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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.

While there is no cure for schizophrenia, research is leading to new, safer treatments. Experts also are unraveling the causes of the disease by studying genetics, conducting behavioral research, and using advanced imaging to look at the brain’s structure and function. These approaches hold the promise of new, more effective therapies.

The complexity of schizophrenia may help explain why there are misconceptions about the disease. Schizophrenia does not mean split personality or multiple-personality. Most people with schizophrenia are not dangerous or violent. They also are not homeless nor do they live in hospitals. Most people with schizophrenia live with family, in group homes or on their own.

Read more on symptoms & treatment

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  • Jun 24, 2020
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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

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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

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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.

Read More 

Editor's Choice

APR 5, 2020

In 'Hidden Valley Road,' A Family's Journey Helps Shift The Science of Mental Illness

NPR Weekend Edition Sunday

One family has helped researchers take steps forward in attempts to find answers to questions about schizophrenia. The Galvins seemed like a model for baby-boomer America, 12 children with a military dad and a strict but religious mother growing up in Colorado in the 1960s. But over the years, six of the boys in the family were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Writer Robert Kolker tells the story of the Galvin family — and how their journey is transforming the science around the mental illness — in a new book, Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family..”

MAR 31, 2020

New insights into the mechanisms underlying the development of schizophrenia

Medical Xpress

The neurobiology of schizophrenia is not yet insufficiently understood. Recent findings from a study conducted at the MedUni Vienna provide new insight into the mechanisms of this disorder. The results of the study conducted at MedUni Vienna have recently been published in the journal Translational Psychiatry. 

MAR 27, 2020

Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder May Share Sleep-Circadian Rhythm Phenotypes
Psychiatry Advisor

Patients with remitted schizophrenia may have a sleep-circadian phenotype distinguished by longer total sleep time, extended sleep latency, elevated wake after sleep onset, and decreased motor activity, with comparable findings in patients with bipolar disorder. The study findings, published in Schizophrenia Bulletin, demonstrated greater heterogeneity for sleep and circadian rhythm patterns in both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder when compared with controls,

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Additional Resources and Organizations

Physician Reviewed

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