Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. It can result in hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behaviour that impairs daily functioning. The cause of schizophrenia isn’t known, but it’s likely a combination of several factors, like the way your body works, family history, environment, and life experiences.
Schizophrenia can be a frightening experience, but many people learn how to manage schizophrenia with the right tools and supports.
What is normal?
For most people, schizophrenia comes on slowly, with subtle warning signs. In the early phase of schizophrenia, people may seem eccentric, unmotivated, emotionless, and reclusive to others. Of course, at certain times, anyone can feel or act in these ways. But with schizophrenia, these symptoms are followed by a gradual decline in functioning.
What are common signs and symptoms?
Schizophrenia involves a range of problems with thinking, behaviour, and emotions.
- Delusions: false beliefs that are not based in reality, like thinking you're being harmed or harassed, have exceptional abilities, or are famous.
- Hallucinations: seeing or hearing things that don't exist, but with the full force and impact of a normal experience.
- Disorganized thinking: effective communication can be impaired, and answers to questions can be partially or completely unrelated.
- Extremely disorganized or abnormal motor behaviour: from childlike silliness to unpredictable agitation.
- Negative symptoms: reduced or lack of ability to function normally. For example, neglecting personal hygiene or appearing to lack emotion, losing interest in everyday activities, or socially withdrawing.
Should I seek help?
Often, people with schizophrenia aren’t aware that their difficulties are due to a mental disorder. So it falls on family and friends to urge them to get help. If you think someone you know may have symptoms of schizophrenia, talk to him or her about your concerns. You can offer encouragement and support and help them find the help they need. In some cases, emergency hospitalization may be needed.
People with schizophrenia require lifelong treatment. Early treatment may help get symptoms under control before serious complications develop and may help improve the long-term outlook. If your loved one poses a danger to themselves or others, you may need to call 911 for help so they can be evaluated by a mental health professional.
Mental Health 101The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Knowledge is power. This series of free online tutorials is a starting point for learning about mental health. You can come away with a greater understanding of the mental health concern you are interested in knowing more about.
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