The key facts

This information is for adults affected by schizophrenia in England. It’s also for their loved ones, carers, and anyone interested in this subject.

You can find a longer, more detailed version of this information here.

You can watch our short video about schizophrenia here.


What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects the way you think, feel and behave. It affects about 1 in every 100 people. The symptoms may affect how you cope with day to day life.

What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

The symptoms of schizophrenia are commonly described as ‘positive’ symptoms or ‘negative’ symptoms. This doesn’t mean that they are good or bad.

  • Positive’ symptoms are unusual changes in thoughts and feelings that are ‘added on’ to a person's experiences. They are usually called ‘psychotic symptoms’ or ‘psychosis’ . Experiencing psychosis is usually part of schizophrenia.
  • Negative’ symptoms are a lack of feelings that people normally have. They can often appear several years after you experience your first positive symptoms.

Psychosis is a term used to describe when people lose some contact with reality. Common symptoms are hearing voices or having strong beliefs that aren’t shared by most people.

Both positive and negative symptoms can affect your ability to function.

The common positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia are:



Hallucinations. You see, smell, or hear things others don’t, including hearing voices

Lack of motivation and interest in life and activities


Delusions. You have beliefs not based on reality

Feeling uncomfortable with people and not wanting to talk or leave your home


You’re being controlled. You might feel your thoughts are not yours and someone else has put them into your mind

Losing your normal thoughts and feelings


Muddled thinking. You find it hard to concentrate, thoughts might jump about, hard to think clearly

Lack of energy and change to sleep


Difficulties look after yourself



Difficulty remembering things,

learning new things,

and making decisions.

You might not get all the symptoms. Everyone’s experience of schizophrenia is different. The way that your illness affects you will depend on the type of schizophrenia that you are experiencing.

What myths are there about schizophrenia?

There are some myths or mistaken beliefs about schizophrenia which come from the media, such as:

  • Schizophrenia means someone has a split personality’. This is not the case. The mistake may come from the fact that the name 'schizophrenia' comes from 2 Greek words meaning 'split' and 'mind'.
  • If you live with schizophrenia, you can’t work’. Many people who live with schizophrenia do work, either full or part time. Especially if their condition is stable and they have the right support. Those who live with schizophrenia are often keen to work and play an active role in society. Work can be a key element in recovery.
  • People who live with schizophrenia are dangerous’. Those who live with schizophrenia aren’t usually dangerous. People who live with schizophrenia are far more likely to be harmed by other people than harm others.

How is schizophrenia diagnosed?

Only a psychiatrist can diagnose you with schizophrenia.

There's no single test for schizophrenia and the condition is usually diagnosed after assessments.

During the assessments your psychiatrist will talk to you about your mental health. They will ask you questions.

They will use a manual to help diagnose you. The 2 main manuals usually used by psychiatrists in England are the:

  • International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), which is produced by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), which is produced by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

The manuals explain which symptoms should be present, and for how long, for you to receive a diagnosis.

Before they decide on a diagnosis, your psychiatrist will think about whether your symptoms are being caused by something else.

What can cause schizophrenia?

Nobody knows exactly what causes schizophrenia. It’s likely to be the result of several factors, such as:

  • Stress
  • Genetics
  • Brain damage
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • A difficult childhood
  • Dysfunction of the immune system
  • Menopause

How is schizophrenia treated?

Guidelines the NHS follow say you should be offered.

  • Medication, usually antipsychotics
  • Talking therapy
  • Psychosocial treatment. This helps you to look at how your thoughts and behaviour are influenced by the people and society you live in
  • Psychoeducation. This involves learning about your illness, your treatment and how to spot early signs of becoming unwell again,
  • Family intervention. You and your family work with mental health professionals to help to manage relationships.
  • Art therapy. This can help you reduce negative symptoms by expressing feelings and thoughts to help you look at things in different ways.

Is it possible to recover from schizophrenia?

Many people who live with schizophrenia have different recovery journeys that lead them to live meaningful lives.

Recovery can be thought of in terms of:

  • no longer having symptoms,
  • having treatment to manage symptoms, which can include NHS support or social care, or
  • personal recovery, where you set goals to improve aspects of your life.

Here you can read more about Recovery and mental illness.

What can I do to manage schizophrenia?

People manage living with schizophrenia differently. You can try different things to find something that works for you, including.

  • Support groups
  • Recovery college
  • Peer support through the NHS
  • Self-management techniques

What risks and complications can schizophrenia cause?

How do I know I can trust this information?

We are a trusted information creator as we are accredited by the Patient Information Forum (PIF) This short video explains why PIF accreditation is important:

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© Rethink Mental Illness 2024

Last updated February 2024
Next update May 2026

Version number 2