What is Schizophrenia? Explained by Aura

Aura Health Team
Written by
Aura Health Team
Aura Health is a community of hundreds of top coaches, therapists, and storytellers worldwide. We are here to provide the world’s most extensive, personalized collection of mental wellness content & services.
Aura Health Team
Written by
Aura Health Team
Aura Health is a community of hundreds of top coaches, therapists, and storytellers worldwide. We are here to provide the world’s most extensive, personalized collection of mental wellness content & services.
What is Schizophrenia? Explained by AuraWhat is Schizophrenia? Explained by Aura

Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. It is often characterized by distortions in thinking, perception, emotions, language, sense of self, and behavior. Despite being a treatable disorder, schizophrenia is often misunderstood and stigmatized, leading to numerous challenges in the lives of people who live with it.

Although schizophrenia is not as common as other mental disorders, its impact is profound. Most people with schizophrenia are diagnosed in their late teens to early 30s. The complexity of schizophrenia may result in a variety of symptoms which can be disruptive and cause significant distress to the individual and those around them.

Understanding Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is not a singular condition with a set pattern of symptoms, but rather a type of psychosis. Psychosis is a condition that affects the mind, where there has been some loss of contact with reality. When this occurs, it is often confusing and frightening for the person experiencing it, as well as for their loved ones.

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It's important to understand that schizophrenia is not caused by any one factor, but is instead the result of a complex interplay of genetic, biochemical, and environmental factors. It's also crucial to note that schizophrenia is not a result of personal weakness, lack of character, or poor upbringing.

The Role of Genetics and Environment

Genetics play a significant role in the development of schizophrenia. Individuals with a family history of schizophrenia are more likely to develop the disorder. However, not everyone with a genetic predisposition develops schizophrenia, which suggests that both genetics and other factors contribute to its onset.

Environmental factors such as prenatal exposure to a viral infection, low oxygen levels during birth, early parental loss or separation, physical or sexual abuse in childhood, and exposure to drugs in adolescence or adulthood can also contribute to the development of schizophrenia.

Neurobiology of Schizophrenia

Research has shown that people with schizophrenia often have differences in the brain structures and central nervous system compared to those without the disorder. These differences are not seen in every person with schizophrenia and can occur in people without any mental illness, but they suggest that schizophrenia may in part be a disorder of the brain.

Chemical imbalances in the brain, particularly involving neurotransmitters like dopamine and glutamate, are also believed to play a role in the development of schizophrenia. These imbalances can disrupt the way the brain interprets and responds to information, leading to the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is typically characterized by a range of cognitive, behavioral, and emotional dysfunctions. The symptoms are often classified into three categories: positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and cognitive symptoms.

Positive symptoms are those that appear to reflect an excess or distortion of normal functions. These include hallucinations, delusions, thought disorders, and movement disorders. Negative symptoms are those that appear to reflect a diminution or loss of normal functions. These include reduced expression of emotions, reduced feelings of pleasure, difficulty beginning and sustaining activities, and reduced speaking. Cognitive symptoms involve problems with attention, certain types of memory, and the executive functions that allow us to plan and organize.

Positive Symptoms

Hallucinations are one of the most well-known symptoms of schizophrenia. These are experiences of sensations that are not caused by an external stimulus. They can affect any of the senses, but auditory hallucinations (hearing voices or other sounds) are the most common.

Delusions are another common symptom. These are fixed, false beliefs that are not based in reality and not shared by others of the same cultural background. The content of the delusion can vary widely, but they often involve themes of persecution or grandiosity.

Negative Symptoms

Negative symptoms often include anhedonia, which is a reduced ability to experience pleasure. This can manifest as a lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyed, a lack of motivation to initiate and maintain activities, and a reduction in the ability to experience pleasure from social interactions or accomplishments.

Alogia, or poverty of speech, is another negative symptom. This can manifest as a reduction in the amount or content of speech, or a lack of spontaneity or responsiveness in conversation.

Treatment of Schizophrenia

Although there is currently no cure for schizophrenia, it is a treatable and manageable illness. With appropriate treatment, most people with schizophrenia can lead rewarding and meaningful lives. Treatment must be ongoing, as the disorder can be chronic and lifelong.

Treatment usually involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and social support. Medication, particularly antipsychotic drugs, can help to manage the symptoms of schizophrenia. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, can help individuals to cope with their symptoms, improve their social and occupational functioning, and maintain their treatment plans.


Antipsychotic medications are the most commonly used treatment for schizophrenia. They can help to reduce the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations and delusions, and prevent relapses. However, they are less effective for the negative symptoms and cognitive deficits.

Like all medications, antipsychotics have side effects, some of which can be serious. These can include weight gain, diabetes, movement disorders, and heart disease. Therefore, the benefits and risks of antipsychotic medication must be carefully considered and regularly reviewed.


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that is often used to treat schizophrenia. CBT can help individuals to challenge and change unhelpful thought patterns and behaviors, improve emotional regulation, and develop coping strategies for dealing with the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Family therapy can also be beneficial in managing schizophrenia. It can help families to cope with the impact of the disorder, improve communication and problem-solving skills, and support the individual in their treatment plan.

Living with Schizophrenia

Living with schizophrenia can be challenging, but with the right support and treatment, most people with schizophrenia can lead fulfilling and meaningful lives. It's important for individuals with schizophrenia to receive consistent treatment and to have a strong support network in place.

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Self-care is also crucial for individuals with schizophrenia. This can include maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing stress, staying active, and avoiding drugs and alcohol. Regular follow-ups with healthcare providers are also important to monitor the progress and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

Support Networks

Support networks can play a crucial role in the management of schizophrenia. This can include family, friends, healthcare providers, and support groups. These networks can provide emotional support, practical assistance, and a sense of belonging.

Support groups, in particular, can be very beneficial. They provide a safe and supportive environment where individuals can share their experiences, learn from others, and gain practical advice and strategies for managing their symptoms.

Challenges and Coping Strategies

People with schizophrenia often face numerous challenges, including stigma, discrimination, and social isolation. It's important to develop coping strategies to deal with these challenges. This can include educating oneself about the disorder, seeking support, and advocating for oneself.

Engaging in meaningful activities, such as work, study, or hobbies, can also be beneficial. These activities can provide a sense of purpose, boost self-esteem, and help individuals to focus on their strengths rather than their illness.


Schizophrenia is a complex and often misunderstood disorder. However, with the right treatment and support, individuals with schizophrenia can lead fulfilling lives. It's important to remember that schizophrenia is a medical condition, not a personal failing, and that people with schizophrenia deserve empathy, understanding, and respect.

While we have made significant strides in understanding and treating schizophrenia, there is still much work to be done. Continued research is crucial to further our understanding of this complex disorder and to develop more effective treatments. By increasing awareness and reducing stigma, we can ensure that individuals with schizophrenia receive the support and care they need.

February 29, 2024
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