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Mental health services: Schizophrenia

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Schizophrenia treatment


Schizophrenia can be managed. There are treatments that can control or reduce symptoms.

  • Antipsychotic medicines: Medicines can help reduce many of the symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. Medicines do not cause addictive behavior but some have serious side effects that make them hard to take. Side effects include drowsiness, restlessness, muscle spasms and irregular heartbeats. The health care provider will choose the right medicine and schedule for you.
  • Psychotherapy: Working with a mental health provider can help you explore your thoughts, feelings or relationships. Supportive therapy can help you sort out the real world from the unreal world.
  • Rehabilitation self-help groups or day programs: Groups for families dealing with schizophrenia can provide support and help. Rehabilitation can help people with schizophrenia improve skills around work and relationships.

Treatment can let you work, enjoy friends, and live an independent, fulfilling life. Like any other long-term disease (such as diabetes or heart disease), schizophrenia needs long-term treatment.

Talk with your health care provider about which treatment options are best for you.

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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

Medicines to treat schizophrenia

How your brain responds to schizophrenia

Neurotransmitters are substances in your brain that carry messages (nerve impulses) from one nerve cell to another. In schizophrenia, there's an imbalance in the neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.

With schizophrenia, too many neurotransmitters are produced. As a result, you may hear voices inside your head and have disorganized thinking.

When medicines may be prescribed

Medicines can be helpful in treating schizophrenia by decreasing extra neurotransmitters in the brain.

Medicines only help relieve symptoms. They do not cure schizophrenia.

Your doctor may prescribe different medicines before finding the right one for you. Medicines include halperidol (Haldol®), fluphenzine (Prolixin®), clozapine (Clozaril®), risperidone (Risperdal®), aripiprazole (Abilify®), quetiapine (Seroquel®), and olanzapine (Zyprexa®).

How antipsychotic medicines work

Medicine to treat schizophrenia works by decreasing the number of neurotransmitters between nerves in the brain.

How normal nerves pass on messages

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that send brain messages from one nerve to another. They are stored in nerve endings.

When there is a balance of neurotransmitters, the nerve is able to send a normal message to the next nerve.

How the brain reacts in schizophrenia

With schizophrenia, your brain releases more neurotransmitters than usual. Too much dopamine and serotonin are produced. This imbalance causes the messages to be sent abnormally between nerves.

As a result, you may not be able to think clearly and you may see or hear things that don't exist. Your mind may play tricks on you. It will be hard to concentrate.

How antipsychotic medicine helps

Medicine to treat schizophrenia works by blocking the extra neurotransmitters from the next (receiving) nerve. As a result, levels of dopamine and serotonin are decreased. Only a normal amount of neurotransmitters are passed along.

The brain chemistry is back to normal levels of dopamine and serotonin.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Medicines to Treat Schizophrenia, mh-ahc-13771
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department
First Published: 10/01/2006
Last Reviewed: 10/01/2006