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Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder (or a group of disorders) marked by severely impaired thinking, emotions, and behaviors. Schizophrenic patients are typically unable to filter sensory stimuli and may have enhanced perceptions of sounds, colors, and other features of their environment. Most schizophrenics, if untreated, gradually withdraw from interactions with other people, and lose their ability to take care of personal needs and grooming.
The prevalence of schizophrenia is thought to be about 1% of the population around the world; it is thus more common than diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, or multiple sclerosis. In the United States and Canada, patients with schizophrenia fill about 25% of all hospital beds. The disorder is considered to be one of the top ten causes of long-term disability worldwide.


The course of schizophrenia in adults can be divided into three phases or stages. In the acute phase, the patient has an overt loss of contact with reality (psychotic episode) that requires intervention and treatment. In the second or stabilization phase, the initial psychotic symptoms have been brought under control but the patient is at risk for relapse if treatment is interrupted. In the third or maintenance phase, the patient is relatively stable and can be kept indefinitely on antipsychotic medications. Even in the maintenance phase, however, relapses are not unusual and patients do not always return to full functioning.
The English term schizophrenia comes from two Greek words that mean "split mind." It was observed around 1908, by a Swiss doctor named Eugen Bleuler, to describe the splitting apart of mental functions that he regarded as the central characteristic of schizophrenia.
Recently, some psychotherapists have begun to use a classification of schizophrenia based on two main types. People with Type I, or positive schizophrenia, have a rapid (acute) onset of symptoms and tend to respond well to drugs. They also tend to suffer more from the "positive" symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations. People with Type II, or negative schizophrenia, are usually described as poorly adjusted before their schizophrenia slowly overtakes them. They have predominantly "negative" symptoms, such as withdrawal from others and a slowing of mental and physical reactions (psychomotor retardation).
There are five subtypes of schizophrenia:


The key feature of this subtype of schizophrenia is the combination of false beliefs (delusions) and hearing voices (auditory hallucinations), with more nearly normal emotions and cognitive functioning (cognitive functions include reasoning, judgment, and memory). The delusions of paranoid schizophrenics usually involve thoughts of being persecuted or harmed by others or exaggerated opinions of their own importance, but may also reflect feelings of jealousy or excessive religiosity. The delusions are typically organized into a coherent framework. Paranoid schizophrenics function at a higher level than other subtypes, but are at risk for suicidal or violent behavior under the influence of their delusions.


Disorganized schizophrenia (formerly called hebephrenic schizophrenia) is marked by disorganized speech, thinking, and behavior on the patient's part, coupled with flat or inappropriate emotional responses to a situation (affect). The patient may act silly or withdraw socially to an extreme extent. Most patients in this category have weak personality structures prior to their initial acute psychotic episode.


Catatonic schizophrenia is characterized by disturbances of movement that may include rigidity, stupor, agitation, bizarre posturing, and repetitive imitations of the movements or speech of other people. These patients are at risk for malnutrition, exhaustion, or self-injury. This subtype is presently uncommon in Europe and the United States. Catatonia as a symptom is most commonly associated with mood disorders.


Patients in this category have the characteristic positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia but do not meet the specific criteria for the paranoid, disorganized, or catatonic subtypes.


This category is used for patients who have had at least one acute schizophrenic episode but do not presently have strong positive psychotic symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations. They may have negative symptoms, such as withdrawal from others, or mild forms of positive symptoms, which indicate that the disorder has not completely resolved.
The risk of schizophrenia among first-degree biological relatives is ten times greater than that observed in the general population. Furthermore the presence of the same disorder is higher in monozygotic twins (identical twins) than in dizygotic twins (nonidentical twins). The research concerning adoption studies and identical twins also supports the notion that environmental factors are important, because not all relatives who have the disorder express it. There are several chromosomes and loci (specific areas on chromosomes which contain mutated genes), which have been identified. Research is actively ongoing to elucidate the causes, types and variations of these mutations.
Most patients are diagnosed in their late teens or early twenties, but the symptoms of schizophrenia can emerge at any age in the life cycle. The male/female ratio in adults is about 1.2:1. Male patients typically have their first acute episode in their early twenties, while female patients are usually closer to age 30 when they are recognized with active symptoms.
Schizophrenia is rarely diagnosed in preadolescent children, although patients as young as five or six have been reported. Childhood schizophrenia is at the upper end of the spectrum of severity and shows a greater gender disparity. It affects one or two children in every 10,000; the male/female ratio is 2:1.

Causes and symptoms

Theories of causality

One of the reasons for the ongoing difficulty in classifying schizophrenic disorders is incomplete understanding of their causes. It is thought that these disorders are the end result of a combination of genetic, neurobiological, and environmental causes. A leading neurobiological hypothesis looks at the connection between the disease and excessive levels of dopamine, a chemical that transmits signals in the brain (neurotransmitter). The genetic factor in schizophrenia has been underscored by recent findings that first-degree biological relatives of schizophrenics are ten times as likely to develop the disorder as are members of the general population.
Prior to recent findings of abnormalities in the brain structure of schizophrenic patients, several generations of psychotherapists advanced a number of psychoanalytic and sociological theories about the origins of schizophrenia. These theories ranged from hypotheses about the patient's problems with anxiety or aggression to theories about stress reactions or interactions with disturbed parents. Psychosocial factors are now thought to influence the expression or severity of schizophrenia rather than cause it directly.
As of 2004, migration is a social factor that is known to influence people's susceptibility to psychosis. Psychiatrists in Europe have noted the increasing rate of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders among immigrants to almost all Western European countries. Black immigrants from Africa or the Caribbean appear to be especially vulnerable. The stresses involved in migration include family breakup, the need to adjust to living in large urban areas, and social inequalities in the new country.
Another hypothesis suggests that schizophrenia may be caused by a virus that attacks the hippocampus, a part of the brain that processes sense perceptions. Damage to the hippocampus would account for schizophrenic patients' vulnerability to sensory overload. As of 2004, researchers are focusing on the possible role of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) in schizophrenia, as well as human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs). The possibility that HERVs may be associated with schizophrenia has to do with the fact that antibodies to these retroviruses are found more frequently in the blood serum of patients with schizophrenia than in serum from control subjects.

Symptoms of schizophrenia

Patients with a possible diagnosis of schizophrenia are evaluated on the basis of a set or constellation of symptoms; there is no single symptom that is unique to schizophrenia. In 1959, the German psychiatrist Kurt Schneider proposed a list of so-called first-rank symptoms, which he regarded as diagnostic of the disorder.
These symptoms include:
  • delusions
  • somatic
  • hallucinations
  • hearing voices commenting on the patient's behavior
  • thought insertion or thought withdrawal
Somatic hallucinations refer to sensations or perceptions concerning body organs that have no known medical cause or reason, such as the notion that one's brain is radioactive. Thought insertion and/or withdrawal refer to delusions that an outside force (for example, the FBI, the CIA, Martians, etc.) has the power to put thoughts into one's mind or remove them.
POSITIVE SYMPTOMS. The positive symptoms of schizophrenia are those that represent an excessive or distorted version of normal functions. Positive symptoms include Schneider's first-rank symptoms as well as disorganized thought processes (reflected mainly in speech) and disorganized or catatonic behavior. Disorganized thought processes are marked by such characteristics as looseness of associations, in which the patient rambles from topic to topic in a disconnected way; tangentially, which means that the patient gives unrelated answers to questions; and "word salad," in which the patient's speech is so incoherent that it makes no grammatical or linguistic sense. Disorganized behavior means that the patient has difficulty with any type of purposeful or goal-oriented behavior, including personal self-care or preparing meals. Other forms of disorganized behavior may include dressing in odd or inappropriate ways, sexual self-stimulation in public, or agitated shouting or cursing.
NEGATIVE SYMPTOMS. Schizophrenia includes three so-called negative symptoms. They are called negative because they represent the lack or absence of behaviors. The negative symptoms that are considered diagnostic of schizophrenia are a lack of emotional response (affective flattening), poverty of speech, and absence of volition or will. In general, the negative symptoms are more difficult for doctors to evaluate than the positive symptoms.


A doctor must make a diagnosis of schizophrenia on the basis of a standardized list of outwardly observable symptoms, not on the basis of internal psychological processes. There are no specific laboratory tests that can be used to diagnose schizophrenia. Researchers have, however, discovered that patients with schizophrenia have certain abnormalities in the structure and functioning of the brain compared to normal test subjects. These discoveries have been made with the help of imaging techniques such as computed tomography scans (CT scans).
When a psychiatrist assesses a patient for schizophrenia, he or she will begin by excluding physical conditions that can cause abnormal thinking and some other behaviors associated with schizophrenia. These conditions include organic brain disorders (including traumatic injuries of the brain), temporal lobe epilepsy, Wilson's disease, prion diseases, Huntington's chorea, and encephalitis. The doctor will also need to rule out heavy metal poisoning and substance abuse disorders, especially amphetamine use.
After ruling out organic disorders, the clinician will consider other psychiatric conditions that may include psychotic symptoms or symptoms resembling psychosis. These disorders include mood disorders with psychotic features; delusional disorder; dissociative disorder not otherwise specified (DDNOS) or multiple personality disorder; schizotypal, schizoid, or paranoid personality disorders; and atypical reactive disorders. In the past, many individuals were incorrectly diagnosed as schizophrenic. Some patients who were diagnosed prior to the changes in categorization should have their diagnoses, and treatment, reevaluated. In children, the doctor must distinguish between psychotic symptoms and a vivid fantasy life, and also identify learning problems or disorders. After other conditions have been ruled out, the patient must meet a set of criteria specified:
  • the patient must have two (or more) of the following symptoms during a one-month period: delusions; hallucinations; disorganized speech; disorganized or catatonic behavior; negative symptoms
  • decline in social, interpersonal, or occupational functioning, including self-care
  • the disturbed behavior must last for at least six months
  • mood disorders, substance abuse disorders, medical conditions, and developmental disorders have been ruled out


The treatment of schizophrenia depends in part on the patient's stage or phase. Psychotic symptoms and behaviors are considered psychiatric emergencies, and persons showing signs of psychosis are frequently taken by family, friends, or the police to a hospital emergency room. A person diagnosed as psychotic can be legally hospitalized against his or her will, particularly if he or she is violent, threatening to commit suicide, or threatening to harm another person. A psychotic person may also be hospitalized if he or she has become malnourished or ill as a result of failure to feed, dress appropriately for the climate, or otherwise take care of him- or herself.
A patient having a first psychotic episode should be given a CT or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan to rule out structural brain disease.

Antipsychotic medications

The primary form of treatment of schizophrenia is antipsychotic medication. Antipsychotic drugs help to control almost all the positive symptoms of the disorder. They have minimal effects on disorganized behavior and negative symptoms. Between 60-70% of schizophrenics will respond to antipsychotics. In the acute phase of the illness, patients are usually given medications by mouth or by intramuscular injection. After the patient has been stabilized, the antipsychotic drug may be given in a long-acting form called a depot dose. Depot medications last for two to four weeks; they have the advantage of protecting the patient against the consequences of forgetting or skipping daily doses. In addition, some patients who do not respond to oral neuroleptics have better results with depot form. Patients whose long-term treatment includes depot medications are introduced to the depot form gradually during their stabilization period. Most people with schizophrenia are kept indefinitely on antipsychotic medications during the maintenance phase of their disorder to minimize the possibility of relapse.
As of the early 2000s, the most frequently used antipsychotics fall into two classes: the older dopamine receptor antagonists, or DAs, and the newer serotonin dopamine antagonists, or SDAs. (Antagonists block the action of some other substance; for example, dopamine antagonists counteract the action of dopamine.) The exact mechanisms of action of these medications are not known, but it is thought that they lower the patient's sensitivity to sensory stimuli and so indirectly improve the patient's ability to interact with others.
DOPAMINE RECEPTOR ANTAGONIST. The dopamine antagonists include the older antipsychotic (also called neuroleptic) drugs, such as haloperidol (Haldol), chlorpromazine (Thorazine), and fluphenazine (Prolixin). These drugs have two major drawbacks: it is often difficult to find the best dosage level for the individual patient, and a dosage level high enough to control psychotic symptoms frequently produces extrapyramidal side effects, or EPS. EPSs include parkinsonism, in which the patient cannot walk normally and usually develops a tremor; dystonia, or painful muscle spasms of the head, tongue, or neck; and akathisia, or restlessness. A type of long-term EPS is called tardive dyskinesia, which features slow, rhythmic, automatic movements. Schizophrenics with AIDS are especially vulnerable to developing EPS.
SEROTONIN DOPANINE ANTAGONISTS. The serotonin dopamine antagonists, also called atypical antipsychotics, are newer medications that include clozapine (Clozaril), risperidone (Risperdal), and olanzapine (Zyprexa). The SDAs have a better effect on the negative symptoms of schizophrenia than do the older drugs and are less likely to produce EPS than the older compounds. The newer drugs are significantly more expensive in the short term, although the SDAs may reduce long-term costs by reducing the need for hospitalization. They are also presently unavailable in injectable forms. The SDAs are commonly used to treat patients who respond poorly to the DAs. However, many psychotherapists now regard the use of these atypical antipsychotics as the treatment of first choice; in particular, clozapine appears to be more effective than other antipsychotics in controlling persistent aggression in some patients.
NEWER DRUGS. Some newer antipsychotic drugs have been approved by the Food and Drug administration (FDA) in the early 2000s. These drugs are sometimes called second-generation antipsychotics or SGAs. Aripiprazole (Abilify), which is classified as a partial dopaminergic agonist, received FDA approval in August 2003. Two drugs that are still under investigation, a neurokinin antagonist and a serotonin 2A/2C antagonist respectively, show promise in the treatment of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.


Most schizophrenics can benefit from psychotherapy once their acute symptoms have been brought under control by antipsychotic medication. Psychoanalytic approaches are not recommended. Behavior therapy, however, is often helpful in assisting patients to acquire skills for daily living and social interaction. It can be combined with occupational therapy to prepare the patient for eventual employment.

Family therapy

Family therapy is often recommended for the families of schizophrenic patients, to relieve the feelings of guilt that they often have as well as to help them understand the patient's disorder. The family's attitude and behaviors toward the patient are key factors in minimizing relapses (for example, by reducing stress in the patient's life), and family therapy can often strengthen the family's ability to cope with the stresses caused by the schizophrenic's illness. Family therapy focused on communication skills and problem-solving strategies is particularly helpful. In addition to formal treatment, many families benefit from support groups and similar mutual help organizations for relatives of schizophrenics.


One important prognostic sign is the patient's age at onset of psychotic symptoms. Patients with early onset of schizophrenia are more often male, have a lower level of functioning prior to onset, a higher rate of brain abnormalities, more noticeable negative symptoms, and worse outcomes. Patients with later onset are more likely to be female, with fewer brain abnormalities and thought impairment, and more hopeful prognoses.
The average course and outcome for schizophrenics are less favorable than those for most other mental disorders, although as many as 30% of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia recover completely and the majority experience some improvement. Two factors that influence outcomes are stressful life events and a hostile or emotionally intense family environment. Schizophrenics with a high number of stressful changes in their lives, or who have frequent contacts with critical or emotionally over-involved family members, are more likely to relapse. Overall, the most important component of long-term care of schizophrenic patients is complying with their regimen of antipsychotic medications.

Key terms

Affective flattening — A loss or lack of emotional expressiveness. It is sometimes called blunted or restricted affect.
Akathisia — Agitated or restless movement, usually affecting the legs and accompanied by a sense of discomfort. It is a common side effect of neuroleptic medications.
Catatonic behavior — Behavior characterized by muscular tightness or rigidity and lack of response to the environment. In some patients rigidity alternates with excited or hyperactive behavior.
Delusion — A fixed, false belief that is resistant to reason or factual disproof.
Depot dosage — A form of medication that can be stored in the patient's body tissues for several days or weeks, thus minimizing the risk of the patient forgetting daily doses. Haloperidol and fluphenazine can be given in depot form.
Dopamine receptor antagonists (DAs) — The older class of antipsychotic medications, also called neuroleptics. These primarily block the site on nerve cells that normally receive the brain chemical dopamine.
Dystonia — Painful involuntary muscle cramps or spasms.
Extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS) — A group of side effects associated with antipsychotic medications. EPS include parkinsonism, akathisia, dystonia, and tardive dyskinesia.
First-rank symptoms — A set of symptoms designated by Kurt Schneider in 1959 as the most important diagnostic indicators of schizophrenia. These symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, thought insertion or removal, and thought broadcasting. First-rank symptoms are sometimes referred to as Schneiderian symptoms.
Hallucination — A sensory experience of something that does not exist outside the mind. A person can experience a hallucination in any of the five senses. Auditory hallucinations are a common symptom of schizophrenia.
Huntington's chorea — A hereditary disease that typically appears in midlife, marked by gradual loss of brain function and voluntary movement. Some of its symptoms resemble those of schizophrenia.
Negative symptoms — Symptoms of schizophrenia characterized by the absence or elimination of certain behaviors. DSM-IV specifies three negative symptoms: affective flattening, poverty of speech, and loss of will or initiative.
Neuroleptic — Another name for the older type of antipsychotic medications given to schizophrenic patients.
Parkinsonism — A set of symptoms originally associated with Parkinson disease that can occur as side effects of neuroleptic medications. The symptoms include trembling of the fingers or hands, a shuffling gait, and tight or rigid muscles.
Positive symptoms — Symptoms of schizophrenia that are characterized by the production or presence of behaviors that are grossly abnormal or excessive, including hallucinations and thought-process disorder. DSM-IV subdivides positive symptoms into psychotic and disorganized.
Poverty of speech — A negative symptom of schizophrenia, characterized by brief and empty replies to questions. It should not be confused with shyness or reluctance to talk.
Psychotic disorder — A mental disorder characterized by delusions, hallucinations, or other symptoms of lack of contact with reality. The schizophrenias are psychotic disorders.
Serotonin dopamine antagonist (SDA) — The newer second-generation antipsychotic drugs, also called atypical antipsychotics. SDAs include clozapine (Clozaril), risperidone (Risperdal), and olanzapine (Zyprexa).
Wilson disease — A rare hereditary disease marked by high levels of copper deposits in the brain and liver. It can cause psychiatric symptoms resembling schizophrenia.
Word salad — Speech that is so disorganized that it makes no linguistic or grammatical sense.



American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed., revised. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.
Beers, Mark H., MD, and Robert Berkow, MD., editors. "Psychiatric Emergencies." Section 15, Chapter 194 In The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 2004.
Beers, Mark H., MD, and Robert Berkow, MD., editors. "Schizophrenia and Related Disorders." Section 15, Chapter 193 In The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 2004.
Wilson, Billie Ann, Margaret T. Shannon, and Carolyn L. Stang. Nurse's Drug Guide 2003. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003.


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American Psychiatric Association. 1400 K Street NW, Washington DC 20005. (888) 357-7924.
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). Colonial Place Three, 2107 Wilson Blvd., Suite 300 Arlington, VA 22201. (703) 524-7600 HelpLine: (800) 950-NAMI.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). 6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663, Bethesda, MD 20892-9663. (301) 443-4513.
Schizophrenics Anonymous. 15920 W. Twelve Mile, Southfield, MI 48076. (248) 477-1983.
United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857-0001. (888) INFOFDA.


"Schizophrenia." Internet Mental Health.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


 [skit-so-, skiz-o-fre´ne-ah]
any of a large group of mental disorders (the schizophrenic disorders) characterized by mental deterioration from a previous level of functioning and characteristic disturbances of multiple psychological processes, including delusions, loosening of associations, poverty of the content of speech, auditory hallucinations, inappropriate affect, disturbed sense of self, and withdrawal from the external world. adj., adj schizophren´ic.

Because the onset is usually in adolescence or early adulthood, schizophrenia was formerly called dementia praecox, a term still used by some European psychiatrists for process schizophrenia. The term schizophrenia literally means “split personality,” referring to portions of the psyche that are contradictory; it does not mean multiple personality disorder, which is the presence of distinct, autonomous alternate personalities.

There are various theories regarding causes of schizophrenia. Biologic theories include genetics, biochemicals, and structural alterations. It is generally accepted that schizophrenics inherit a genetic vulnerability for the disease, and this interacts with environmental factors in causation.
Classification. The current nomenclature classifies schizophrenia into five types. Disorganized (hebephrenic) schizophrenia is characterized by disorganized, incoherent thinking; shallow, inappropriate, and silly affect; and regressive behavior without systematized delusions. Catatonic schizophrenia is characterized by psychomotor disturbance which may involve stupor, rigidity, excitement, negativism, or posturing, or an alteration among these behaviors; associated features include mutism, stereotypy, and waxy flexibility. This type, once common, is now rare. Paranoid schizophrenia is characterized by persecutory or grandiose delusions, delusional jealousy, or hallucinations with persecutory or grandiose content. The undifferentiated type refers to cases in which there are prominent psychotic symptoms, such as delusions, hallucinations, incoherence, or grossly disorganized behavior, and which cannot be classified as one of the first three types. The residual type refers to cases in which the prominent psychotic symptoms of a previous episode have disappeared but signs of the illness, such as inappropriate affect, social withdrawal, or loosening of associations, persist.
Treatment. A variety of therapeutic measures may be used to help the schizophrenic patient cope with reality and the demands of everyday living. The combination of therapies will depend on the needs of the individual patient, age and family background, and the environment in which the patient must live. Among the kinds of therapy are treatment with one of the antipsychotic agents (formerly called neuroleptics) and intensive psychotherapy for outpatients and various forms of group therapy and milieu therapy for hospitalized patients.
childhood schizophrenia see pervasive developmental disorders.
catatonic schizophrenia a type of schizophrenia characterized by marked psychomotor disturbance, which may include immobility (stupor or catalepsy), excessive motor activity, extreme negativism, mutism, echolalia, echopraxia, and peculiar voluntary movements such as posturing, mannerisms, grimacing, or stereotyped behaviors.
latent schizophrenia older term for a type of schizophrenia characterized by clear symptoms of schizophrenia but no history of a psychotic schizophrenic episode; it includes conditions that have been called incipient, prepsychotic, prodromal, pseudoneurotic, and pseudopsychopathic schizophrenia. See schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder.
pseudoneurotic schizophrenia a form characterized by all-pervasive anxiety and a wide variety of neurotic symptoms that initially mask underlying psychotic tendencies, which may be manifest as occasional, brief psychotic episodes. It is usually considered to be more of a personality disorder; see also schizotypal personality disorder.
pseudopsychopathic schizophrenia a term applied to patients in whom antisocial, impulsive, or sociopathic tendencies initially mask underlying psychotic tendencies typical of schizophrenia. It is often considered to be more of a personality disorder; see schizotypal personality disorder.
schizoaffective schizophrenia schizoaffective disorder.
simple schizophrenia a form characterized by gradual loss of drive, social withdrawal, and emotional apathy, but without prominent psychotic features. It is often considered to be a form of personality disorder; see schizotypal personality disorder.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


(skiz'ō-frē'nē-ă, skit-sō-), [MIM*181500] Although z in this word is correctly given its usual English pronunciation, the Germanic pronunciation (skits-) is more often heard in the U.S.
A term coined by Bleuler, synonymous with and replacing dementia praecox, denoting a common type of psychosis, characterized by abnormalities in perception, content of thought, and thought processes (hallucinations and delusions) and by extensive withdrawal of interest from other people and the outside world, with excessive focusing on one's own mental life. Now considered a group or spectrum of disorders rather than a single entity, with distinction sometimes made between process schizophrenia and reactive schizophrenia. The "split" personality of schizophrenia, in which individual psychic components or functions split off and become autonomous, is popularly but erroneously identified with multiple personality, in which two or more relatively complete personalities dominate by turns the psychic life of a patient.
[schizo- + G. phrēn, mind]
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


(skĭt′sə-frē′nē-ə, -frĕn′ē-ə)
1. A heterogeneous psychiatric disorder characterized by psychotic behavior including delusions, hallucinations, withdrawal from reality, and disorganized patterns of thinking and speech.
2. A situation or condition characterized by conflicting qualities, attitudes, or activities: the national schizophrenia that results from carrying out an unpopular war.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


Psychiatry A heterogenous group of disorders characterized by progressive mental disturbances in thought, perception, affect, behavior, and communication that last longer than 6 months, which may be accompanied by psychotic Sx, bizarre behavior, or by negative–deficit Sx, including low levels of emotional arousal, mental activity, and social drive; schizophrenia is a diagnosis of exclusion–none of its clinical, biochemical, neuroradiologic, pathophysiologic, and psychologic features are sufficient to establish a definitive diagnosis DSM-IV Clinical Disordered thought processes and abnormal behavior–eg, hallucinations, delusions, social withdrawal, inappropriate or "blunted" affect, verbal incoherence, cognitive deficits, inappropriate or blunted affect Types Catatonic, paranoid, disorganized, undifferentiated, residual Management Antipsychotics are used to
1. ↓ hallucinations and delusions, and other thought disturbances and improve Sx of withdrawal and apathy.
2. Control Sx through maintenance therapy, and.
3. As long-term prophylaxis, neuroleptics include haloperidol and clozapine  See Cultural schizophrenia, Disorganized schizophrenia, Fugue, Multiple personality, Paranoid schizophrenia. Cf Schizoid personality disorder.
Schizophrenia-diagnostic criteria1
A Characteristic Sx: 2 or more2 of following, for a significant portion of 1+ months
 Disorganized (or catatonic) behavior
 Disorganized speech (incoherence)
 Negative symptoms, eg flattening of affect, loss of volition
B Social/occupational dysfunction  
C Duration 6+ months in duration with 1+ months of 'active' symptoms, defined by criteria A
Exclusions Symptoms are not better accounted for by
D Other mental disorders, eg Schizoaffective disorder or Mood disorder with psychotic features
E Other conditions, eg substances(medication, substance of abuse) and/or general medical conditions  
1Modified from Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed, Washington, DC, Am Psychiatric Assn, 1994
2Only one of criteria A is required if the delusions are bizarre, or hallucinations include 1 + 'voices in head'
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A common type of psychosis, characterized by abnormalities in perception, content of thought, and thought processes (hallucinations and delusions), and extensive withdrawal of one's interest from other people and the outside world, the investment of it being instead in one's own mental life.
[G. schizō, split + G. phrēn, mind]
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012


The commonest major psychiatric disorder affecting about 1% of Western populations and usually appearing in adolescence or early adult life. Schizophrenia is not a disease in the normal medical sense and the diagnosis is based entirely on behaviour and on the statements of the affected person. Schizophrenics are said to have DELUSIONS, HALLUCINATIONS, disordered thinking and loss of contact with reality. They indulge in non-logical free associations, appear to confuse literal and metaphorical meaning and use invented words. The cause has not been established but life case histories suggest that some schizophrenics have adopted an alternative reality as an escape from an intolerable life situation. There also appears to be some genetic basis, but this does not exclude an important environmental causation. A mutation in the serotonin receptor gene has been proposed as a cause. Schizophrenics can usually be made to conform to conventional social mores by treatment with antipsychotic drugs. Psychoanalysis has no value in the treatment of schizophrenia.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005


(skits'ō-frē'nē-ă) [MIM*181500]
A common type of psychosis, characterized by abnormalities in perception, content of thought, and thought processes.
[G. schizō, split + G. phrēn, mind]
Medical Dictionary for the Dental Professions © Farlex 2012

Patient discussion about schizophrenia

Q. how to treat schizophrenia?

A. Schizophrenia is a serious illness that should be treated with the help of a psychiatrist, because close monitoring over the medications and possible side effects is crucial. It is often treated with anti-psychotic medications, either from the older or newer generation of drugs. Some modifications are done in each patient after looking into all of the factors that take place.

Q. How can we treat a schizophrenic person? A member of my family is a schizophrenic and was diagnosed when he was 25 years old. Today at almost 60 he refuse to be treated and certain that nothing is wrong with him. The problem is me and my family feels that his illness is getting worst and we can't help him. How can we get treatment for him and if not what is the next phase we should expect to encounter?

A. although the cause for schizophrenia is not yet clear- there is a treatment for it's symptoms, and it's actually very helpful. have very good results. but it has to be accompanied by psychiatric care. you will have to convince him to go threw a therapy, talk to a good psychiatrist, ask him if he has any idea. or maybe someone here can answer that question. about what to look for, here is a very informative site about it-

Q. Am i going to get schizophrenia and what are the signs towards it? My mother is 50 years old and i knew she was bi polar and tonight i found out she has schizophrenia too from a nurse at the hospital she was sent to for going crazy out of no where tonight. I am very different from her and i am 17 years old. My dad side of the family has no disorders. How likely am i to develop schizophrenia? What are the first symptoms? Can i see signs now? and any other info.

A. Sweetheart you would not recognize a sign if it run over you. as the sickness encroaches upon your mind it also removes rational thought. you will say to your self I am not crazy there is nothing wrong with me. all the crazy Sob's around me are nuts I an not. And Honey you will believe your self. self diagnosis is a very dangerous path you are wanting to take.
Just be aware and talk to a certified psychiatrist – he’ll tell you any thing you want to know.

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References in periodicals archive ?
It also reflects severe impairment of ego functioning, which is the main characteristic of schizophrenics. Rotation tendency is highly significant among schizophrenics as compared to brain damaged patients included in our sample.
Subnucleus-specific loss of neurons in medial thalamus of schizophrenics. PNAS 1:9476-80.
Subjects: A total of 147 male subjects (29 schizophrenics, 38 depressed, 80 non-patient controls) participated in the study.
Keeping in view the possible presence of memory impairments in psychological disorders and drug addiction, the present research was designed to study and compare the memory deficits among chronic schizophrenics, drug addicts and normals.
But as the San Francisco Chronicle reported, Cromer's attorney argued that "his client killed because she is consumed by schizophrenic paranoia--not hate for blacks." Or as the lawyer put it, "This case does not involve racism; it involves insanity." To help undermine this claim, the prosecutor enlisted the assistance of Szasz, the iconoclastic psychiatrist famous for rejecting the insanity defense, involuntary commitment, and the very concept of mental illness.
The aim of the present study was to compare the manifest dream content of schizophrenic adolescents, adolescents with other emotional disturbances, and community controls.
In fact, when signifier and signified are confused, the priority of the code is challenged and schizophrenic symptoms such as hallucinations appear.
A DAMNING new report claims Scots schizophrenics are not being diagnosed quickly enough and are being denied vital support.
In general, schizophrenics are not considered criminally responsible for their actions and so are not supposed to face charges.
Schizophrenics kill somebody every fortnight, because we don't take proper steps to protect ourselves.
For those who have experienced the unforgettable accelerated tempo of mescaline, speed invariably remains the problem, doubtless the key to many others." In what today reads as a neo-Rimbaudian attempt to deliberately derange the senses in order to become a seer--or, as Michaux says, to become sufficiently "disoriented" to experience "the abnormal"--he declares his ambition "to lift the veil from the normal." His drawings are an attempt to render the speed of what he saw as the unfettered unconscious of schizophrenics, those under the influence of drugs, and idiots savants.