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Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder that can seriously disturb the way people think, feel and function. People with the disorder may hear voices other people don't hear. They may believe other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts or plotting to harm them. This can terrify people with the illness, making them withdrawn or extremely agitated.

Signs and Symptoms

Schizophrenia usually occurs in the late teenage years or early adulthood, but has been known to occur in children as well. Early warning signs may include:

  • Withdrawal from activities and social contacts
  • Irrational, angry or fearful responses to friends and family
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Deterioration in studies or work
  • Inappropriate use of language (words do not make sense)
  • Deterioration in personal hygiene
  • Difficulty controlling thoughts and concentrating
  • Hearing voices or sounds others don’t hear
  • Seeing people or things others don’t see
  • A constant feeling of being watched
  • Inability to turn off the imagination, delusions, off-the-wall ideas
  • Mood swings, increased anxiety
  • Somatic symptoms: weakness, pains, bizarre body sensations

Causes / Physiology

While the exact causes of schizophrenia are still unknown, it is believed the illness is caused by a biochemical imbalance, triggered by environmental factors.


Treatment usually consists of medication and psychosocial interventions. Some people with schizophrenia achieve high levels of recovery and others require ongoing medication, treatment and support.

Related Links

National Institute of Mental Health:
Schizophrenia Society of Canada:
Institute for Advancements in Mental Health (IAM): 

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