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Schizophrenia is a mental illness characterised by disturbances in thinking and perception, where people are sometimes unable to distinguish their own thoughts and experiences from reality. It does not mean that someone is likely to be violent, or have a split personality.
People with schizophrenia may develop odd and strange beliefs (delusions), and may see or hear things that are not there (hallucinations). Erratic, disordered thoughts and behaviour are common. Other symptoms include a loss of energy and lack of emotions or difficulties with concentration and memory.
There are no blood tests or scans that can prove whether or not people have schizophrenia. It is usually diagnosed after an assessment by a mental health care professional, by observation of appearance and demeanour and asking about thoughts, ‘voices’ and other symptoms.
Schizophrenia the most common major mental disorder in the UK and affects around 1 in 100 people, men and women more or less equally. It is most frequently diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 35, and it is likely brought on by a combination of both genetic and environmental factors.
On average, people with schizophrenia have a life expectancy 10 to 15 years shorter than people without the condition. The condition is often concurrent with other diseases like diabetes, cancer, stroke and coronary heart disease. About 5-10% of people with schizophrenia end their own lives.
Schizophrenia is treated using a combination of antipsychotic medications and talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), psychotherapy or counselling.
Mind information page
NHS Choices information page
Rethink information and factsheet
Mental Health Foundation information page
This is a fact sheet issued by the Science Media Centre to provide background information on science topics relevant to breaking news stories. This is not intended as the ‘last word’ on a subject, but rather a summary of the basics and a pointer towards sources of more detailed information. These can be read as supplements to our roundups and/or briefings.