What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder where there is a disruption in how the brain processes information. It is a serious and complex disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves. Less than 1% of the population has schizophrenia. People can start to have symptoms of schizophrenia during childhood, adolescence or later in life.

What are some common symptoms of schizophrenia?

Symptoms of schizophrenia include delusions (false beliefs), hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that don’t exist), abnormal speech, abnormal physical behavior, trouble with thinking, poor personal hygiene, lack of motivation, and social withdrawal.

What causes schizophrenia?

There are genetic and external factors for schizophrenia. One is more likely to have schizophrenia if a family member has the disorder. Research shows that certain types of infection, pregnancy or labor complications, and cigarette smoking may contribute to increasing the risks of schizophrenia.

How is schizophrenia diagnosed?

Schizophrenia is diagnosed by a combination of physical exam, tests/screenings, psychiatric evaluation and diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia.

What are some treatment options for schizophrenia?

Effective treatments are available for people with schizophrenia. With proper treatment, many people are able to live a normal life allowing self-determination, full integration into society, and pursuit of personal goals. Schizophrenia requires lifelong treatment. Getting diagnosed and starting treatment early helps to get symptoms under control with long-term benefits.

What medications are used in the treatment of schizophrenia?

Antipsychotic medications are used to control the symptoms of schizophrenia. The goal is to find a medication or medications that work best for each individual with minimal side effects. Some of the medications are available as long-acting injectables (LAI) that are administered by a healthcare professional. LAI is a good option for those who have trouble with taking their medications every day.

Some examples include:

  • Second-generation antipsychotics
    • Aripiprazole (Abilify)
    • Clozapine (Clozaril)
    • Paliperidone (Invega)
    • Risperidone (Risperdal)
  • First-generation antipsychotics
    • Chlorpromazine
    • Haloperidol (Haldol Deconaoate)

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I see a doctor?

People with schizophrenia may not be aware of their own disorder. It often falls on their family and friends to bring them to their doctors for evaluation and to receive treatment.

What are the side effects of the medications used to treat schizophrenia?

Different medications may have different side effects. Some common side effects of antipsychotics include uncontrollable movements of muscles in the face, restlessness, drowsiness, weight gain, constipation, and dry mouth. The side effects may get better or go away with time. People with schizophrenia are encouraged to report the side effects to their doctor. Side effects can be managed by reducing the dose or changing to an alternative therapy.

Can schizophrenia be cured?

There is no cure to schizophrenia, but adhering to treatment helps manage symptoms. With proper treatment, it is possible to reach a state where people with schizophrenia have no symptoms or minimal symptoms for an extended period of time.

How do I help someone who has schizophrenia?

There are a lot of misconceptions and stigma with schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia benefit greatly from the support of their family, just like people with other chronic diseases. Organizations such as the Mental Health America (MHA) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offer resources and support to individuals with schizophrenia and their families. It is important for both the individual and their family to stay optimistic.

Written by:

Eve Zheng
PharmD/MBA Candidate 2023
University at Buffalo, School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences


Schizophrenia. (2020, January 07). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizophrenia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354443#:~:text=Schizophrenia%20is%20a%20serious%20mental,with%20schizophrenia%20require%20lifelong%20treatment.

What is schizophrenia? (2020, August). American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/schizophrenia/what-is-schizophrenia

Schizophrenia in adults: Clinical manifestations, course, assessment, and diagnosis. (2022, October). UpToDate. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/schizophrenia-in-adults-clinical-manifestations-course-assessment-and-diagnosis?search=Patient+education%3A+Schizophrenia+%28The+Basics%29&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1