What is schizophrenia?

Jakub – Year 12 Student

Editor’s Note: Year 12 student and aspirant medic Jakub writes here about schizophrenia for the GSAL Science Magazine. This is Jakub’s third publication in The GSAL Journal; you can read more from Jakub here. CPD

The basics of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a serious and lifelong chronic neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Although patients are often portrayed as having split personalities, it differs from dissociative identity disorder, as there are no distinct identities that can take control separately. It is estimated that as many as 20 million people worldwide are affected. People with schizophrenia are 2-3 times more likely to die early than the general population. This is attributed mostly to preventable physical diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic diseases and infections. Schizophrenia is treatable – treatment with medicines and psychosocial support is effective, and people can recover.

What causes schizophrenia? 

Schizophrenia is largely a multifactorial mental health condition, and many circumstances may cause schizophrenia, including: 

  • Genetics – schizophrenia sometimes may become hereditary. If you have an identical twin with the condition, then the probability of getting this condition can be up to 50%, which reduces to 10% for first-degree relatives. However, it is important to note that if someone in your immediate family has the condition, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will develop it.
  • Environment – many environmental factors may contribute. These primarily revolve around stress. Examples include living in poverty, stressful atmosphere, viruses and nutritional problems in childhood. 


The symptoms vary from person to person, For some people, these symptoms come and go. For others, the symptoms become stable over time. They can be severe— but at other times—unnoticeable. There are two main categories of symptoms.

Positive Symptoms

These are the symptoms that are additional behaviours not generally seen in healthy people. 

These are mainly:

  • Hallucinations: auditory or sensory experiences that happen without environmental stimulation – for example when a person hears, sees, tastes, or feels things that are not there. Hearing voices is also very common;
  • Delusions: when a person notices and believes things that are not true. This is commonly manifested when people believe that television personalities speak directly to them, using their names, etc. Sometimes people who have delusions may believe that they are in serious trouble or danger or that others, such as the FBI, are trying to influence or hurt them;
  • Abnormal movement: this is exhibited when the victims move in irregular ways. People may constantly repeat certain movements, completely unaware of what is happening. In extreme cases, people may cease to talk or move for longer periods;
  • Thought disorders: when a person has disrupted ways of thinking, which are illogical and questionable. This manifests itself through trouble organizing thoughts. People may stop talking in the middle of a thought or makeup words that have no apparent meaning.

Negative Symptoms

These refer to social withdrawal, difficulty showing emotions, or difficulty functioning normally. Here people will need help with basic everyday tasks. 

Negative symptoms include: 

  • Avolition: lack of energy and an inability to carry out routine activities;
  • Alogia: reduction in the amount of speech;
  • Anhedonia; inability to experience pleasure;
  • Anti-social behaviours: worsening relationship with family members;
  • Talking in a dull voice;
  • Showing no facial expression, such as a smile or frown.

Therefore, this is a very serious condition, not merely psychological. It has severe implications on daily life, both of the victim and people around, with detrimental effects on family relationships. This happens in such a way that exasperates the effects by effectively ostracizing the sufferer from social contact. Researchers have learned a lot about schizophrenia, but more research is needed to help explain its causes. 

Jakub 761303


NHS, 2019. Schizophrenia. [online] nhs.uk. Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/schizophrenia/#:~:text=Schizophrenia%20is%20a%20severe%20long,thoughts%20and%20ideas%20from%20reality.> [Accessed 25 June 2020].

Longden, E., 2017. What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Schizophrenia?. [online] What are the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia?. Available at: <https://www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/about-mental-illness/learn-more-about-conditions/schizophrenia/> [Accessed 25 June 2020].

Longden, E., 2017. What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Schizophrenia?. [online] What are the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia?. Available at: <https://www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/about-mental-illness/learn-more-about-conditions/schizophrenia/> [Accessed 25 June 2020].

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