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Mental health services: Schizophrenia

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Symptoms and diagnosis of schizophrenia

There are several types of schizophrenia, and no one characteristic is common to all. Psychotic symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, incoherence, catatonis or hyperactive behavior, flat affect.

Schizophrenia often starts with changes in behavior. It can develop slowly, over time.

If schizophrenia comes on quickly and severely, it is known as acute.

Symptoms of schizophrenia

Psychosis — being unable to tell what is real and what is not real — is a common condition.

Symptoms include:

  • hallucinations — feeling things or hearing voices that don't really exist. Hearing voices is the most common type of hallucinations. These voices may give orders, carry on conversations or give warning of danger.
  • delusions — having false beliefs of being watched, harassed or targeted (paranoia). You may also have delusions of grandeur. These are false beliefs of power or fame, such as being a president or a religious leader. Delusions may cause you to think people on television are broadcasting their thoughts to others.

Different behaviors may occur with schizophrenia. You may seem distant or deep in thought, anxious, alert or move around a lot. Or, you may sit motionless and not move for hours.

Other symptoms of schizophrenia can include:

  • thought disorder — having rapid thoughts and being unable to think clearly. You can have problems concentrating and focusing your attention. You can jump from topic to topic and speak so quickly you don't seem to make sense.
  • withdrawal — wanting to be left alone.

Suicide rates among people with schizophrenia are higher than among the general public.

Some people only have one psychotic episode (hallucinations and/or delusions) while others may have many.

Diagnosis of schizophrenia

The health care provider must first rule out other illnesses or medical conditions. He or she may:

  • take your medical history
  • give you a physical exam
  • take blood or other lab tests.
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Psychosis is a loss of contact with reality.

Call your health care provider or mental health professional if you or a member of your family experiences psychosis. If there is any concern about safety, immediately take the person to the nearest emergency room to be seen by a doctor.

Learn more about psychosis in our health library.

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Hallucinations involve sensing things while awake that appear to be real, but instead have been created by the mind.

Learn more about hallucinations in our health library.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Schizophrenia, mh-ahc-12505
Information adapted from the National Institute of Mental Health (
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department
First Published: 09/01/2006
Last Reviewed: 09/01/2006