Schizophrenia is a mental illness that has a large variety of symptoms and can seem very different in one person from another. It causes an altered experience of reality and affects people's thoughts, perceptions and behaviour.
Someone with schizophrenia will have symptoms for more than 6 months. They may have unusual ideas or beliefs about themselves or the world around them, which may be frightening.
They may hear sounds or voices, or see things that other people can’t see (hallucinations). They might feel someone else is in control of their body or thoughts.
They might find their thoughts are jumbled and they can’t make sense of what other people are saying.
The signs someone you know might have schizophrenia include:
- they behave in bizarre or unpredictable ways
- they jump from subject to subject – their words don’t make sense
- they are very paranoid and distrustful
- they do strange things to ‘ward off’ their thoughts
- they have trouble concentrating
- they may be violent (although this is very rare)
- they may be unpredictable, either not responding or moving in a very strange way
- they can’t function normally – they may neglect their personal hygiene, withdraw and lose interest in everyday activities
- they may seem to lack emotion, not making eye contact, not changing their facial expression and speaking in a monotone
See a doctor if you or someone you know seems to be experiencing any of these symptoms.
Try our service finder to locate a general practice in your region.
A person with schizophrenia may have thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If you think a person is in immediate danger from suicide, call triple zero (000) immediately or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.
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Last reviewed: December 2018