People with schizophrenia may hear voices other people don't hear. They may think other people are trying to hurt them. Sometimes they don't make any sense when they talk. The disorder may make it hard for them to keep a job or fulfill other responsibilities.

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Who gets schizophrenia?

Anyone can develop schizophrenia. It affects men and women equally in all ethnic groups. Teens can also develop schizophrenia. In rare cases, children have the illness too.

When does it start?

Symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30. Men often develop symptoms at a younger age than women. People usually do not get schizophrenia after age 45.

What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia symptoms range from mild to severe. There are three main types of symptoms: positive, negative and cognitive.

1. Positive symptoms refer to a distortion of a person's normal thinking and functioning. They are "psychotic" behaviors. People with these symptoms are sometimes unable to tell what is real from what is imagined. Positive symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations: when a person sees, hears, smells, or feels things that no one else can. "Hearing voices" is common for people with schizophrenia. People who hear voices may hear them for a long time before family or friends notice a problem.
  • Delusions: when a person believes things that are not true. For example, a person may believe that people on the radio and television are talking directly to him or her. Sometimes people believe that they are in danger-that other people are trying to hurt them.
  • Thought disorders: ways of thinking that are not usual or helpful. People with thought disorders may have trouble organizing their thoughts. Sometimes a person will stop talking in the middle of a thought. And some people make up words that have no meaning.
  • Movement disorders: may appear as agitated body movements. A person with a movement disorder may repeat certain motions over and over. In the other extreme, a person may stop moving or talking for a while, a rare condition called "catatonia."

2. Negative symptoms refer to difficulty showing emotions or functioning normally. When a person with schizophrenia has negative symptoms, it may look like depression. People with negative symptoms may:

  • Talk in a dull voice
  • Show no facial expression, like a smile or frown
  • Have trouble having fun
  • Have trouble planning and sticking with an activity, like grocery shopping
  • Talk very little to other people, even when they need to

3. Cognitive symptoms are not easy to see, but they can make it hard for people to have a job or take care of themselves. Cognitive symptoms include:

  • Trouble using information to make decisions
  • Problems using information immediately after learning it
  • Trouble paying attention


Some of this information has been excerpted from the National Institute of Mental Health.