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Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe brain disorder that interferes with the way a person interprets reality. People with schizophrenia may:

  • Hear voices or see things that others do not
  • Become paranoid that people are plotting against them
  • Experience cognitive deficits
  • Withdraw socially

Factors that increase your risk of schizophrenia include:

  • Having a parent or sibling with schizophrenia
  • Marijuana use or other drug use
  • Having an older father
  • Other factors, like problems during pregnancy or birth such as infection


Men typically develop symptoms in their late teens or early twenties. Schizophrenia in women tends to occur in their twenties or thirties. Symptoms often appear slowly. They may become more disturbing and bizarre over time or occur in a matter of weeks or months.

Symptoms may include:

  • Hallucinations — seeing or hearing things/voices that are not there
  • Delusions — strong but false personal beliefs that are not based in reality
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Disorganized speech — lack of ability to speak in a way that makes sense
  • Catatonic behavior — slow movement, repeating rhythmic gestures, pacing, walking in circles, refusal to do things, repetitive speech
  • Emotional flatness — flat speech, lack of facial expression and general disinterest and withdrawal
  • Paranoia
  • Inappropriate laughter
  • Poor hygiene and self-care


Your doctor can diagnose schizophrenia by symptoms that:

  • Exist most of the time during a period of one month
  • Cause a decreased level of functioning
  • Continue for at least six months (certain symptoms)

Your doctor will rule out other causes, such as drug use, physical illness or other mental health conditions.

Treating the Symptoms

Schizophrenia is not curable, but it is treatable. Antipsychotic medicine can control symptoms by blocking certain chemicals in the brain to help control abnormal thinking. If you have difficulty taking medical medication you can opt for a long-acting injection. 

Medications for Coexisting Conditions

Depression and anxiety can often occur with schizophrenia. They may be treated with:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety medicine
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Anticonvulsants

Supportive Therapy

Schizophrenia is a lifelong condition. Individual and family therapy can address:

  • Social skills
  • Vocational guidance
  • Community resources
  • Family issues
  • Living arrangements
  • Emotional support


Call 434.243.3675.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.


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