Demystifying Schizophrenia

By Walker B. Shapiro, Medical Student

You have probably heard of schizophrenia - in newspapers, books, movies, and TV shows; you or somebody you know may be affected with this mental illness. Nonetheless, confusion about schizophrenia is common. This post provides some basic facts about schizophrenia, including common symptoms and available treatments. Schizophrenia is a chronic, treatable brain disease that affects an individual’s thought patterns, behavior, and perceptions of reality.

Some general facts about schizophrenia:

  •  Affects more than 1% of the population with similar rates around the world

  • Affects men and women with similar frequency

  • Symptoms usually start between ages 16-30

  •  Most people with schizophrenia are not dangerous or violent

The symptoms of schizophrenia vary greatly between individuals. They can also change and get better or worse over time. Some of the most common symptoms are listed below:

  • Hallucinations – hearing voices is common

  • Delusions – fixed belief in something untrue or impossible

  • Paranoia – unhealthy or unfounded suspicion

  • Disorganized thoughts – may go on tangents or not make sense when speaking

  • Loss of interest or motivation – may not enjoy daily activities or social interaction

Schizophrenia is a serious chronic disease, but treatment is available to help people get back to thinking clearly and leading full lives. The most important treatment elements include:

  • Medications (‘antipsychotics’) – help restore and maintain normal, healthy thought patterns

  • Therapy and rehabilitation – help cope with stress and return to work, school, independent living, and social interaction

If you are concerned that somebody you know might be suffering from schizophrenia, encourage them to see a doctor for evaluation.

Find more facts on schizophrenia at

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