What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a complex and often severe mental illness that affects different people in different ways.

It changes a person’s feelings, thoughts and behaviour. Some people have hallucinations (hearing and seeing things that don’t exist) and experience delusions (believing things that aren’t true). Others experience their thoughts and actions being controlled. Depressive or suicidal thoughts and a lack of motivation can be the biggest difficulties for many, and the hardest things to cope with.

Many people with schizophrenia live full lives for most of which they are well. Others cope well between periodic episodes during which the condition intensifies. Some experience the symptoms as persistent and debilitating, and it can take time to find the right medication and support to manage them.

Contrary to public perception, the vast majority of people do not behave aggressively; they are much more likely to be withdrawn. The link between schizophrenia and violent crime is often exaggerated when, in fact, it is very rare and those with schizophrenia are more likely to harm themselves than others.

How common is schizophrenia?

It affects around 1 in 100 people – just slightly less than diabetes. Symptoms tend to develop in early adulthood.

Why is it important to get treatment?

Early diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia are believed to improve the outcome. With treatment a person can often learn to cope with everyday life, work and relationships, regardless of whether or not they are experiencing symptoms. If the condition remains untreated for long periods, remission and recovery can take much longer and there may even be permanent damage to the brain. But it’s the social disruption which can make recovery more difficult, because the person becomes more socially isolated and loses the support networks that are so important for anyone’s well-being.


If you are experiencing any of the symptoms on this page, please visit your GP as soon as possible.