You’re not alone in this. About 2.8 million
adults in the US are also living with
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that affects everything from how you think to how you feel and behave—but that doesn’t mean it has to control your life.
Causes of schizophrenia
While medical experts like doctors and researchers don’t exactly understand what causes schizophrenia, there is something very important to remember: living with schizophrenia is not anyone’s fault. No one is to blame, and there’s nothing anyone did to cause it. What experts do know is that schizophrenia can be caused or triggered by a combination of factors:
Someone might be at a higher risk to develop schizophrenia if it runs in their family’s genes, and/or if they have some kind of naturally occurring imbalance of chemicals in the brain
In combination with genetic factors, schizophrenia might be triggered if certain environmental risk factors, like stress, exposure to toxins or viruses during brain development, a head injury, or use of mind-altering drugs, are experienced
There are 2 kinds of schizophrenia symptoms, positive and negative, and they can vary greatly from person to person. Not everyone living with schizophrenia will have all these symptoms, and how symptoms are experienced can change over time.
Positive symptoms add feelings and behaviors that are not usually present, such as:
- Delusions, like believing you have special powers or thinking that people are out to get you
- Hallucinations, like hearing, seeing, feeling, or smelling things that others do not experience
- Disorganized thinking, speech, and behavior
This is not a complete list of symptoms.
Getting a diagnosis
Receiving a diagnosis means you’re able to do something about it. Since the exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown and symptoms vary so greatly, diagnosis tends to be a process of elimination to rule out other mental health conditions. Although only doctors can make a schizophrenia diagnosis, this process typically includes:
- A physical exam and tests or screenings with a doctor to rule out other conditions
- A psychiatric evaluation that involves a psychiatrist observing and asking questions about thoughts, moods, demeanor, and other criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association
After being in and out of the hospital for experiencing schizophreniasymptoms, she was ready for an answer.
An episode can be an uncertain time for someone living with schizophrenia. It is defined as a relapse of symptoms after a person has received a diagnosis and has been feeling better for a period of time on treatment. Schizophrenia is an unpredictable mental health condition, and an episode can be scary for the person experiencing it and their loved ones. However, you are not alone. The sooner, the sooner doctors can help treat it. Some things to watch for include:
- Not sleeping well
- Feeling stressed or afraid
- Having a hard time concentrating
- Feeling annoyed or short-tempered for no reason
- Lacking energy or feeling tired all the time
- Losing interest in daily activities
- Feeling confused
- Experiencing delusions or hallucinations more frequently
Looking for a way to record warning signs?
Getting serious about a change
After Jason† was discharged from the military and experienced a serious episode that ended with a hospitalization, he knew he had to find a medication he could stay on. His diagnosis has since changed from schizophrenia, but his treatment journey has remained the same.
* Elizabeth is a volunteer with the SHARE Network, a volunteer program dedicated to helping adults living with schizophrenia share their personal health stories.
† Jason’s diagnosis has since changed. Learn more about Schizoaffective Disorder here.