What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that leads an individual to have an abnormal interpretation of reality. The symptoms of schizophrenia such as hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking may cause interference in daily functioning.

A chemical imbalance and other changes in the brain contribute to schizophrenia. Although there is a genetic component, other factors such as the environment can also be at play. 

Schizophrenia affects both men and women in the same way. However, the onset of symptoms is typically more rapid in men than in women. The condition rarely occurs in childhood.

Individuals experiencing schizophrenia may require lifelong treatment.Seeking early treatment may help control symptoms before serious complications develop and help improve the long-term outlook.

Symptoms of schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is characterised by various difficulties with thinking, emotions and behaviour. The symptoms can vary between individuals and include the following.

Psychotic symptoms may change an individual’s way of thinking, acting and experiencing the world. The symptoms include:

  • Disorganised or confused thoughts - Disorganised thinking is often inferred from disorganised speech.
  • Hallucinations - Disturbance of sensory perception that usually involves seeing or hearing things that don't exist. 
  • Extremely disorganised or abnormal motor behaviour - Individuals may exhibit abnormal body movements, such as repetitively performing certain motions.
  • Delusions - False beliefs that are not based on reality and are caused by the inability to separate real from unreal experiences.

Negative symptoms refer to the reduced or lack of ability to function normally, withdrawal from others and difficulty in showing emotions. The symptoms include:

  • Having difficulty planning and sticking to activities
  • Loss of interest or excitement in daily activities
  • Aversion to social interaction
  • Low energy levels and a preference for passive activities

Cognitive symptoms entail difficulties in maintaining attention, concentration and memory, which impact a person’s daily functioning. The symptoms include:

  • Difficulties in processing information during decision-making processes
  • Difficulties in applying newly acquired knowledge
  • Difficulties in paying attention

Risk factors of schizophrenia

The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. However, several factors appear to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia. The factors include:

  • A history of schizophrenia in the individual’s family
  • Compromised brain development due to malnutrition or exposure to toxins or viruses during pregnancy or after birth
  • The use of certain drugs of abuse. These may exacerbate psychotic symptoms.

Treatment for schizophrenia

Treatment is aimed at reducing symptoms and improving day-to-day functioning.

  • Antipsychotic medicines - These are the mainstay of treatment. They help to alleviate symptoms and reduce the chances of the illness recurring.
  • Other medicines - other types of medication may be required to manage other symptoms like depressive or anxiety symptoms, if these are present.
  • Psychosocial treatments - Assist patients in resolving day-to-day problems. Cognitive behavioural therapy, behavioural skills training, supported employment, and cognitive remediation interventions may be used in treatment in combination with antipsychotic medications.
  • Self-help and support groups

Adhering to the prescribed treatment plan can help prevent future relapses and worsening symptoms. Here are some things you can do:

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat healthily and exercise regularly 
  • Manage stress
  • Seek help right away

How can I support a loved one who has schizophrenia?

Individuals with schizophrenia frequently are unaware that their challenges result from a mental illness that calls for medical intervention. Therefore, it is typically up to their family or friends to get them some assistance. Here are some things you can do to help:

  • Be mindful and supportive of your loved ones without condoning any unsafe behaviour
  • Aid them in getting treatment and encourage them to stick to the treatment plan
  • Remember that their beliefs or hallucinations appear very real to them. Try to empathise with their feelings from the beliefs or hallucinations, rather than deny or discount them.

Some symptoms require urgent care, for example self-harming or aggressive behaviour. Seek aid urgently in such situations.

Our trained mental health professionals at Mindcentric based in ParkCity Medical Centre (PMC) are committed to providing treatments for various mental health issues. You have a wide range of therapy options for mental illness at PMC that will be advised by our trained mental health professionals.

Meet our Specialist

Dr Lim Chong Hum

Consultant Psychiatrist

Dr Wan Izwin Wan Hassan

Consultant Psychiatrist, Geriatric Psychiatry

Ms Tan Pei Jun

Clinical Psychologist, Unit Head

Ms Loo Mei Chien

Clinical Psychologist