Schizophrenia Overview

Schizophrenia is a complex, severe, and disabling brain disorder that alters how a person perceives the world, marked by a disconnection from reality. Confusion and fear may cause withdrawal or abnormal behavior.

This disorder usually presents between a person’s late teens or early twenties, but it can occur in children or later adulthood. One percent of the American population will be diagnosed with this condition during their lifetime, which represents 2 million people. Read more in this Schizophrenia patient education guide.

Common early warning signs include:

  • Paranoia, suspiciousness, hostility
  • Inappropriate emotional display with crying or laughing
  • Lack of expression of happiness or sorrow
  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders (insomnia or sleeping throughout the day)
  • Irrational or inappropriate statements
  • Loss of memory, lack of focus
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and society
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Flat gaze
  • Decline of mental acuity, increased confusion
  • Inability to take criticism (reacting with hostility)


Five symptoms typical of schizophrenia:

  1. Hallucinations – experiencing something that is real although it is not. It can involve any of the senses, such as hearing noises or seeing visual images that are not really there.
  2. Delusions – occur in 90% of patients. This is a set idea that the individual has despite facts that show it isn’t valid. This takes the form of fantasies or illogical and bizarre ideas. Common forms of delusion involve ideas of persecution or grandeur, control issues, or events possessing some special meaning.
  3. Muddled speech – responding inappropriately to questions or having no connection between sentences or words. This is due to lack of focus and the inability to maintain specific thoughts. Patterns of rhyming words, free association, perseveration, and made-up words are common.
  4. Unpredictable behavior - bizarre, non-purposeful actions. This behavior may be impulsive and show a lack of daily functions.
  5. Flat affect - the absence or near absence of emotional response to a situation that normally elicits emotion


There are 3 subtypes of schizophrenia:

  1. Paranoid schizophrenia – includes delusions of persecution or feelings of grandeur. The thoughts often follow an organized theme or story
  2. Disorganized schizophrenia – includes odd reactions or facial expressions, possible infantile speech and behavior, and impaired speech and communication skills
  3. Catatonic schizophrenia – includes a behavior of stupor or excited motor signs with pacing and acting out violently


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