for better mental health


Explains schizophrenia, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

What is schizophrenia?

You could be diagnosed with schizophrenia if you experience some of the following symptoms:

Delusions and hallucinations are types of psychosis. (See our information on psychosis, paranoia and hearing voices.)

"I have bizarre delusions which include psychic battles in which people around me can be perceived as either 'good' or 'evil'. Sometimes I am in a different time zone or move between periods of history in different lives."

What's it like to have schizophrenia?

Many experiences and behaviours can be part of schizophrenia. They can start suddenly for some people, while others find that they develop gradually over time.

Each person's experience of schizophrenia is unique to them, but you might find that you:

  • aren't able to carry on with day-to-day activities, like going to work or taking care of yourself
  • become upset, confused, distrusting or suspicious of other people or particular groups, like strangers or people in authority
  • disagree with people who think something is wrong
  • feel worried or afraid of seeking help

"Sometimes I feel thoughts are being put in my head and that people are reading my thoughts."

Talking about schizophrenia

Watch Alice, Brian, Jamie, Martin and Louise talk about their experiences of living with schizophrenia.

What are positive and negative symptoms?

People sometimes describe the symptoms of schizophrenia as 'positive' symptoms or 'negative' symptoms. This doesn't mean they are good or bad.

Positive symptoms are experiences or behaviours that you start having as part of schizophrenia. They can include hearing voices, seeing things that others don't, believing something is real or true when it isn't, or believing your thoughts are being monitored or controlled.

Negative symptoms are experiences or behaviours that you stop having (or have less) as part of schizophrenia. You might find people or activities less interesting or enjoyable, that you move your body less, feel disconnected from your emotions or have less motivation to do things.

"What was real and what was not? I couldn’t tell the difference any longer and it was exhausting."

Misconceptions about schizophrenia

Many people have heard of schizophrenia, but this doesn't mean that they understand the diagnosis. You might find that some people have negative ideas about schizophrenia or have misconceptions about you.

A diagnosis of schizophrenia does not mean someone has a 'split personality', but many people wrongly think this. Some people think hearing voices means someone is dangerous, when voices are actually more likely to suggest that you harm yourself than someone else. It's also important to remember that people have a choice in whether they do what the voices say.

Schizophrenia in the media

Misconceptions about schizophrenia often come from the media, including newspapers and TV. There is more media misinformation about schizophrenia than about any other type of mental health problem.

Sensational stories in the press often wrongly present people with schizophrenia as being dangerous, even though most people with schizophrenia don't commit violent crimes.

What diagnoses are related to schizophrenia?

There are several diagnoses that share many of the same symptoms – such as schizoaffective disorder, schizotypal personality disorder and schizoid personality disorder. (See our information on schizoaffective disorder and personality disorders.)

Different views about diagnosis

Views on schizophrenia have changed over the years. Lots of people have questioned whether schizophrenia is actually one condition or a few different conditions that overlap.

Some people argue that because psychiatric experts cannot agree on the exact definition of schizophrenia, it shouldn't be used as a diagnosis at all. Others think the name of the condition doesn't matter and that it would be more useful to focus on what helps with specific symptoms and individual needs.

The reality is that many people are still given a diagnosis of schizophrenia. If you are one of them, it might be helpful to think of a diagnosis as a tool for treating what you're currently experiencing, rather than a definite condition or label that you will have to live with forever.

Some people find getting a diagnosis helpful and some don't. For more about diagnosis, see our information on seeking help for a mental health problem.

"More recently my symptoms have included voices outside my head, feelings that people are talking about me and spying on me."

How can I make people more aware of schizophrenia?

If you find that people don't understand or know about schizophrenia, you could:

  • Show them this information. This can help them understand more about your diagnosis.
  • Get more involved in your treatment. Our page on seeking help for a mental health problem explains more about having a say in your treatment, getting your voice heard and steps you can take if you're not happy with your care.
  • Know your rights. Our pages on legal rights have more information.
  • Take action with Mind. See our campaigning page for details of how you can get involved. For more about campaigning, visit the Time to Change website.

This information was published in February 2017. We will revise it in 2020.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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