Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder. It affects brain function by changing thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, judgement and behaviour.
Symptoms may vary from one person to another. They are not always manifested at the same time. In some people, symptoms of the illness appear gradually, while in others, they come on suddenly.
In order to be associated with schizophrenia, symptoms must be continuously present and last at least 6 months.
Symptoms of schizophrenia fall into 3 categories:
Symptoms that fall into this category include hallucinations and delusional ideas.
The person may:
The person may:
Do not wait until you are no longer able to function before consulting. If you have symptoms, there are mental health organizations and associations that can provide information and offer help and support. Read the Help and Resources section to find out what resources are available.
See your family doctor or another health professional if:
A health professional can assess if you are suffering from schizophrenia or another health problem. To properly evaluate your condition, it might be necessary to conduct a physical exam or laboratory tests. You could also undergo a clinical evaluation of your mental state. You could be asked questions about what is on your mind, and your appearance and behaviour analyzed. You will be offered a treatment plan that is adapted to your needs.
If you have suicidal thoughts and fear for your safety or that of people around you, read Preventing Suicide. You will find further information on available help and resources.
Schizophrenia is a treatable disease. There are known treatments that allow people suffering from this illness to regain control of their lives and daily activities.
Many people with schizophrenia lead fulfilling lives. They feel well, without experiencing symptoms. If they do, the symptoms are less intense and better controlled. Despite the risk of relapse, they can maintain good mental health, have healthy lifestyle habits and follow their treatment.
According to recent studies, the earlier schizophrenia is detected and treated from the first symptoms, the greater the chances for a person to heal quickly. The person can thus:
Some people must be hospitalized if they experience a particularly acute psychotic episode.
In most cases, schizophrenia is treated with one or both of the following treatments:
Additionally, for some people, joining a support group helps with:
The support that a person with schizophrenia receives from the people around him or her is important to daily living and recovery. Their support and knowledge of the person’s situation are essential to the treatment.
Psychotherapy helps the person to better cope day to day. It helps him or her to better recognize emotions, thoughts and behaviours that affect his or her mental health. It also helps with improving social skills and communication, as well as a better understanding of the illness. Thus the person can:
Different medications can be used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia and prevent relapses. These medications are called “antipsychotics”.
Antipsychotics are designed to restore chemical balance in the brain. They rebalance:
These medications also lower anxiety and reduce the risk of experiencing a new psychotic episode.
If your doctor prescribes medication, it is important that you follow the instructions carefully.
Even if you feel better, you must continue the treatment as prescribed in order to avoid the reoccurrence of symptoms.
If you experience undesirable side effects, discuss them with your pharmacist or your doctor as soon as possible. If necessary, your medication can be adjusted or other medication may be recommended.
People suffering from schizophrenia can also experience other problems, including:
Living with untreated schizophrenia can lead to several consequences for the person suffering from it and the people around him or her. This could:
There are simple ways to help yourself feel better. To learn more, read Maintaining Good Mental Health.
Schizophrenia doesn’t always have a single cause. It is often a combination of several factors that leads to symptoms. Here are a few of these factors:
Schizophrenia affects 1% of the population. It usually appears between 16 and 30 years of age. It can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex, social status, education, nationality or ethnic origin.
People with schizophrenia are sometimes victims of prejudice. People wrongly believe that those with the illness are frequently aggressive or violent. Though, people with schizophrenia are often more vulnerable to abuse.
To learn more about prejudices, their consequences and how to fight them, read Fighting the Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness.
Resources are available for help and to obtain more information about schizophrenia:
You can also consult the Mental Health (Mental Illness) page for more available resources.
If you would like to help a loved one with a mental illness, read Living with a Person Suffering from Mental Illness. There are tips available on how to help the person while respecting your limits.
To receive care or services, or to find a psychotherapist with whom you feel comfortable, contact one of the following resources:
To find contact information for your family medicine clinic, your CISSS or your CIUSSS, go to Finding a Resource.
Last update: November 14, 2017 3:36 PM
The information on this website by no means replaces the advice of a health professional. If you have questions regarding your health, contact Info-Santé 811 or see a health professional.