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Understanding Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a severe long-term mental health condition which can cause a range of different psychological symptoms.1


The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown, but most experts believe it is thought to be caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors.1

Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that carries a notable ‘stigma’ and is often misunderstood.1,2 People with schizophrenia experience disturbed thoughts, emotions and behaviour, and they find it difficult to judge reality.3 Symptoms can have a major impact on the life of the individual and their family.1

Facts about Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is one of Lundbeck’s focus disease areas. It’s a severe long-term mental health condition characterised by distortions in thinking, perception, emotions, language, sense of self and behaviour. Common experiences include hearing voices and delusions.1

Approximately 20 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia.4


Schizophrenia changes how a person behaves and thinks. Individuals often have episodes of schizophrenia where their symptoms can be particularly severe, followed by periods where they may experience few or no symptoms at all.3 Schizophrenia is often described by doctors as a type of psychosis – drastic changes in behaviour may occur and the individual can become anxious, confused, upset or sometimes suspicious of those around them.3


A first acute episode of psychosis can be difficult to manage both for the person who is ill and for their friends and family.3


Symptoms can be classified by what are known as positive symptoms and negative symptoms:



  • Positive symptoms - The symptoms that occur during the episodes of psychosis are known as ‘positive symptoms’ and include thought disorder, delusions (false beliefs, often with paranoia), and hallucinations – mainly hearing voices.3


  • Negative symptoms – These can often appear years before somebody experiences their first acute schizophrenic episode. These include lack of concentration, changes in sleeping patterns, becoming socially withdrawn, and losing interest and motivation in life and activities, including relationships and sex.Negative symptoms can often lead to relationship problems with family and friends as they can sometimes be mistaken for rudeness or laziness.3

Facts about Schizophrenia

The psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia typically start between the late teens and mid-30s.5

Worldwide, schizophrenia is associated with considerable disability and may impact on an individual’s performance at work or education.6

Epidemiology and burden

It is estimated that 20 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia.4 It typically starts between the late teens and mid-30s, but it can develop at any age. Schizophrenia can affect both men and women, although men tend to develop the condition slightly earlier in life.5


People with schizophrenia are 2-3 times more likely to die early than the general population, which is often due to comorbidities such as diabetes and heart disease.6

Diagnosis and care

There is no single test for schizophrenia and the condition is usually diagnosed by a specialist in mental health, using patient interviews to understand the symptoms, personal history and a diagnostic checklist.7


Schizophrenia requires treatment. With appropriate management, it’s possible to reduce the chance of severe relapses. Support to help recognise the ‘risk factors’ or ‘warning signs’ of a pending relapse can be helpful as well as talking to others about the condition.1 A combination of support and treatment can help reduce the impact that schizophrenia has on daily life.1 Although there may be times when symptoms return, many people recover from schizophrenia.1

  1. Schizophrenia Overview: NHS Guide. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/schizophrenia/overview/ [Accessed March 2022]
  2. Living with Schizophrenia UK – Stigma in Schizophrenia. https://livingwithschizophreniauk.org/information-sheets/stigma-in-schizophrenia/ [Accessed March 2022]
  3. Schizophrenia Symptoms: NHS Guide. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/schizophrenia/symptoms/ [Accessed March 2022]
  4. GBD 2017 Disease and Injury Incidence and Prevalence Collaborators. Lancet. 2018;392(10159):1789–1858
  5. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013
  6. World Health Organisation: Schizophrenia Key Facts. https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/schizophrenia [Accessed March 2022]
  7. Schizophrenia Diagnosis: NHS Guide. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/schizophrenia/diagnosis/ [Accessed March 2022]
Ditte Grauen Larsen, Living With Schizophrenia

The Eyes Follow Her, Unblinking

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