What is Schizophrenia? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

While schizophrenia can be translated into splitting of the mind, it must not be confused with dissociative identity disorder, formerly called multiple personality disorder. Schizophrenia does affect the mind, however, but in many different ways.

Schizophrenia affects about 1.5 million Americans every year. Almost half of this group also have co-occurring mental, behavioral, or substance use disorders also. While it is most prevalent in men, women are also diagnosed. Both men and women start to see symptoms of schizophrenia in their late teens, up to their early thirties.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a brain disorder, like other mental illnesses. People with schizophrenia have been portrayed in television and the movies as those who wander around a town, homeless, talking to themselves. This misinformation is what leads to stigmas and prevents some people from getting help.

Schizophrenia is a disease that changes how the brain functions, creating symptoms that interfere with personal, professional, academic, social, and other areas of life.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), created by the American Psychiatric Association, lists the specific criteria used to diagnose someone with schizophrenia. The DSM categorizes the disorder as Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders.

A person must have the following primary symptoms:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganized speech
  • Disorganized or catatonic behavior
  • Negative symptoms such as diminished emotional expression

Secondary symptoms may include sleep disturbances, feeling detached, hostile, or aggressive, and cognitive impairments in language, thinking, and memory. When talking to someone having a schizophrenic episode, you may find they have thoughts and beliefs that are much different than the norm. They may also struggle to stay focused, think logically, and make decisions.

Who Gets Schizophrenia?

Like most other mental health disorders, schizophrenia is not associated with a single cause. Instead, multiple factors play a role, including genetic, environmental, and social. There are risk factors or things that make it more likely someone will develop schizophrenia.

Risk factors include a family history of schizophrenia, autoimmune abnormalities, complications during birth, substance abuse, and complications during childbirth.

What Are the Signs of Schizophrenia?

Hallucinations may be one of the most well-known symptoms of schizophrenia. Hallucinations involve the senses, like hearing or seeing something or someone that does not exist. You can have hallucinations with all the senses, although sight and hearing are the most recognized.

Other symptoms include:

  • Illogical thinking
  • Withdrawing from society
  • Limited speaking
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Having odd beliefs
  • Expressionless when talking

Symptoms can range from mild, moderate to severe. Some may seem catatonic and struggle to care for themselves on some days. Others may be functional but have bizarre thoughts or appear anxious or fearful. Furthermore, some may seem to move slower, and their mood may often change, sometimes feeling paranoid or as if someone else is controlling them.

While you may notice the symptoms of schizophrenia, the person with the disorder does not. They have no idea they are exhibiting characteristics of a mental health disorder.

Schizophrenia is very treatable.

How is Schizophrenia Treated?

There is no cure for schizophrenia, but it is a treatable disorder. Reports claim that for every five people who seek schizophrenia treatment, one will get better within five years, symptoms will improve. Three will improve but still have occasions when symptoms worsen for a while.

The use of antipsychotic medicines is effective with some. A previous problem with medications is getting a person with schizophrenia to take their medicine consistently. Advances have been made to help with this problem. Both liquids and injections are available today.

Medications are not recommended as a sole treatment. They should be combined with psychotherapy that utilizes cognitive-behavioral therapies, skill-building, and vocational therapy.

Electroconvulsive therapy is reserved for people with severe schizophrenia symptoms.

Alternative therapies to treat bipolar disorder include diet and nutrition and adding vitamins, fish oil, and diet management.

Changes Regarding Schizophrenia

The most recent version of the DSM revised the definition of schizophrenia. Rather than breaking it into four categories, they listed it as the schizophrenia spectrum. However, understanding the four categories and the symptoms of each can help you identify the disorder when just a few symptoms are present. The four categories eliminated are paranoid, catatonic, undifferentiated, and schizoaffective.

Paranoid Schizophrenia

Someone with paranoid schizophrenia exhibits a severe case of paranoia. They may have hallucinations and delusions because the mind cannot distinguish between what is real and what is not real. The symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia are primarily negative or fear-based.

Examples include fearing someone is out to get you, a spouse is cheating, or the government is listening to your cell phone conversations.

Catatonic Schizophrenia

Movements and speech are very slow in someone with catatonic schizophrenia. However, there can be times when a person can become hyperactive and exhibit rapid movements. It seems similar to bipolar disorder, which may be why it is occasionally misdiagnosed. A few other examples of symptoms include catalepsy, or standing in odd postures, echolalia or copying another person’s speech, and posturing or holding a posture against gravity.

Undifferentiated Schizophrenia

This category is used with symptoms of one or more types that appear but not enough to make a precise diagnosis.


When someone is schizoaffective, they have symptoms of schizophrenia and a mood disorder. Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder are examples of mood disorders that accompany schizophrenia.

A very rare form of childhood schizophrenia exists. Some have been diagnosed younger than 13 years old. A final category is residual schizophrenia, which refers to a person who has no symptoms of schizophrenia currently but has had a previous episode.

Where to Go From Here

The first step in getting treatment for schizophrenia is to make an appointment at the mental health center for a complete assessment by a licensed mental health professional, either a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. These professionals are trained to properly diagnose schizophrenia and develop a treatment plan to control symptoms.

Give us a call today. We are eager to share our treatment opportunities.