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 childhood or later adulthood. One percent of people in the United States—about two million people—will be diagnosed with this condition during their lifetime.

Types of Schizophrenia

  1. Paranoid schizophrenia: Hallucinations and delusional thoughts about persecution or conspiracies
  2. Disorganized schizophrenia: Inappropriate reactions and emotions, and impaired speech and communication skills
  3. Catatonic schizophrenia: Stupor or dramatic increase in movement with pacing and acting out violently

Early Warning Signs of Schizophrenia

  • Paranoia, suspiciousness, hostility
  • Inappropriate emotional display with crying or laughing
  • Lack of expression
  • Depression
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Irrational or inappropriate statements
  • Loss of memory, lack of focus, confusion
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and society
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Reacting to criticism with hostility

Common Symptoms of Schizophrenia

  • Hallucinations: Believing something is real although it is not. It can involve any of the senses, such as hearing voices or seeing visual images that are not really there.
  • Delusions: Occurs 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 conspiracies, control issues, or assigning special meaning to normal occurrences.
  • 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, repetition, and made-up words are common.
  • Unpredictable behavior: Bizarre, non-purposeful actions. This behavior may be impulsive and affect daily functioning.
  • Flat affect: The absence of an emotional response to things that would normally be expected to engage the emotions

Doctors Who Treat Schizophrenia

As schizophrenia is diagnosed, treated and managed, the following doctors may make up a patient’s care team:

  • Psychiatrists: Medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders using both therapy and medications.
  • Psychologist: Educates families and lends support in dealing with schizophrenia.
  • Case Managers: Helps patients find housing, employment, crisis management and support groups in their communities.
  • Occupational Therapists: Treats patients with disabilities or conditions by helping them improve or learn the skills needed to work and function daily in society.