Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(12):1830

See related article on schizophrenia.

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia (skitz-o-FREN-ee-ah) is a mental illness. People with this disease may:

  • Hear voices that others don't hear

  • Think that other people can control their thoughts

  • Think that people are “out to get them”

  • Have trouble making plans, speaking, expressing feelings, or feeling happy

  • Have trouble making decisions, paying attention, and remembering

These symptoms can make it hard to talk with other people. People with schizophrenia often avoid their friends and family.

Who gets schizophrenia?

About 1 in 100 men and women get it. Men begin to show signs in their late teens or early 20s. Women usually start to show signs when they are in their late 20s or early 30s. People 45 years or older rarely get it.

How do I know if someone in my family has schizophrenia?

The first signs often include avoiding family and friends, changes in school or job performance, changes in sleep habits, and being irritable.

What should I do if I think someone in my family has schizophrenia?

Call your family doctor and describe the symptoms. Your doctor will work with you to get help for your family member. People with this disease may refuse to get help. If you are afraid that your family member might hurt himself or herself or someone else, you should call 9-1-1 to have an ambulance or the police take the person to the hospital for help.

What kinds of treatment can help?

People with schizophrenia do better when they take medicine. Community programs can help them live on their own or keep a job. People who are very ill may need to stay in a hospital until their symptoms are under control.

Where can I get more information?

American Academy of Family Physicians

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Continue Reading


More in AFP

Copyright © 2007 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See https://www.aafp.org/about/this-site/permissions.html for copyright questions and/or permission requests.