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Schizophrenia - Topic Overview

What are the symptoms? continued...

Symptoms usually start when you are a teen or a young adult, but they may start later in life. They may appear suddenly or may develop slowly. You may not be aware of your symptoms.

Negative symptoms usually appear first. They may be hard to recognize as schizophrenia, because they are similar to symptoms of other problems, such as depression. Positive symptoms can start days, months, or years after the negative symptoms.

Early signs of schizophrenia may include doing worse in school, thinking that people are trying to harm you, or having changes in your personality, such as not wanting to see people.

These signs don't mean you have schizophrenia. But if you notice these signs, see a doctor.

How is schizophrenia diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you questions about your health and about any odd experiences you may have had, such as hearing voices or having confusing thoughts. You will have a physical exam. Your doctor also may suggest tests, such as blood tests or imaging tests, to see if your symptoms may be caused by another health problem.

How is it treated?

Medicines help your symptoms, and counseling and therapy help you change how you think about things and deal with the illness. Treatment may last a long time.

When you have your symptoms under control, you are in recovery. Recovery usually is a lifelong process. In the recovery process, you learn to cope with your symptoms and challenges, find and meet your goals, and get the support you need. Your recovery depends upon a partnership between you, your doctors, and others who are important in your life.

People who have schizophrenia often stop treatment. This may be because they don't understand that they have an illness or because the medicines cause side effects. When treatment stops, symptoms usually come back (relapse) or get worse. A relapse might happen right after treatment is stopped or months later. A later relapse makes it hard to see that stopping the medicine was the cause. During a relapse, some people who have schizophrenia may need to spend time in a hospital.

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