Schizophrenia is a diagnosis given to some people who have severely disrupted beliefs and experiences.
During an episode of schizophrenia, a person’s understanding and interpretation of the outside world is disrupted – they may:
- lose touch with reality
- see or hear things that are not there
- hold irrational or unfounded beliefs
- appear to act strangely because they are responding to these delusions and hallucinations.
An episode of schizophrenia can last for several weeks and can be very frightening. About one in 100 people will have one episode of schizophrenia, and two thirds of these will go on to have further episodes. Schizophrenia usually starts in the late teens or early 20s, but can also affect older people for the first time.
The causes are unknown but episodes of schizophrenia appear to be associated with changes in some brain chemicals. Stressful experiences and some recreational drugs can also trigger an episode in vulnerable people.
At least 26 million people are living with schizophrenia worldwide according to the World Health Organization, and many more are indirectly affected by it.