Schizophrenia, General Type

Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, often disabling mental health disorder that makes functioning in work and society difficult. The difference been reality and what you think is reality becomes blurred in your mind. Schizophrenia is not as common as other severe mental health problems, but it can have a severe, disabling effect on a person. It usually first appears in adolescence or early adulthood. One or more bout of symptoms must last for at least 6 months before a diagnosis is made.

The cause of schizophrenia is not yet known. It's believed to be a result of genetic and biological factors (brain chemistry and structure). Schizophrenia does run in families and occurs in about 1 in 100 adults. Environmental factors may also have a role in schizophrenia. These may include where you grew up, toxins you are exposed to, and infections you've had.

Symptoms include:

  • Loss of touch with reality (psychosis)

  • Seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations)

  • False beliefs (delusions)

  • Disorganized thinking and speech

  • Severe anxiety

  • Feeling unreal

  • Paranoia

  • Insomnia

  • Trouble thinking or concentrating clearly

  • Depression or feeling suicidal

  • Withdrawal from those around you (social withdrawal)

  • Limited range of emotions (flat affect)

  • Problems with reasoning and problem solving (cognitive deficits)

  • Problems at work because of the above symptoms

Medicines and therapy can help with many of the symptoms. They can help you better function each day and improve your quality of life. These medicines take 2 to 4 weeks to start working and 6 to 8 weeks to take full effect. Because schizophrenia is complex and severe, treatment is also complex. It can include ongoing psychotherapy, community resource networking, and rehab programs such as occupational training.

It's common to feel that you are not ill and that you don't need treatment. It's important to accept the support of friends and family in continuing to take your medicine, continue with psychotherapy, and us suggested community resources.

Home care

  • Ongoing care and support help manage this disease. Find a healthcare provider and therapist who meet your needs. Seek help when you feel like your symptoms are getting worse or when family and friends ask you to seek help.

  • Tell each of your healthcare providers about all of the prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements you take. Certain supplements interact with medicines and can cause dangerous side effects. Ask your pharmacist when you have questions about medicine interactions. If you drink alcohol, let your provider know when and how much you use.

  • Be sure to take all of your medicine as directed and get regular blood work to check your medicine level and your overall health. Take the medicines and get the follow-up lab work as prescribed, even if you think you don’t need it. Never change your medicine dose or stop taking your medicines unless you check with your provider. Never share your medicine or use someone else's medicine.

  • Seek support from trusted friends or family by talking about your feelings and thoughts. Ask them to help you recognize behavior changes early so you can get help. If needed, your healthcare provider can adjust your medicines.

  • If you are having trouble managing workplace issues, or caring for yourself because of your schizophrenia, contact your local Americans with Disabilities (ADA) office to see if they can help. The U.S. Department of Justice operates a toll-free ADA information line at: 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TTY). You can also check the ADA website at ada.gov . They can help you find a local office.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your doctor or therapist, or as advised.

Call 911

Call 911 if you:

  • Have suicidal thoughts, a suicide plan, and the means to carry out the plan

  • Have trouble breathing

  • Are very confused

  • Are very drowsy or have trouble awakening

  • Feel faint or lose consciousness

  • Have rapid heart rate, very low heart rate, or a new irregular heart rate

  • Have a seizure

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Your symptoms get worse

  • Family or friends express concern over your behavior and ask you to seek help

  • Feeling out of control or that you are being controlled by others

  • Feeling like you want to harm yourself or another

  • Unable to care for yourself

  • Hallucinations get worse

  • Delusions or paranoia get worse

  • Hearing voices that are telling you to harm yourself or others

  • Depression or anxiety get worse

  • New symptoms

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