Published on March 8, 2024 at 8:00 / Updated on March 26, 2024 at 8:00

Schizophrenia is a mental illness characterized by a loss of contact with reality, which is known as psychosis. It greatly influences a person's ability to understand their environment and interact with others.

The symptoms and severity of the illness can vary greatly from person to person. Symptoms are classified in two main categories: positive symptoms and negative ones.

The positive symptoms reflect a loss of contact with reality. They're considered "positive" because they add a dimension to the patient's life. Negative symptoms have more to do with what is lacking in the patient. The emotional, cognitive, and social aspects of a person's life are most affected.

Positive symptomsNegative symptoms
Delusional manifestations
  • Hallucinations: Perceiving things that don't exist with your senses (e.g., hearing voices, seeing things that aren't there)
  • Delusions: Believing things that aren't true (e.g., being under the false impression that someone is following you)
  • Incoherent or incomprehensible speech (e.g., making up words)
  • An inability to think clearly: Having difficulty expressing your thoughts clearly (e.g., jumping from one unrelated topic to another)
  • Behavioural issues: Showing signs of agitation or strange, inappropriate behaviours
  • Lack of motivation
  • Neglected physical appearance
  • Difficulty feeling and expressing emotions
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of interest
  • Attention and memory problems
  • Withdrawal, isolation

The illness usually arises around a person's late teens or in their twenties. Some people experience periods of illness interspersed with periods of wellness, while others always have symptoms. Note that this is an incurable disorder that becomes progressively worse over time.

Causes and triggers

The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. Currently, the main hypothesis is that it is caused by a combination of hereditary, neurological, and environmental factors. In other words, in order to have schizophrenia, a person must be predisposed to the illness and face factors that will trigger it.

The main aspect that predisposes a person to developing this condition is genetics, that is to say, being related to someone who has the illness. Certain disturbances during brain development (such as a lack of oxygen at birth) can also predispose someone to developing the condition.

The following factors can trigger the illness or make symptoms worse:

  • Use of recreational drugs (e.g., cannabis, LSD)
  • A stressful lifestyle
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Brain infections
  • Isolation


Medication is often needed to control symptoms. It should be noted that the medications used are primarily effective in treating positive symptoms. They help to keep the afflicted person in reality and reduce the psychological suffering associated with psychosis. Every individual will react differently to treatments, both in terms of effectiveness and side effects. It is therefore not unusual to have to try several medications before finding the right one or combination.

Psychotherapy is also very important. It is the most effective treatment method to relieve the negative symptoms of the illness. Psychotherapy helps people with schizophrenia learn to manage their condition on a day-to-day basis. Family therapy can also help people who are close to someone with schizophrenia learn how to support their loved one.

Early detection and treatment can improve a person's long-term outlook. It's important for patients to stick to any treatments they have been prescribed throughout their life, as relapses are common. With proper treatment and monitoring, people with schizophrenia can often lead a normal life.

Maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle helps people with schizophrenia remain stable. The following daily habits can also help:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Reducing or avoiding stress
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Avoiding the use of recreational drugs (e.g., cannabis, LSD)

When should I see a health care professional?

Speak with your health care provider if you experience any of the following:

  • Dark thoughts (suicidal ideation)
  • Difficulty doing your usual activities
  • Symptoms of the illness that are more prominent than usual
  • Feeling unsafe

For more information:

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