What is schizophrenia and how is it treated?

You may have heard about schizophrenia, but do you know what that means? Schizophrenia is a long-term and serious mental health issue. It impacts a person’s thoughts, feelings and actions.

Warning signs often set between the ages of 16 and 30. See below for common signs and what they look like.

“Losing touch” with reality

Changes to normal feelings and actions

Changes in memory and thinking

• Sudden and restless body movements

• Hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling or even tasting things that are not real

• Believing things that are not real, like thinking you are being followed

• Reduced speaking

• Feeling no joy in everyday life

• Less expression of feelings

• Trouble starting and continuing activities

• Trouble focusing or paying attention

• Trouble using what is learned right after learning it

• Trouble making decisions


What are some causes?

There isn’t one cause. It may involve genetic makeup and changes in the brain between birth and puberty. These things play a role:

  • Environmental causes, like viruses, poor nutrition before birth and problems during birth.
  • Family history. Research shows genes play a part. But there is no one gene that causes the health issue by itself.
  • Chemical imbalance in the brain. This may be passed genetically or from environmental causes.

How can I help someone?
Caring for and supporting a loved one with schizophrenia can be hard. It can be tough to know how to react to someone whose symptoms you may not fully grasp.

Help them see a mental health provider who may suggest one or more of these:


  • Their thoughts or hallucinations seem very real to them.
  • To be respectful, supportive and kind. But do not stand for unsafe or inappropriate actions.
  • There are support groups for caregivers.
  • This is a chemical imbalance that someone has no control over.

Do you have any further questions about schizophrenia or any other mental health conditions? Reach out to us at BHQualityImprovement@bcbsil.com

National Institute of Mental Health