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Understanding Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that is widely misunderstood. Many know that hallucinations and delusions are common features of the disease but know little about this disorder. One common misconception is that people with schizophrenia have multiple personalities, which is untrue. Schizophrenia and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) are two different mental illnesses. However, they sometimes coincide in the same person, and DID can be challenging to diagnose, which may explain some of the confusion. Diagnosis and treatment as early as possible, are always the best approach if you suspect someone may have either of these conditions.

Schizophrenia disrupts a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, socialize, and make sound decisions. The symptoms and severity of this illness can vary widely from person to person, though they always share some commonalities. It can appear at any time, but the average age of onset is between 18-30 years of age for men and 25-35 years for women. Schizophrenia can be challenging to diagnose, depending on the symptoms and age of onset. The early signs can be subtle and particularly easy to overlook in teenagers since they are already expected to exhibit some moody behavior.

Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Early signs of schizophrenia include moodiness, erratic sleep patterns, increasing isolation from others, and unusual thoughts or paranoia, and there is a strong genetic component to this mental illness. People with a family history of psychotic symptoms are more likely to develop it at some point than the general population. As with any mental health disorder or mental illness, a professional diagnosis is necessary before proper and effective treatment can occur.

It’s always wise to be as informed as possible if you understand that a formal diagnosis by a trained clinician is necessary for treatment. Medication compliance is also vital for people with schizophrenia, as is maintaining simplicity and good order. People with this condition can live a happy, productive life, provided they comply with recommended behaviors and communicate regularly with those treating them. Avoiding isolation and reporting any changes in symptoms is also very important for successful treatment.

To reach a diagnosis of schizophrenia, some of the following symptoms must be observed for at least six months

Confusion and Disorganized Thoughts

Cognitive symptoms are often the first to be noticed. This can look like simple forgetfulness at first. As the illness progresses, more serious challenges will be faced with remembering things or connecting thoughts or activities in sequence. Completing tasks that have more than one or two steps can be difficult. It’s also not unusual for people with schizophrenia to have anosognosia, a lack of awareness that they are ill. They often “forget” they have a mental illness, try to live as others do, and become confused when things don’t seem to go as they should.


A person hallucinating may see or hear things that aren’t there. They are usually prompted by something tangible that the mind then distorts. For example, air conditioning blowing into the room might sound like people whispering their names, or shadows moving across the floor might appear as ghosts or other supernatural creatures.


Delusions are distortions of thought. False beliefs that a person with schizophrenia conjures in their mind. They will tend to cling to these false beliefs even when presented with solid evidence that they are not true or could not be true. People with delusions often have trouble focusing, confusion, or believe their thoughts are being “blocked” somehow.

Negative Symptoms

Negative symptoms of schizophrenia include being emotionally flat or speaking in an almost robotic, disconnected manner. Another example is being unable to find the will or focus on starting or following through with activities. Someone with these negative symptoms may show little interest in life and fail to sustain relationships. Many of these symptoms mirror major depression, sometimes leading to misdiagnosis when the other symptoms are not seen or thoroughly investigated.

Getting Help for Schizophrenia

If you suspect you or someone you love may have schizophrenia, getting a proper clinical diagnosis is the key to managing this mental illness. The sooner someone is diagnosed, the sooner intervention can get the person the help they need. The best-case scenario is getting a treatment plan, including pharmacotherapy, onboard before symptoms worsen. But regardless of where you or your loved one are on the journey, The Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center can help those struggling to live a happy, healthy, and productive life.

Contact us if you believe you or someone you love could benefit from mental health treatment or have questions about mental illness.


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