Schizophrenia is a lasting mental health disorder. It causes problems with the way a person thinks, feels, and acts.

Regions of the Brain
Colored brain segments
Schizophrenia affects many areas of the brain.
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The cause is not clear. Genetic and environmental risk factors are thought to play a role.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Having family members with schizophrenia
  • Trauma during childhood, such as abuse, death of a parent, or bullying
  • Personal or family history of migration
  • Marijuana or other drug use
  • Having a father who is 55 years or older at the time of birth
  • Problems during pregnancy or birth



Symptoms usually start when a person is in their late teens to mid-30s. Schizophrenia is rare in children.

Problems begin slowly and worsen over time. They get in the way of relationships, school, and work. Common problems are:

  • Hearing things that are not there
  • Having strange beliefs that are not based in reality
  • Disorganized thinking, speech, and behavior
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Hopelessness
  • Flat speech and a lack of facial expression
  • Problems feeling pleasure


A doctor will ask about your symptoms. You will also be asked about your physical and mental health history. A loved one or caregiver may be asked for this information if you cannot provide it. A physical exam will be done. A psychological exam may also be done. This may be enough to make the diagnosis.

Testing may be done to rule out other health problems with similar symptoms, such as substance use disorder and dementia.



There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms and slow the disorder. Options may be:

  • Antipsychotic medicine to block certain chemicals in the brain
  • Exercise to improve overall health and mood
  • Counseling, such as social skills training, cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, and support groups


There are no current guidelines to prevent schizophrenia. The exact cause is not known.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.


National Alliance on Mental Illness 

National Institute of Mental Health 


Canadian Psychiatric Association 

Mental Health Canada 


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