Mate wairua tuakoi Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a long-term mental illness, which usually develops during your teens or twenties. Different people with schizophrenia can have very different problems. You can have times where the symptoms cause more problems, and other times when they are well managed. It can usually be very effectively treated with medications.

Misconceptions about schizophrenia

Causes of schizophrenia

The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. Different people may have different causes. This may be why there is a wide variation in symptoms and in the way it develops.


You have a higher chance of developing schizophrenia if you have a parent, brother or sister who has schizophrenia. But most people who have a family member with schizophrenia will not develop the condition.

Brain injuries

Injuries to your brain may be a factor in developing schizophrenia.

Drug use

Some people develop schizophrenia after using drugs, especially cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids.

Stresses and trauma

Undergoing a stressful or traumatic life event can trigger symptoms.

Childhood trauma, such as abuse are also linked to an increased risk.

Symptoms of schizophrenia

The symptoms of schizophrenia vary between people. You may have different symptoms at different times.

The main symptoms are the same as psychosis, plus changes in behaviour and mood or function.

Many people with schizophrenia have loss of insight. This means you are no longer aware that the experiences and difficulties you have are the result of your illness.

Psychotic symptoms

These are some of the psychotic symptoms someone with schizophrenia may experience.


Hallucinations are when you hear, see, smell, taste or touch something that is not really there. A common hallucination is hearing voices.


Delusions are when you have a strong belief that is not real or shared by others. A common delusion is wrongly believing there is a plan to cause you or others harm.

Disorganised thinking and speech

You may have racing or jumbled thoughts, and trouble keeping your attention on one thing.

Mood or function symptoms

These are some of the mood or function symptoms someone with schizophrenia may experience.

Lack of motivation

You may find doing ordinary tasks such as washing, cooking or planning ahead very difficult. Solving everyday problems may become a chore.

Social withdrawal

You may seem unaware of your illness or other people’s feelings. Your concentration and memory may be poor. You may find it difficult to communicate as you would normally.

Changes in mood

You may appear anxious, panicky, depressed or in an abnormally good mood. Your emotions may be flattened, meaning you may appear quite 'wooden' and unable to express joy or sorrow. You may have a preoccupation with death.

In a crisis

Diagnosising schizophrenia

It is important to get a diagnosis as early as possible. The sooner you get the help and treatment you need the better your long term outcome.

If you are concerned you may have schizophrenia, the first step is to talk to your usual healthcare provider about what you have been experiencing. They may then refer you to a psychiatrist, who can carry out an assessment for schizophrenia.

Part of the assessment will be to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. There are many medical conditions that can lead to psychosis, as well as drug and alcohol use and medications.

There are also several mental health conditions in addition to schizophrenia, that can cause psychosis including:

  • severe depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • schizoaffective disorder
  • certain personality disorders
  • postpartum psychosis.

You are more likely to have schizophrenia if your symptoms have lasted for at least 6 months (with symptoms of psychosis for at least 1 month) and are having a major impact on your life.

Self care for schizophrenia

There are a number of things you can do to support staying well.

Physical health

Look after your physical health by eating well, being active and sleeping well. Avoid alcohol and other non prescription drugs.

You should also have regular check up with your healthcare provider.

Keeping physically healthy with a mental illness or addiction — HealthInfo (external link)

Wellbeing plan

Learn to recognise when you are getting unwell and what triggers you. Have a plan for when this happens shared with your healthcare providers and support people


Connect with trusted whānau, friends and community groups. You may want to join a support group.

Support groups and services — Talking Minds (external link) 

Getting help with schizophrenia


Many people with schizophrenia need to take antipsychotic medication to feel better. Some people will need to keep taking it after they have improved to stay well. 

Antipsychotics — HealthInfo (external link)

Talking therapy 

Talking therapies help you cope with your condition, and manage symptoms of psychosis. 

Treatment options — Mental Health Foundation (external link)

Royal College of Psychiatrists

This short YouTube video explores what it's to have schizophrenia, what causes it and how to help yourself and others.

Mental Health Foundation

Information about schizophrenia, symptoms, signs, and treatment options.

Talking Minds

Informing young people about psychosis so that they can recognise the signs early on, and be empowered to live their lives to the fullest.

Clinical review

This content was written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. It has been adapted for Health Information and Services.

Clinical advisers — HealthInfo (external link)

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