Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness and often interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, to distinguish reality from fantasy to manage emotions, make decisions, and relate to others. The symptoms of schizophrenia include psychotic symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations. Delusionsrefer to beliefs that are not true – such as a belief that people are reading your thoughts or plotting against you. Hallucinations means that you see, feel, or hear things that are not there – such as hearing voices that no one else can hear.
Schizophrenia does not mean that someone has more than one personality or a ”split” personality.
What causes schizophrenia? The exact cause of schizophrenia is not known. Schizophrenia seems to be caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors. It’s important to remember that genes only increase the chances of becoming ill; they alone do not cause schizophrenia.
Getting help. Schizophrenia can be treated. The most effective form of treatment is a combination of medication, counseling, and peer-to-peer and family support. Seeking help from a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor is important. Some people who have schizophrenia and experience acute symptoms may require intensive treatment, including hospitalization.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness has a weekly recovery support group for people living with mental illness in which people learn from each others’experiences, share coping strategies, and offer each other encouragement and understanding. Check out the NAMI Connection to find a support group near you.
Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times.