolate themselves.

In addition, communities typically offer programs for individuals with schizophrenia that help them find employment and housing and learn important skills necessary for daily life.

Sometimes, a person with schizophrenia will need to be hospitalized. Usually this happens if a person has severe delusions and hallucinations, has threatened to harm themselves or has suicidal thoughts.

What You Can Do

Get educated. Unfortunately, there are tons of myths about schizophrenia. Learning accurate information helps you better understand the condition.

Seek help. If you’re experiencing symptoms, see an on-campus counselor for a correct diagnosis. The sooner you’re accurately diagnosed, the faster you can get proper treatment.

Follow treatment. If you’re already participating in treatment, be sure to take your medication regularly and as prescribed, and attend all therapy sessions.

Avoid drugs and alcohol. These substances can worsen symptoms of schizophrenia, such as delusions, hallucinations, negative mood and cognitive ability. They also can interfere with your medication’s effectiveness and even lead to life-threatening injuries.

Join a support group. Being part of a support group can help you meet people who are going through similar issues.

Practice healthy coping strategies. Like other conditions, stress can worsen schizophrenia symptoms. Minimize stress by practicing healthy habits such as exercise.