Key Takeaways

  • Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that causes hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking. Left untreated, these symptoms can impact safety and make it hard to function.
  • More research is needed to better understand the cause of schizophrenia. But certain factors may increase your risk.
  • While there is no cure for schizophrenia, it can be managed with therapy, medication, and community support. 

Schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition. Like other psychotic disorders, it causes symptoms that result in a distorted perception of reality. People living with this condition often experience hallucinations and delusions. In other words, they see and hear things that aren’t really there. They also have delusional thoughts or false beliefs, even when there’s evidence that those beliefs are untrue. For example, a person with schizophrenia may believe that someone dangerous is watching them at all times, despite there being no real signs that this is occurring. These challenging symptoms make it difficult to function in daily life and maintain relationships. 

Can schizophrenia be cured?

Schizophrenia can’t be cured. But it can be managed with lifelong support, and people with schizophrenia can lead happy and fulfilling lives. This usually involves a combination of medication, therapy, and self-management techniques. However, research shows that even people who have access to treatment are at risk of relapse. A schizophrenia relapse can have fatal consequences and typically occurs when a person stops taking their medication. So it’s important that your provider includes relapse prevention, safety planning, and recovery techniques in your schizophrenia treatment plan.

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia falls into the category of mental health conditions known as psychotic disorders. It’s a serious, lifelong condition that affects how a person sees themselves and the world around them. Schizophrenia makes it difficult for people to think clearly, connect with others, and regulate their emotions. 

People with schizophrenia experience symptoms that cause a distorted view of reality. In turn, it can be challenging to tell what is real and what is not. These may include visual or auditory hallucinations or delusional thinking. People living with schizophrenia also experience symptoms like low motivation, lack of emotional expression, and a loss of interest in activities. These severe symptoms have a profound impact on their ability to function in daily life.

There isn’t a single underlying cause of schizophrenia. However, there are some known factors that may increase your risk of developing the condition.

  • If you have irregularities in the areas of the brain that regulate dopamine or glutamate, you may be more likely to develop schizophrenia.
  • If you have a close relative, like a sibling or parent, who also has schizophrenia, you are six times more likely to develop it yourself.
  • Having certain health complications — like viruses, autoimmune disorders, and prenatal malnutrition — may increase your risk of schizophrenia.
  • Using mind-altering substances during your teen years is correlated with an increase in the psychotic symptoms associated with schizophrenia. This doesn’t mean that substance use causes schizophrenia. Rather, it means that these two things are often connected.

Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia

Schizophrenia can affect people in different ways. But there are some common signs and symptoms to be aware of.

  • Hallucinations: A person with schizophrenia may see, hear, smell, taste, or feel things that aren’t really there. For example, they may hear “voices” and believe someone is talking to them or telling them to do something. These experiences are called hallucinations. 
  • Delusions: People with schizophrenia often have strongly held beliefs that do not align with facts and are untrue to most other people. For example, they may believe that a celebrity or someone on TV is sending them secret messages or trying to harm them. These unfounded thoughts are called delusions.
  • Cognitive impairments: Schizophrenia causes cognitive impairments that make it difficult for a person to organize their thoughts. They think in illogical or unusual ways, and this makes it hard for them to focus, complete tasks, and communicate with others.
  • Abnormal body movements: Sometimes, schizophrenia can cause abnormal body movements. This may cause a person to repeat certain physical motions without reason. A person with schizophrenia may also speak in a dull voice and have limited facial expressions.
  • Depressive symptoms: Schizophrenia can cause depressive or negative symptoms. This includes a loss of interest in activities, low energy, and difficulty feeling pleasure.

Left untreated, these symptoms can make it difficult for people with schizophrenia to complete simple tasks. They may have trouble with basic activities, like grocery shopping, paying bills, hygiene, or holding down a job. Their disorganized thinking and unusual behavior can also make it difficult to interact with others. This can lead to social isolation and difficulty maintaining relationships.

When does schizophrenia develop?

Schizophrenia tends to develop between the late teenage years and early thirties. But people may start to exhibit mild symptoms years before they’re officially diagnosed. Compared to other mental health conditions like anxiety or depression, schizophrenia is relatively rare. It’s estimated that it affects between 0.25% and 0.64% of the U.S. adult population. And people assigned male at birth tend to exhibit symptoms earlier than those assigned female at birth.

Treatments for schizophrenia

When it comes to treating schizophrenia, early detection is key. The sooner someone accesses support, the better equipped they’ll be to manage their symptoms over time. 

While there is no cure for schizophrenia and it will not go away on its own, it can be treated with a combination of therapy, medication, and community support. However, one of the most challenging aspects of schizophrenia is that it’s often accompanied by something called anosognosia. This means that people with schizophrenia often have no awareness that their symptoms are a sign of a mental health condition. This can make it difficult for them to access care without additional support.

Find care with Rula

Receiving a schizophrenia diagnosis can be a challenging experience. But this does not mean that you or your loved one cannot enjoy life or have meaningful relationships. No matter where you are on your schizophrenia treatment journey, know that you’re not alone. 

At Rula, we’re here to make it easier for people to access the support they need to manage their symptoms. Thanks to our extensive provider network, we can connect you with therapy and psychiatric care that’s in-network with your insurance. Together, therapists and psychiatric providers in the Rula network can create an individualized treatment plan that includes both medication management and ongoing mental health support. 

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