When first sat down to work on writing this, I realized that overall I knew very little about schizophrenia.  This illness is one that seems to be depicted on TV frequently, and while I knew the depictions are often quite inaccurate (and harmful), I couldn’t have told you much about the illness.  Much of my knowledge had come from reading memoirs written by people with schizophrenia (The Center Cannot Hold); and while those are educational about an individuals experience, there was still so much more to learn.  

To be diagnosed with schizophrenia one must (taken directly from Epocrates):

  • Two or more of the following symptoms are present: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized/catatonic behavior, or negative symptoms. At least one of the symptoms needs to be a positive symptom
  • Symptoms occur for a period of at least 1 month (less, if treated) and are associated with at least a 6-month period of functional decline
  • Symptoms do not occur concomitantly with substance use or with a mood disorder episode.

In the diagnostic criteria you will see mention of “positive symptoms” and “negative symptoms”.  Positive symptoms does not mean good symptoms, but rather an addition. So for example, hallucinations are a positive symptom since it is an addition to a persons experience. Reduced speaking is a negative symptom because it is a symptom which takes away from a persons norm.  This is explained in more detail in the beginning of the video below.


The video is longer than what I typically share, but I think that it is worth the length. It does an excellent job of explaining a bit more about positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms, as well as sharing real people’s experiences.

As mentioned in the video, treatment for schizophrenia will require medication.  In addition to medication, the NIMH lists psychosocial therapies as a helpful treatment.  This is especially important for those who struggle with daily activities such as school or work.

Schizophrenia is highly stigmatized, likely the most stigmatized mental illness.  This stigma needs to come to an end and a great way to end stigma is through education. I encourage all of us who do not live with schizophrenia to keep learning and have compassion for those around us living with this illness (and really, let’s extend this compassion to all mental illness).

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