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Help With Schizophrenia

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that affects about one percent of the population. When schizophrenia is active, symptoms can include delusions, hallucinations, trouble with thinking and concentration, and lack of motivation. However, when these symptoms are treated, most people with schizophrenia will greatly improve over time.

See definition, symptoms, & treatment

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My friend with schizophrenia smokes marijuana and drinks a lot, it that related to the schizophrenia?

Substance abuse is a common problem in persons with schizophrenia, including tobacco, marijuana, alcohol and other drugs. Abuse has all the usual health-related problems, but the presence of schizophrenia complicates this issue. Patients may stop their antipsychotic medications if they believe it interferes with the marijuana or alcohol effect. Disorganized thinking and behavior may be made worse. Marijuana appears to increase the risk of schizophrenia in vulnerable young people and may complicate the course of schizophrenia. Impaired cognition is common in schizophrenia and misused drugs adversely affect cognition, such as attention, memory, task orientation and the like. There are many good reasons to avoid substance misuse. More

Does everyone with schizophrenia need to take medication? Can therapy help someone with schizophrenia?

All persons with schizophrenia need drugs some of the time and most will do better with continued use of medication to help control symptoms and prevent relapse. But the drugs are not effective for all aspects of the illness. Cognitive behavioral therapy may help with certain symptoms and supportive psychotherapy can support personal strengths and improve quality of life. Vocational programs increase the chances of successful employment. Family psychoeducation can give patients and family members a better understanding of the disorder and what will be helpful. A relationship with a case worker may help with the problems of daily living.

So, yes, drug treatment is important, but many patients will not take medication continuously for long periods and many experience side effects that have to be addressed. An integrated, comprehensive approach works best. More

What are the first symptoms someone would notice if they had schizophrenia?

The earliest signs and symptoms come before a diagnosis can be certain. There is now a growing emphasis on identifying young people at high risk for a psychotic disorder and offering treatment and services in advance of a full psychotic experience. At this stage symptoms and signs include problems with personal relationships and school or work performance, experiencing odd phenomena such as hearing a voice or noise but being uncertain if it was really heard, or becoming excessively suspicious. Also, some people may develop a “loner” lifestyle, a sense that something is wrong and that one’s mind is playing tricks, and other things that mark a change in life course. These may not be early schizophrenia symptoms, but it is a good time for clinical assessment and care in hopes of preventing a progression to a full first episode of psychosis.

At first episode of schizophrenia, common symptoms include paranoia, hearing voices or seeing visions, disorganization of thoughts and behavior, anxiety, fear, depression, sleep disturbance, social withdrawal and sometimes poor emotional control seen as anger and hostility.

All the signs and symptoms can occur at a mild level in people who are not ill. A diagnosis must look at the severity of the symptoms, their impact on function and resulting distress. More


About the Expert:

William Carpenter Jr., M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology
University of Maryland School of Medicine
Editor-in-Chief, Schizophrenia Bulletin
May 2015


Myles’ Story

Myles was a 20-year old man who was brought to the emergency room by the campus police of the college from which he had been suspended several months ago. A professor had called and reported that Myles had walked into his classroom, accused him of taking his tuition money and refused to leave.

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Editor's Choice

MAY 13, 2019

Psychologists once linked autism to schizophrenia—and blamed moms for both

Popular Science

A new industry of psychoanalytic parent blaming grew up in the 1960s and ’70s, alongside the new biochemistry work that was supposed to put it out of business. It was focused on a kind of schizophrenia that allegedly affected only young children. So-called “childhood schizophrenia” did not look much like adult schizophrenia; it rarely involved hallucinations, strange delusions, or paranoia. It was instead characterized by cognitive decline and withdrawal into a world of fantasy. In 1943 the child psychiatrist Leo Kanner had suggested that childhood schizophrenia was a distinct syndrome of its own and proposed calling it “infantile autism.”

APR 22, 2019

Study suggests overdiagnosis of schizophrenia

Medical Xpress

In a small study of patients, researchers report that about half the people referred to the clinic with a schizophrenia diagnosis didn't actually have schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and disabling disorder marked by disordered thinking, feelings and behavior. People who reported hearing voices or having anxiety were the ones more likely to be misdiagnosed. 


Additional Resources and Organizations

Physician Reviewed

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
July 2017