Schizophrenia Print E-mail

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health condition that causes a range of different psychological symptoms. These include:

  • hallucinations - hearing or seeing things that do not exist, and
  • delusions - believing in things that are untrue.

Hallucinations and delusions are often referred to as psychotic symptoms or symptoms of psychosis. Psychosis is when somebody is unable to distinguish between reality and their imagination.

The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. However, most experts believe that the condition is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

How common is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is one of the most common serious mental health conditions. One in 100 people will experience at least one episode of acute schizophrenia during their lifetime. Men and women are equally affected by the condition.

In men who are affected by schizophrenia, the condition usually begins between 15 and 30 years of age. In women, schizophrenia usually occurs later, beginning between 25 and 30 years of age.

Misconceptions about schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is often a poorly understood condition and many people hold a number of misconceptions about it.

One misconception is that people with schizophrenia have a split or dual personality, acting perfectly normal one minute and then irrationally or bizarrely the next. However, this is totally untrue. Schizophrenia is a Greek word that means 'split mind', but the term was first used long before the condition was properly understood.

It would be more accurate to say that people with schizophrenia have a mind that can experience episodes of dysfunction and disorder.

Another misconception about schizophrenia is that people who have the condition are violent. Again, there is little evidence to back this up. Acts of violence committed by people with schizophrenia get a great deal of high-profile media coverage, and this can give the impression that such acts happen frequently when they are in fact very rare.

A person with schizophrenia is far more likely to be the victim of violent crime, rather than the instigator. Experts at the Royal College of Psychiatrists estimate that if schizophrenia could be cured overnight, the rate of violent crime in England would only drop by 1%.

If you have schizophrenia, it may have implications for driving. See the 'useful links' section for how to inform the DVLA about medical conditons.