Demystifying schizophrenia with evidence-based facts can counter stigma and encourage empathy for people living with the mental health condition.

Schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition that can affect behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and the ability to connect with others.

An estimated 1.5 million adults in the United States have schizophrenia, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Across the world, schizophrenia affects about 24 million people, or 1 in 300 people, reports the World Health Organization (WHO).

Common symptoms of the condition include:

  • hallucinations
  • delusions
  • lack of expression
  • reduced motivation
  • difficulty making social connections
  • motor and cognitive impairment

Having schizophrenia is a lifelong condition, but there are many treatments and resources available today to help people manage the condition and thrive.

Treatment often includes a combination of antipsychotic medication, psychotherapy, and self-management strategies.

Schizophrenia is complex. The following facts can help bring understanding:

  • It’s uncommon for people under age 12 and over age 40 to receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia. The average age of onset is typically late teens to early 20s for men, and ages 25 to 30 for women.
  • A person’s chance of developing schizophrenia is more than six times higher if they have a close relative, like a parent or sibling, with the condition.
  • Stress during developmental phases of life may trigger inherited traits of schizophrenia, according to 2017 research.
  • A combination of genetics and environmental factors may cause schizophrenia.
  • African Americans are likelier to get misdiagnosed with schizophrenia because clinicians often overemphasize positive symptoms of the condition and underemphasize mood symptoms consistent with major depression.
  • Schizophrenia ranks in the top 15 leading causes of disability worldwide.
  • Folks with schizophrenia often have other health conditions, such as heart disease, liver disease, and diabetes.
  • People with schizophrenia may also have other mental health conditions, such as:
  • Schizophrenia can’t be detected with a lab test. A mental health care professional makes the diagnosis by evaluating symptoms.
  • People with schizophrenia have a substantially elevated risk of suicide.
  • Stigma associated with schizophrenia can cause social isolation and discrimination, which create barriers to accessing healthcare, education, housing, and employment.

These more nuanced facts may help you empathize and understand some of the profound layers of schizophrenia:

  • Many people living with schizophrenia don’t think they have the condition.
  • Delusions that a person living with schizophrenia might experience may include thinking they are famous, the FBI is after them, or they have special or magical powers.
  • While the delusions feel real to someone with schizophrenia, they may be aware that others don’t believe their delusions. Some researchers refer to this as a meta-awareness of the delusion.
  • People with schizophrenia can and do work. A 2016 study found that participating in a vocational training intervention program helped those living with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders increase their work motivation and improve work outcomes.
  • Fingerprints of people living with schizophrenia may differ from others, according to a 2021 study, which pointed to the arch pattern type in the right ring finger being a specific marker in people with schizophrenia.
  • A 2016 study found that the “rubber hand illusion” is more intense in people living with schizophrenia than those without a mental health condition.
  • Findings from a 2015 study examining childhood clumsiness and decreased ability to emote (dyspraxia) may indicate a higher risk of developing schizophrenia or related psychosis disorders that involve a decreased ability to express emotions.
  • Taking drugs like methamphetamines or LSD can cause a person to experience schizophrenia-like symptoms.
  • Taking mind-altering drugs as a teenager or young adult can increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, according to 2017 research.
  • Using cannabis can contribute to ongoing episodes of psychosis.
  • People living with schizophrenia in the United States live an estimated average 28.5 years fewer than others.
  • Humor, metaphors, and emotions may be harder to process for people living with schizophrenia.
  • During emergencies like natural disasters and war, people living with schizophrenia are at risk of experiencing neglect, abandonment, homelessness, abuse, and exclusion.

Learning facts about schizophrenia can broaden awareness and deepen empathy for people living with this highly stigmatized condition.

If you’re looking for more ways to support or understand a loved one with a mental health condition, the following resources may help:

If you’re a caregiver or loved one of someone living with schizophrenia and in need of support, consider reaching out to a therapist for help.