Schizophrenia: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Complications, Risk Factors, Treatment and Prevention

It is a severe psychiatric disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel and behave clearly.

People with schizophrenia slowly lose touch with reality and often have delusions or hallucinations.

There are misconceptions about this mental illness. For example, some people think that schizophrenia is a divided personality. Schizophrenia and divided personality, adequately termed ” dissociative identity disorder, ” are two different disorders.

Everyone diagnosed with schizophrenia is affected differently. While the causes of the disorder are still being discovered, researchers have learned a great deal about schizophrenia over the years.

Nowadays, it is known that schizophrenia can affect the way a person thinks, manages their emotions, makes decisions, and relates to other people.

Schizophrenia can occur in men and women of all ages. Men often develop symptoms in their late teens or early 20s. Women tend to show signs of the disease between 20 and 30 years. Children rarely have schizophrenia.


The symptoms of schizophrenia are divided into three types: positive, negative, and cognitive.


Positive symptoms: “Positive” symptoms are psychotic behaviors that are not usually seen in healthy people. People with positive symptoms can “lose contact” with some aspects of reality. Symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions.
  • Thought disorders (unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking).
  • Movement disorders (agitated body movements).

Negative symptoms: “negative” symptoms are associated with interruptions of emotions and expected behaviors. Symptoms include:

  • “Flat affection” (reduced expression of emotions through facial expression or tone of voice).
  • Reduction of feelings of pleasure in everyday life.
  • Difficulty in starting and sustaining activities.
  • Talk reduction
  • Disorganized thinking or speech.

Cognitive symptoms: for some patients, the mental symptoms of schizophrenia are subtle, but for others, they are more severe, and patients may notice changes in their memory or other aspects of thinking. Symptoms include:

  • Poor “executive functioning” (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions).
  • Concentration problems.
  • Problems with “working memory” (the ability to use the information immediately after learning it).

A person with schizophrenia often loses interest in the activities of life. This can be shown in the following ways:

  • Social isolation.
  • Problems experiencing pleasure.
  • Plan events in their lives.
  • Completing normal daily activities.


The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. Medical researchers believe that biological and environmental factors can contribute to the disease.

Imaging tests performed on people with schizophrenia often show abnormalities in the structure of their brains.

It is believed that abnormalities of brain chemicals in some brain areas are responsible for many of the symptoms seen in schizophrenia.

Researchers also believe that low levels of brain chemicals that affect emotions and behavior can also contribute to this mental illness. Other risk factors for schizophrenia include:

  • A family history of the disease.
  • Exposure to toxins or a virus before birth or during childhood.
  • Have an inflammatory or autoimmune disease.
  • Using drugs that alter the mind.
  • High levels of stress.


To diagnose schizophrenia, you must first rule out any medical illness that may be the actual cause of the behavioral changes. Once they have been searched and medical reasons have not been found, it could be considered a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia.

The best diagnosis can be made by a licensed mental health professional, preferably a psychiatrist, who can evaluate the patient and carefully analyze a variety of mental illnesses that may appear similar in the initial examination.

The doctor will examine someone in whom schizophrenia is suspected, either in an office or in the emergency department. The initial function of the doctor is to ensure that the patient does not have any medical problems.

Certain neurological disorders (such as epilepsy, brain tumors, and encephalitis), endocrine and metabolic disorders, infectious diseases, and autoimmune conditions that affect the central nervous system can sometimes cause symptoms that resemble schizophrenia.

The doctor takes the patient’s history and performs a physical examination. Laboratory and other tests are performed, including brain imaging techniques, such as computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the brain.

Physical findings may be related to symptoms associated with schizophrenia or medications the person may be taking.

At your appointment with the psychiatrist, expect to answer questions about:

  • Your medical history
  • Your mental health
  • Your family medical history

Psychological tests can also be used to explore the symptoms of schizophrenia further. These tests may include cognitive tests, personality tests, and open or projective tests, such as the Rorschach test (inkblot).

Sometimes, there may be other reasons for your symptoms, even if they are similar to schizophrenia. These reasons may include:

  • Substance abuse.
  • Certain medications

A toxicology test can help determine if any substance in the body could have led to psychotic symptoms.

Sometimes, the symptoms are observed during intoxication and abstinence. If it is about substance abuse, the doctor can help determine whether drug use is the source of the psychotic symptoms or simply an additional factor.

Your doctor can diagnose schizophrenia if you have had at least two symptoms for one month. According to the Mayo Clinic, one of these symptoms should include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions.
  • Disorganized speech

Complications of schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that should not be ignored or left untreated. The disease increases the risk of serious complications, such as:

  • Self-aggression or suicide.
  • Anxiety .
  • Phobias
  • Depression .
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs.
  • Family problems.

Schizophrenia can also make work or school difficult. If you can not work or support yourself financially, there is an increased risk of poverty and homelessness.

Risk factor’s

Several factors contribute to the risk of developing schizophrenia:

Genes and the environment:  schizophrenia sometimes occurs in groups of people with consanguineous ties.

However, many people have schizophrenia do not have a family member with the disorder. Conversely, many people with one or more relatives with the disease do not develop it themselves.

Scientists believe that many different genes may increase the risk of schizophrenia but that no single gene causes the disorder independently.

Scientists also think that the interactions between genes and aspects of the individual’s environment are necessary for schizophrenia to develop. Environmental factors can involve:

  • Exposure to viruses.
  • Malnutrition before birth.
  • Problems during the delivery.
  • Psychosocial factors.

Chemistry and brain structure is different: scientists think that an imbalance in the complex, interrelated chemical reactions of the brain involving neurotransmitters (substances that brain cells use to communicate with each other), dopamine and glutamate, and possibly others, play a role in the schizophrenia.

Some experts also think that problems during brain development before birth can lead to faulty connections.

The brain also undergoes significant changes during puberty, and these changes could trigger psychotic symptoms in people who are vulnerable due to genetic or brain differences.


There is no cure for schizophrenia. If you are diagnosed with this mental illness, you will need lifelong treatment to control or reduce the severity of the symptoms.

It is essential to receive treatment from a psychiatrist who has experience treating people with schizophrenia. You can also work with a social worker or a case manager. The possible treatments include the following:


Antipsychotics: antipsychotic medication is the most common treatment for schizophrenia. They are usually taken daily in the form of a pill or liquid. Some antipsychotics are injections that are given once or twice a month.

The medication can help stop hallucinations, illusions, and psychotic symptoms.

Psychosocial intervention

This includes individual therapy to help you cope with stress and your illness. Social training can improve your social and communication skills.

These treatments are helpful after patients, and their doctor finds a medication that works. People who participate in regular psychosocial treatment are less likely to relapse or be hospitalized.

The goal is to learn and use coping skills to address the daily challenges of schizophrenia helps people pursue their life goals, such as attending school or work.

Vocational rehabilitation

Vocational rehabilitation can provide the skills you need to get back to work.

Coordinated specialized care

This treatment model integrates medications, psychosocial therapies, case management, family participation, and supported education and employment services, all aimed at reducing symptoms and improving the quality of life.

It seeks to fundamentally change the trajectory and prognosis of schizophrenia through the coordinated treatment of specialized care in the early stages of the disorder.

It is designed to reduce the likelihood of long-term disability that people with schizophrenia often experience and help them lead a productive and independent life.

Side effects of medications to treat schizophrenia

Increases in blood sugar or cholesterol and other abnormalities in the blood can occur as side effects of some medications used to treat schizophrenia.

Dyskinesia late is one of the most severe side effects of medications used to treat schizophrenia. This rare side effect is more common in older people and involves facial spasms, shaking and twisting the extremities or trunk of the body, or both.

Dyskinesia does not always go away, even when the medication that caused it is stopped.

Neuroleptic drugs are a rare but potentially fatal complication resulting from the neuroleptic malignant syndrome. It involves extreme muscular rigidity, sweating, salivation, and fever. If this is suspected, it should be treated as a medical emergency.

Some drugs can trigger a decrease in the immune response, reflected in a low number of white blood cells. Similarly, the metabolism may be abnormal in people with the neuroleptic malignant syndrome.

Family members or friends of the person with schizophrenia can help by providing the doctor with a detailed history and information about the patient, including behavioral changes, previous level of social functioning, history of mental illness in the family, previous medical and psychiatric problems, medications and allergies.

The history of hospitalizations is also helpful so that old records in these facilities can be obtained and reviewed.


There is no way to prevent schizophrenia. Identifying who is at risk and how to prevent the disorder from occurring in at-risk individuals has been an essential focus of researchers in recent years.

Biological and environmental factors can contribute to schizophrenia. It is possible to enjoy a healthy life without symptoms. The symptoms of schizophrenia may disappear for a time and then return. Following your doctor’s recommendations will improve your prognosis.

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, 3 out of 5 people diagnosed with schizophrenia will improve. To start improving, it is essential:

  • Know your condition
  • Understand the risk factors.
  • Follow your doctor’s treatment plan.

How can I help someone I know with schizophrenia?

Caring for and supporting a loved one with schizophrenia can be difficult. It can be challenging to respond to someone who makes strange or false claims. It is essential to understand that schizophrenia is a biological disease.

Here are some things you can do to help your loved one:

  • Encourage him to start a treatment.
  • Remember that your beliefs or hallucinations seem very real to you.
  • Tell them you recognize that everyone has the right to see things their way.
  • Be respectful, understanding, and kind without tolerating dangerous or inappropriate behavior.
  • Check if there is a support group in your area.

When should you call the doctor?

Your loved one will not suddenly lose total control of himself most of the time. You will probably notice signs that lead to a psychotic episode. The symptoms vary, but there are some common ones, which include:

  • Suspicious or suspicious ideas or beliefs.
  • Unexpected outbursts
  • Isolation of friends and family.
  • Remarkable mood changes
  • Problems with sleep.
  • Strange behavior

Call your doctor for advice if your loved one’s mood changes or their thinking seems unusual. If you have stopped taking your medication, but it seems it will not hurt you or anyone else, encourage him to visit the doctor with you.