schizophrenia icon


Schizophrenia is equally common in men and women, affecting about 1% of the population. 




Know the facts.

DEFINITION: Schizophrenia is a severe thought disorder. People with schizophrenia can experience false beliefs (delusions) and senses (hallucinations) that may interfere with a person’s ability to think clearly and sense the world the way others do.

Schizophrenia is NOT a split in personality.

The onset of symptoms usually starts between the ages of 16-30.

People with schizophrenia may have difficulty managing emotions, making good decisions, or relating to others. Symptoms can include psychotic episodes (breaks from reality) such as hallucinations or delusions. These can be very frightening to the person experiencing them, because they may have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is not.

Hallucinations are false perceptions (senses).

  • Hallucinations are when a person might see, hear, taste, smell, or feel things that do not exist. Hallucinations are perceived as very real to the person, but are not actually there. Auditory hallucinations are the most common type. People hear voices that may order them to do certain tasks, warn them of false dangers or be critical of them. People who experience auditory hallucinations may talk or argue with the voices only they are hearing. Visual hallucinations may cause the person to see things that are not there.

Delusions are false beliefs

  • Paranoid delusions can cause people to falsely believe that others are spying on them or plotting to harm them.
  • Another example of a delusion is when a person believes they have a special mission, or that they have superpowers.
  • People who experience delusions may believe that an outside force is putting thoughts in their head.
  • They might believe that the television or Internet is directing special messages to them.
  • Delusions may also cause someone to believe that they are in communication with a historical figure.

Symptoms of schizophrenia:
A person with schizophrenia might...

  • have a flat affect (a person's face does not move or they talk in a dull or monotonous voice)
  • no longer enjoy pleasure in everyday life
  • lack the ability to begin and sustain planned activities
  • speak very little, even when forced to interact.
  • neglect their personal hygiene.
  • change their eating behavior (refuse to eat or eat unusually).
  • exhibit poor executive functioning (the ability to understand information and use it to make rational decisions).
  • have trouble focusing or paying attention.
  • have problems with working memory (the ability to use information immediately after learning it).
  • have trouble speaking rationally, using garbled speech, or making up words that others don't understand.

Medication can reduce the intensity, severity and frequency of psychotic symptoms (hallucinations and delusions).

Talk therapy can help people with the everyday challenges of the illness, such as communication, self-care, work and maintaining relationships.

With treatment, many people with schizophrenia can lead rewarding and meaningful lives.


  • Be mindful not to challenge a person’s hallucinations or delusions as they are very real to him/her.
  • Understand that people with schizophrenia are rarely violent. In fact they are more likely to become the victims of violence.
  • Understand that schizophrenia is not a personal weakness or flaw in personality or character. 


  • Educate yourself about the disorder.
  • Listen to your friend when they want to talk.
  • Keep checking in with your friend.
  • Use 1st person language. Say,
    “My friend has schizophrenia.” not “My friend is schizo.”
  • Reassure your friend of your support and understanding.

When someone is experiencing a hallucination...

  • Do not touch the person without their permission.
  • It is also very important NOT to challenge the person’s hallucinations or delusions. These are very real to the person who is experiencing them.
  • Instead, move the conversation to topics that you have in common.


  • “It’s not your fault.”
  • “I’m listening.”
  • “I am here for you.”
  • “It’s the illness that causes these thoughts and feelings.”
  • “This must be really difficult for you.”


  • “It’s all in your head.”
  • “What’s wrong with you?”
  • “Get over yourself, you have no reason to feel that way.”
  • “Shouldn’t you be better by now?”


  • ...tell a friend to “Snap out of it!”
  • ...diagnose.
  • ...gossip.
  • ...take your friend’s withdrawal personally.

Find additional information on our Mental Health Disorders page and other suggestions on our Understanding Stigma page >>

Can you answer these questions?

  1. What is the definition of schizophrenia?
  2. What is the definition of hallucinations?
  3. What is the definition of delusions?
  4. Give at least two examples of delusions and at least two examples of hallucinations.
  5. What treatments are available for people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia?
  6. What can you do to support someone who might be experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia?
  7. How might stigma affect a person with schizophrenia?

*Hint: Read the SCHIZOPHRENIA facts at the top of this page to find the answers for 1-6. And view our Understanding Stigma page for question #7.



Schizophrenia Symptoms

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Tell Me About Schizophrenia

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Top 10 Worst Symptoms of Schizophrenia

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Know the facts.

Fact: While there is no known cure for schizophrenia, there are effective treatments.

Medications, talk therapies and support from family and friends can help people with schizophrenia lead successful and independent lives.  

- Adapted from Northeast Ohio Medical University

Fact: Early intervention can help!

The symptoms of schizophrenia typically begin at a crucial time for brain development (ages 16-30).

The symptoms of schizophrenia often derail that development, and early intervention may lead to better outcomes.    

- Adapted from

Fact: Studies indicate that people with schizophrenia who are in treatment are no more dangerous than the rest of the population.

Because one of the possible symptoms of schizophrenia is impaired judgment, people with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of crimes.    

- Adapted from Active Minds at Baylor University

Fact: Schizophrenia is not a split personality. Rather, it is a thought disorder. The word "schizophrenia" comes from the Greek language (schizo = split and phrene = mind), describing fragmented thinking or split from reality.

- Adapted from and  Northeast Ohio Medical University

Fact: About one-fifth of people with schizophrenia have visual hallucinations, whereby they see things that no one else sees.

Auditory hallucinations (e.g., hearing voices) are more common, occurring in 70 percent of people with the disorder.

A few also experience tactile hallucinations or odd smells.

It is important not to challenge the person's hallucinations because they are very real to the person experiencing them.

- Adapted from Child Mind Institute  



It's OK to ask for help.
Talk to a trusted adult.

Visit and access the all new YouthWell Community Resources Directory. You will find youth behavioral health and wellness resources in this resource directory.

If you or someone you know has harmed themselves or is in immediate risk of harm CALL 911 immediately.

SAFTY ~ Safe Alternatives for Treating Youth 

  • 888-334-2777 - SAFTY is a mobile crisis response service available daily 8am-8pm, providing crisis intervention, phone, and in-home support, and linkage to mental health services. Available to all SB County youth, age 0-20, regardless of insurance or ability to pay. 

Crisis Text Line

  • Text SIGNS to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free crisis counseling.
    Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information via text. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds quickly.

Suicide, Substance Abusee or Mental Health Lifeline

  • Text 988 - Connects callers to a trained counselor at a crisis center closest to them

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

  • Call 1-800-273-8255 - 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Trevor Project for LGBTQ+ support, and youth in crisis - provides 24/7 crisis support services to LGBTQ young people

  • Call 866-488-7386 or Text START to 678678

Learning about mental health is the first step to wellness. The Mental Wellness Center (MWC) can help families find medical and professional care, as well as teach important skills on how to manage your mental health. Many families in our community have teenagers who are struggling with depression, anxiety, ADHD and other mental health issues. It can be overwhelming as a parent to find support for your teenager and difficult to talk about these issues. The MWC is focused on providing a safe and confidential space for families to connect with others, access community resources and get the support your family needs.