Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Schizophrenia Health Center

Select An Article

Schizophrenia: An Overview

Font Size

Schizophrenia is a serious brain disorder that distorts the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, perceives reality, and relates to others. People with schizophrenia -- the most chronic and disabling of the major mental illnesses -- often have problems functioning in society, at work, at school, and in relationships. Schizophrenia can leave its sufferer frightened and withdrawn. It is a life-long disease that cannot be cured but can be controlled with proper treatment.

Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia is not a split or multiple personality. Schizophrenia is a psychosis, a type of mental illness in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. At times, people with psychotic disorders lose touch with reality. The world may seem like a jumble of confusing thoughts, images, and sounds. The behavior of people with schizophrenia may be very strange and even shocking. A sudden change in personality and behavior, which occurs when schizophrenia sufferers lose touch with reality, is called a psychotic episode.

Recommended Related to Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia and Suicide

Schizophrenia is a chronic, disabling mental illness characterized by a wide range of symptoms, including: abnormal thinking loss of contact with reality hallucinations It is strongly linked to an increased risk of suicide attempts and completed suicides. Among people diagnosed with schizophrenia, an estimated 20% to 40% attempt suicide. From 5% to 13% actually complete the act of suicide. Compared to the general population, people with schizophrenia have a...

Read the Schizophrenia and Suicide article > >

Schizophrenia varies in severity from person to person. Some people have only one psychotic episode while others have many episodes during a lifetime but lead relatively normal lives between episodes. Still other individuals with this disorder may experience a decline in their functioning over time with little improvement between full blown psychotic episodes. Schizophrenia symptoms seem to worsen and improve in cycles known as relapses and remissions.

 At one time, doctors used to classify  schizophrenia based on subtypes:

  • Paranoid: Where someone feels he is being persecuted or spied on.
  • Disorganized: Where people appear confused and incoherent.
  • Catatonic: Where people can be physically immobile or unable to speak.
  • Undifferentiated schizophrenia: Asubtype in which no paranoid, disorganized or catatonic features are prominent
  • Residual Schizophrenia: In which psychotic symptoms are markedly diminished or no longer present

Scientists think the above distinctions are no longer as accurate or useful as once thought and therefore instead just focus on describing symptoms and their severity. 

What Are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?

People with schizophrenia may have a number of symptoms involving changes in ability, thinking, perception, behavior, and personality, and they may display different kinds of behavior at different times. When the illness first appears, symptoms usually are sudden and severe.

The most common symptoms of schizophrenia can be grouped into several categories including positive symptoms, cognitive symptoms,  and negative symptoms.

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Mental Health Psychotic Disorders
Schizophrenia Medications
bored man resting chin on hands
vincent van gogh
Schizophrenia What Increases Your Risk
mother and daughter
boy hiding under blanket
male patient with doctor
romantic couple
businesswoman working at desk at night