Understanding Schizophrenia

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What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that is widely misunderstood. Many people are aware that hallucinations and delusions are common features of the illness but know little else about this disorder. One common misconception is that people with schizophrenia have multiple personalities. This is not true. Schizophrenia and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) are two different mental illnesses. They do sometimes coincide in the same person however 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 their emotions, socialize and make sound decisions. It is complex in many ways. The symptoms and severity of this illness can vary widely from person to person, though they always share some commonalities. Technically 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 of age for women. Schizophrenia can be challenging to diagnose depending on the symptoms and the age it appears. 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 include moodiness, erratic sleep patterns, increasing isolation from others, and unusual thoughts or paranoia. 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 a whole. As with any mental health disorder or mental illness, a professional diagnosis is necessary before proper and effective treatment can occur.

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

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In order to reach a diagnosis of schizophrenia, some of the following symptoms must be observed for at least 6 months:

Confusion and Disorganized Thoughts

The cognitive symptoms are often the first to be noticed. This can look like simple forgetfulness at first. As it develops there will be more serious challenges 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 a condition called anosognosia, which is essentially a lack of awareness that they are ill. They often “forget” they have a mental illness and try to live as others do and become confused when things don’t seem to go as they should.


Hallucinations involve the senses. A person who hallucinates may see or hear things that aren’t really there. They are usually prompted by something real which the mind then distorts. For example, the sound of air conditioning blowing into the room might sound like people whispering their name 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 who have delusions often also 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. Being unable to find the will or focus to start or follow through with activities would be another example. Someone with these negative symptoms may show little interest in life and fail to sustain relationships. Many of these symptoms seem to mirror major depression which can sometimes lead to misdiagnosis when the other symptoms are not seen or fully 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 begin to get the person the help they need. Getting a treatment plan including pharmacotherapy onboard before symptoms worsen is the best-case scenario. 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.

If you believe you or someone you love could benefit from mental health treatment or you just have questions about mental illness, give The Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center a call at (954) 758-4174

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