Schizophrenia

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe brain disorder that affects the way people think, feel and behave. This serious mental illness can cause distress, and impacts on how people function socially and at school or work. Symptoms vary from person to person but commonly include delusions, hallucinations, difficulty concentrating and thinking, disorganized behavior, and problems with motivation.

The factors underlying schizophrenia are very complex. However, it is thought that an interaction between genetic components and environmental influences affects the development of the disorder.

The symptoms of schizophrenia usually start in early adulthood often require lifelong attention. If you have concerns about yourself or someone you know, it is important to seek assessment as early as possible, so that a diagnosis can be considered, treatment can start, and the right kinds of supports put in place. This can make a huge difference. With the right treatment, people with schizophrenia improve over time. Symptoms may not reoccur, and people can lead fulfilling and rewarding lives.

How common is schizophrenia?

The American Psychiatric Association estimates that schizophrenia affects around 1% of the adult population in the United States, and affects men and women equally.

Symptoms of schizophrenia

Symptoms of schizophrenia can vary from person to person. When the disorder is active, most people will experience a period where it is difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is not. The kinds of symptoms that people with schizophrenia experience are:

Positive psychotic symptoms

Negative psychotic symptoms

Disorganized symptoms

Impaired cognition symptoms

Experts believe that there are several factors that can make the symptoms of schizophrenia worse, including not taking medications as prescribed, using alcohol or drugs, and stress.

Isn’t schizophrenia the same as split-personality?

No. Unfortunately, this is one of many misconceptions surrounding schizophrenia.

Treatment for schizophrenia

Effective treatments for schizophrenia are available, enabling many people to improve over time and lead fulfilling lives.

Treatment plans tend to be most effective when they include a combination of approaches. Medication, skills training, therapy and other supports all help. As such, treatment typically occurs in a multidisciplinary team, so that each treatment component can be delivered by the relevant specialized mental health professional.

It’s important to work closely with your health care professional to figure out the treatment approach that’s the right fit for you. Common elements of a treatment plan include:

Therapy types to consider for schizophrenia

Many types of therapy are considered helpful for treating symptoms of schizophrenia and the associated challenges. Therapy types include:

What to look for in a therapist for schizophrenia

When selecting a mental health professional to provide therapy as a component of a treatment plan, it can be helpful to consider the following factors:

Personal fit

One of the most important things to consider is the potential for developing a strong working relationship with your therapist. This relationship is called the therapeutic alliance, and it’s the number one indicator of treatment efficacy. Finding the right therapist can be particularly challenging yet important for people who can have social difficulties or experience paranoia. Consider asking for help from trusted family members, friends, or your doctor.

Qualifications and experience

Be sure that you find a licensed mental health professional. Ask your prospective therapist ahead of time whether they have specialized training and experience working with people with schizophrenia.

Talk in advance

The best way to judge how you might feel about your prospective therapist is to ask for a preliminary phone call (you can do this with our vetted Zencare therapists). Most therapists will be happy to oblige. This gives you the opportunity to ask about:

Try to speak to a few different therapists before making your mind up.