What is schizophrenia and how is it treated?

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

Symptoms of schizophrenia generally start between the ages of 16 and 30. These symptoms can go from “losing touch” with reality to changes in memory and other aspects of thought.

Below are more symptoms:

“Lose Touch” with reality Changes to normal feelings and actions Changes in memory and other aspects of thinking

• Hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling, or even tasting things that are not real
• Believing things that are not real (thinking you are being followed)
• Sudden and restless body movements

• Reduced expression of feelings
• Reduced feelings of joy in everyday life
• Trouble starting and continuing activities
• Reduced speaking

• Trouble using what is learned right after learning it
• Trouble making up their mind
• Trouble focusing or paying attention


What can cause schizophrenia?

There isn’t one cause for schizophrenia. Among genetic makeup and connection issues in the brain between birth and puberty, the cause of schizophrenia and combinations that cause it are still unknown. Below are a few things that play a role in schizophrenia.

  • Family history: scientists have known for some time that there is a genetic part to having schizophrenia, however, there is no one gene that causes the disorder by itself.
  • Environmental factors: these can be viruses, lack of nutrition before birth and problems during birth.
  • Imbalances of chemicals in the brain like dopamine and glutamate possibly due to family history or environmental factors.
  • Combinations of the above.

How can I help someone I know with schizophrenia?
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 understand.

  • Be a strong support and help them see a mental health provider who may suggest one or more of the following:
    • Medication
    • Psychosocial treatments
    • Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC)
      • Medication, psychosocial treatment, case management, along with family, education, and employment support. For more help, go to NIMH Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE).
    • Don’t forget their thoughts or hallucinations seem very real to them
    • Know others have the right to see things their own way
    • Be respectful, supportive, and kind but do not stand for dangerous or inappropriate actions
    • Check to see if there are any local support groups for the person with schizophrenia or for caretakers of those with the condition.
    • Remember, 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 


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