Schizophrenia might be the most misunderstood mental health concern around. Well, at the very least it’s in the top five. Even in 2022, this chronic psychiatric illness gets lumped into the same old stereotypes. Spoiler alert: Not every person who has schizophrenia is violent with a split personality.
IRL, schizophrenia is not a one-size-fits-all condition. Each person who has schizophrenia has their own unique feelings and experiences. That said, there are some common themes to explore.
Here’s a rundown of what it feels like to have schizophrenia depending on the symptoms.
TBH, it’s hard to say. It all depends on the person and their individual experience. It’s also important to note that schizophrenia is a complex condition. Since 2013, mental health professionals diagnose schizophrenia along a spectrum. Before that it was broken into five subtypes:
- residual schizophrenia
- paranoid schizophrenia
- catatonic schizophrenia
- undifferentiated schizophrenia
- disorganized type schizophrenia
So again, it’s not a universal disorder that affects everyone the same way. There can also be major differences in symptoms. (More on that in a second.)
Schizophrenia symptoms are broken into different categories:
- psychotic (aka positive) symptoms
- negative symptoms
- cognitive symptoms
Here’s a rundown of each.
Peeps in the mental health realm refer to these symptoms as “positive” symptoms. Basically, it’s when a person has an altered view of reality. It can make someone lose their sense of what’s happening. It can also make it tough to maintain relationships and connect to others.
Some examples of psychotic symptoms include:
- Paranoia. This can make a person feel an intense distrust of others. They may also feel like they’re being watched, followed, or spied on.
- Delusions. A delusion is a thought or belief someone insists is true even though there’s a lot of evidence to prove that it’s false.
- Hallucinations. Hallucinations are when a person experiences something that isn’t happening. This can include seeing images, hearing sounds or voices, or smelling things that aren’t really there.
Negative symptoms are the absence of typical behaviors. This can be a lack of interest in doing things they used to enjoy or a loss of motivation in general.
Someone might be presenting negative symptoms if they:
- have low energy
- talk in a dull voice
- have unorganized speech
- withdraw from social settings
- show limited facial expressions
- have a hard time expressing emotions
Cognitive symptoms relate to a person’s memory, concentration, or attention. They can be pretty subtle and hard to detect depending on the severity of symptoms.
A person might find it hard to focus on tasks, conversations, or situations. They may also have a tough time making decisions or remembering things.
Schizophrenia affects 1 in 300 people — that’s about 0.32 percent of the population worldwide. So statistically speaking, the chance of having schizophrenia is pretty low. But if you’re concerned you or a loved one might have schizophrenia, there are some signs to watch out for.
According to the National Health Services (NHS), schizophrenia can usually be diagnosed if a person has experienced specific symptoms for most of a 1-month period. Additionally, the symptoms have to continue for at least 6 months. These symptoms include:
- hearing voices
- incoherent speech
- negative symptoms (e.g., flattening of emotions)
Have a chat with a mental health care professional if any of these symptoms ring a bell. They can rule out other possible causes and give you a correct diagnosis.
ATM, the exact cause of schizophrenia is still unknown. But there are multiple factors that can come into play, such as:
- Genetics. According to a 2017 study, your chance of developing schizophrenia is over six times higher if you have an immediate relative (e.g., sibling or parent) who also has the disorder.
- Brain chemistry. Some researchers think folks who have schizophrenia have an imbalance of neurotransmitters like glutamate, dopamine, and serotonin. These chemicals help your brain cells communicate with each other.
- Environmental factors. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), malnutrition before birth may increase the risk of schizophrenia. There’s also a chance that prenatal exposure to certain viruses — like the cytomegalovirus — can up the chances. But we need more research to know that for sure.
- Drugs. While they don’t directly cause schizophrenia, drugs can trigger symptoms. And no, we don’t mean ibuprofen. We’re talking about weed, amphetamines, cocaine, or LSD.
- Medication. Antipsychotic meds can make symptoms less intense and less chronic. Most meds are taken daily in a pill or liquid form. But some folks opt for injections that are given once or twice a month.
- Therapy. Even with meds, it can be difficult to process some of the aspects of day-to-day life. The right therapist can help you develop positive patterns and cope with your symptoms.
- Vocational rehab. Supported employment can help you find a job that works for you and your unique comfort level and skills.
Schizophrenia can make a person feel lonely, isolated, and scared. Just remember, you’re not alone ❤️. Help is always available. Here are some amazing resources to check out if you need someone to talk with or if you want to learn more.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
SAMHSA offers a Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator that can help you find a top-notch mental health care professional in your area. If you’re looking for a treatment facility that offers specialized care, you can check out their Early Serious Mental Illness Treatment Locator.
The Schizophrenia & Psychosis Action Alliance (S&PAA)
Additionally, you can call their toll-free number at 800-493-2094 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Team members are available Monday–Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. across all U.S. time zones.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support 24/7. They offer customized support for loss survivors, youth, veterans, Native Americans, survivors, LGBTQ+, disaster survivors, and more.
You can call them at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text “HOME” to 741741.
The National Institute of Mental Health
NIMH has a ton of incredible educational resources on its website. You can download free brochures, share recourses, and research up-to-date facts and stats.
Schizophrenia is a complicated disorder. This makes it hard to say what it feels like. Generally, it all boils down to a person’s unique symptoms. This can include disorganized thinking, paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, agitation, or a loss of interest in activities.
These symptoms can affect almost every aspect of a person’s life. That’s why it’s 10/10 important you talk with a healthcare professional if you suspect you or a loved one has schizophrenia. They can help give you a correct diagnosis and set you up with a treatment plan for your unique situation.