What is it?

Schizophrenia is one of the most complex mental disorders to define. Schizophrenia could be described as a psychosis affecting thoughts, feelings and behaviour and symptoms can be both positive and negative to those suffering from this condition. 

What causes it?

There is ongoing debate to the causality of this condition. The cause of schizophrenia has been debated for more than a century and research continues to try and find definitive answers.  The two models used to look at the cause of schizophrenia are the biological and sociological models of mental health. The biological viewpoint considers schizophrenia to be ‘internal’ within the person’s mind and genetic makeup, whereas the sociological perspective argues that the causation of schizophrenia is ‘external’ and is a result of from environmental factors. Some believe it is a mixture of the two.

Signs and symptoms (how to spot it / what does it feel like)

For the majority of people with schizophrenia it is something that happens slowly over time and early symptoms may be subtle. It is much rarer for a sudden onset to occur. This illness may develop over a period of 6-9 months. Family and friends may see subtle changes where there know something is wrong but they were unable to identify what.


Things to look out for may include:

Loss of motivation, normal thoughts and feelings

Being emotionless or indifferent

Showing signs of being withdrawn and reclusive

Neglecting their appearance

Saying strange things

Odd behaviours

Difficulty concentrating

Complaints of being persecuted

Focus on bizarre ideas

Feeling uncomfortable with people


Symptoms can include hallucinations, hearing voices, delusions, paranoia, muddled thoughts, feelings of being controlled, loss of insight, disorganised speech and depression; however all of these symptoms do not have to be present when suffering from this condition.

Treatment options

The treatment of schizophrenia can depend on what is seen to be the cause of the condition and treatments change as new evidence supports one cause or another. Treatments include antipsychotic drugs, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), mood stabilisers, antidepressants, Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), as well as numerous social supports for the individual.  With these interventions individuals with schizophrenia can successfully control their symptoms gaining back their independence. Schizophrenia is treatable and 1 in 4-5 people recover completely.

It is important that if someone has symptoms of schizophrenia that they are medicated as soon as possible and assessed by a psychiatrist. If symptoms are left untreated the individual may become depressed and be prone to suicide. If treated early individuals have a much better chance of independence and may need less interventions to support them in the long term.

By Helen Rutherford