When we picture schizophrenia we may picture the iconic characters we know in movies such as "A Beautiful Mind" (think Russell Crowe) or "Girl, Interrupted"(Angelina Jolie). The word itself is often synonymous with "crazy". However, for those suffering from schizophrenia, it can be a challenging and serious mental illness that disrupts their entire life.

For someone who has schizophrenia, or one of the schizophrenia spectrum disorders, the illness makes it difficult for them to distinguish between what is real and unreal, causing "psychotic symptoms." It also makes it hard to manage emotions, relate to others, and function normally. To someone living with schizophrenia, the world they live in and see is simply different.

What is Schizophrenia?

The most common form of schizophrenia is what we most often see on TV, paranoid schizophrenia, a severe mental disorder. This type of schizophrenia causes an altered perception of reality. A person with paranoid schizophrenia may hear things that don't exist, speak in strange or confusing ways, believe others are trying to harm them or feel like they're constantly being watched. 

These symptoms can make it hard for someone with the disorder to form relationships and may disrupt daily activities like bathing, eating, or simply running errands. They can also lead to alcohol and drug abuse in an attempt to self-medicate. Many people with schizophrenia withdraw from the outside world, act out in confusion and fear, and are at an increased risk of attempting suicide, especially during psychotic episodes, periods of depression, and within the first six months of starting treatment.

The good news is, while schizophrenia is a chronic disorder, most people with it get better over time, not worse. Options for treating schizophrenia are improving and there are plenty of solutions to manage it. Schizophrenia also tends to be episodic, meaning it comes in waves. Knowing these "waves" may come allows for strategies and coping mechanisms to be put in place before another episode starts. 

With the right medication, support, and talk therapies, people with schizophrenia can live full and rewarding lives, living independently and managing their symptoms on their own.

It is important to note that many of the things we know about schizophrenia are simply myths. Stigma keeps schizophrenia in the shadows where it cannot heal. Through recognizing our errors in how this illness presents itself and what those who are diagnosed with the disorder are going through we can begin to make real change.

Common Misconceptions About Mental Illness and Schizophrenia

Myth: People with schizophrenia are dangerous, and they have to be on antipsychotic medication.

Fact: Although the delusional thoughts and hallucinations of schizophrenia sometimes can lead to violent behavior, most people with schizophrenia are neither violent nor dangerous. Often, many people can also manage their schizophrenia and mental health without the use of antipsychotic medications.

Myth: Schizophrenia is a rare condition.

Fact: Schizophrenia is not rare when compared to other mental health disorders and other psychotic disorders. Around 1 in 100 people have a lifetime risk of developing schizophrenia.

Myth: Schizophrenia is a "split personality" or multiple personalities.

Fact: Multiple personality disorder is very different from schizophrenia and is significantly less common. People with schizophrenia do not have split personalities, rather they are "split off" from reality.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

There are five major characteristics of schizophrenia: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, and disorganized behavior. Not every person with schizophrenia will have all of these symptoms and the symptoms may change over time. The symptoms of schizophrenia are some of the scariest of all serious mental health conditions, and seeking proper and intensive treatment from a mental health treatment team is vital. Some of the symptoms of schizophrenia include: 


Delusions are firmly held ideas that a person has despite having clear and obvious evidence that they aren't true. This symptom occurs in more than 90% of those who have the disorder.

Delusions of persecution – Belief that others, often a vague “they,” are out to get you. These persecutory delusions often involve bizarre ideas and plots (e.g. “Martians are trying to poison me with radioactive particles delivered through my tap water”).

Delusions of reference – A neutral environmental event is believed to have a special and personal meaning. For example, you might believe a billboard or a person on TV is sending a message meant specifically for you.

Delusions of grandeur – Belief that you are a famous or important figure, such as Jesus Christ or Napoleon. Alternately, delusions of grandeur may involve the belief that you have unusual powers, such as the ability to fly.

Delusions of control – Belief that your thoughts or actions are being controlled by outside, alien forces. Common delusions of control include thought broadcasting (“My private thoughts are being transmitted to others”), thought insertion (“Someone is planting thoughts in my head”) and thought withdrawal (“The CIA is robbing me of my thoughts”).


Hallucinations are sounds or other sensations experienced as real when they exist only in your mind. While hallucinations can involve any of the five senses, auditory hallucinations (e.g. hearing voices or some other sound) are most common in schizophrenia, often occurring when you misinterpret your own inner self-talk as coming from an outside source.

Schizophrenic hallucinations are usually meaningful to you as the person experiencing them. Many times, the voices are those of someone you know, and usually, they're critical, vulgar, or abusive. Visual hallucinations are also relatively common. All hallucinations tend to be worse when you're alone.


Schizophrenia can cause you to have trouble concentrating and maintaining a train of thought, externally manifesting itself in the way that you speak. You may respond to queries with an unrelated answer, start sentences with one topic and end somewhere completely different, speak incoherently, or say illogical things.

Common signs of disorganized speech include:

  • Loose associations – Rapidly shifting from topic to topic, with no connection between one thought and the next.
  • Neologisms – Made-up words or phrases that only have meaning to you.
  • Perseveration – Repetition of words and statements; saying the same thing over and over.
  • Clang – Meaningless use of rhyming words


Schizophrenia disrupts goal-directed activity, impairing your ability to take care of yourself, your work, and interact with others. Disorganized behavior appears as:

  • A decline in overall daily functioning
  • Unpredictable or inappropriate emotional responses
  • Behaviors that appear bizarre and have no purpose
  • Lack of inhibition and impulse control


The so-called “negative” symptoms of schizophrenia refer to the absence of normal behaviors found in healthy individuals, such as:

  • Lack of emotional expression – Inexpressive face, including a flat voice, lack of eye contact, and blank or restricted facial expressions.
  • Lack of interest or enthusiasm – Problems with motivation; lack of self-care.
  • Seeming lack of interest in the world – Apparent unawareness of the environment; social withdrawal.
  • Speech difficulties and abnormalities – Inability to carry a conversation; short and sometimes disconnected replies to questions; speaking in a monotone.

Schizophrenia Treatment: Addressing Psychotic Symptoms 

Schizophrenia treatment has varied throughout the years. Originally antipsychotic medications were the standard for this type of mental illness. These medications treat schizophrenia by reducing or controlling the schizophrenia symptoms as well as lowering the chance for future acute schizophrenic episodes and severe psychiatric crises. 

These medicines are classified as typical and atypical antipsychotics depending on their chemical structure. Usually, these medicines are reserved only for complex mental health conditions or severe mental health conditions as an appropriate treatment. If you are interested in medications for any serious psychotic symptoms, licensed mental health nurses or doctors will be able to explain the medical treatment process as well as any risk factors/

However, research from the American Psychiatric Association shows that antipsychotic medication for psychotic disorders are best when combined with traditional therapy. Some of these therapies can include general talk therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, psychosocial interventions, electroconvulsive therapy or deep brain stimulation, family therapy, support groups, and other treatment options.

There is Life Beyond Schizophrenia

As upsetting as a diagnosis of schizophrenia can be, ignoring the problem won't make it go away. Beginning treatment as soon as possible with an experienced mental health professional is crucial to your recovery. At the same time, it's important not to buy into the stigma associated with schizophrenia or the myth that you can't get better. 

A diagnosis of schizophrenia is not a life-sentence of ever-worsening symptoms and recurring hospitalizations. With the right treatment and self-help, many people with schizophrenia and other mental disorders are able to regain normal functioning, restore mental health, alleviate other symptoms of mental illness, and even become symptom-free.

Discover a better life and call our recovery helpline today. RECO Intensive is here to help you with your mental health conditions, whether it be schizophrenia, substance abuse, or other mental illnesses.