All about schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is the name given to a group of psychotic disorders which involve people experiencing thoughts, emotions and behaviours that would be considered unusual. Learn more about what schizophrenia is by reading about its symptoms and treatments.

Signs this might be a problem:

  • Having jumbled and mixed up speech
  • Inappropriate reactions, e..g. laughing at sad news
  • Feeling or hearing things that aren’t there
Young girl knitting

What is schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is the name given to a group of psychotic disorders which involve people experiencing thoughts, emotions and behaviours that would be considered unusual. To be diagnosed as having schizophrenia, a person must be having unusual experiences for a significant period of time. It is important to note, however, that there are other psychotic disorders that have similar symptoms.

Schizophrenia is usually caused by a mix of different factors, including:

  • Genetics or family history.
  • Your environment. Things like being exposed to stress or trauma, if you didn’t receive sufficient nutrition as a child, had problems with brain development, or if your mother had the flu when she was pregnant with you, you have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia.
  • Biochemical factors. Some research has indicated that chemical imbalances in a person’s brain can contribute to developing schizophrenia.
  • Drug use. Some research suggests that drug misuse is related to the development of schizophrenia. It’s likely that substance misuse can bring on or worsen the symptoms and get in the way of the treatment of a person with schizophrenia.

Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia

There are three different types of ‘schizophrenic symptoms’; ‘positive symptoms’, ‘negative symptoms’ and ‘catatonia and inappropriate effect.’

Positive symptoms

These are when experiences are amplified, or when a person’s behaviour is excessive to the point that the general population would consider it unusual. Examples include:

  • Auditory hallucinations - hearing voices talking, laughing or other things that are making noise. It can also mean noises in the person’s environment are painful to hear or too much for them to bear.
  • Feeling sensations that don’t exist - like burning, tingling and stinging.
  • Feeling disconnected from their body, ‘machine like’ or like they are ‘not real’.
  • Seeing things that aren’t there, or finding light too bright or blinding.
  • Experiencing delusions - having thoughts most people would disagree with. E.g. a person may believe they are someone that they actually aren’t, often a famous person.
  • Disorganised speech – not being able to organise thoughts and communicating them in a way which other people can’t understand.

Negative symptoms

These are when thoughts and behaviours which are normally present in the general population aren’t there. Examples include:

  • Lack of expression – when a person’s face, voice tone and gestures seem flat, or looking disinterested in surroundings.
  • Lack of motivation – having trouble doing simple things, not being able to get interested in everything, feeling sleepy.
  • Lack of pleasure – not enjoying things they used to, including relationships and activities.
  • Inattention – being easily distracted. This makes school, work and other activities difficult and frustrating to be a part of.

Catatonia and inappropriate effect

These symptoms don’t fit the categories of ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ symptoms. Examples include:

  • Catatonia – grimacing, making strange facial expressions, repeating certain gesture, or making manic gestures.
  • Catatonia inability – holding yourself in strange positions for a long time.
  • Inappropriate effect - responding to news in a way that doesn’t match what they heard, and isn’t appropriate. For example, laughing when they hear sad news.

What to do about it

Schizophrenia is treatable and people can still have fun and fulfilling lives while living with schizophrenia. The most effective treatment involves a combination of medication and other support, like counselling, so professional help is necessary. It can be hard to know where to find the right support you need. ReachOut NextStep is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options based on what you want help with. Try ReachOut NextStep to learn about the support options available for you.

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, it’s important to go and visit your GP- professional help will make diagnosing and managing your symptoms much quicker and easier.

People with schizophrenia can also benefit from a stable living environment, having a meaningful job/study/hobby, and being kept away from stressful situations as much as possible.

What can I do now?

  • Build routine into your daily life.
  • Join a support group in your local area.
  • Don’t stop your medication without talking to your doctor.


Last reviewed: 03 March, 2016
Did you find this article helpful?

You have already rated this article

Add a comment

Read the commenting guidelines: keep safe and respectful