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About Schizophrenia

Affecting 1% of the Canadian population, schizophrenia affects a person's ability to think clearly, manage his or her emotions, make decisions, relate to others, and distinguish fact from fiction.  The first signs of schizophrenia typically emerge in the teenage years or twenties.


Symptoms are generally divided into three categories:


  • Positive symptoms include delusions and hallucinations (psychosis). "Positive symptoms" refer to having symptoms characteristics that ordinarily would not be there in a person's behavior or personality,which causes a person to lose touch with reality. In other words the symptoms are "positive" because they have been "added" to a person's behavior or  personality.
  • Disorganized symptoms include confused thinking and speech, behavior that does not make sense, and distorted perception.
  • Negative symptoms include emotional flatness or lack of expression, an inability to start and follow through with activities, speech that is brief and lacks content, and a lack of pleasure or interest in life. Negative symptoms are aspects of a person's behavior or personality that have been "taken away" by the disease.


Like many other medical illnesses, schizophrenia appears to be caused by genetic vulnerability and environmental factors that occur during a person's prenatal development.


While there is no cure for schizophrenia, it is highly treatable and manageable illness. However some people may stop treatment because of medication side effects, disorganized thinking, or because they feel the medication is no longer working. People with schizophrenia who stop taking prescribed medication are at a high risk of relapse, such as an acute psychotic episode.


  • Hospitalization: People who experience acute symptoms of schizophrenia may require intensive treatment including hospitalization to treat sever delusions or hallucinations, serious suicidal thoughts, inability to care for oneself, or severe problems with drugs or alcohol.
  • Medication: The primary medications for schizophrenia are called antipsychotics. Antipsychotics help relieve the positive symptoms of schizophrenia by helping to correct an imbalance in the chemicals, enabling brain cells to communicate. Newer atypical antipsychotics also treat negative symptoms.
  • Psychosocial Rehabilitation: Research shows that people with schizophrenia who attend structured psychosocial rehabilitation programs and continue with their medical treatment usually maintain a higher level of symptom management.
  • PACT: One of the most effective psychosocial approaches for the most severely ill or those with both mental illness and substance abuse is the Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT).

Find Out More


  • NAMI.org Resources
  • NAMI.org Living with Schizophrenia Community