Schizophrenia Defined

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that can make people with the condition seem like they have lost touch with reality. Though schizophrenia is a relatively uncommon condition, affecting about 1% of the world’s population, its symptoms can make it chronic and debilitating. Globally, approximately 1.5 million people are diagnosed with schizophrenia each year.

Most often, new cases of schizophrenia occur in the teen years, with people reaching a peak of vulnerability between the ages of 16 and 25. The full onset of schizophrenia is normally preceded by a prodromal period where the individual experiences unusual behaviors such as restlessness, hallucinations and anxiety. During the prodromal period, the behaviors and thoughts generally present gradually, but not yet with their fullest force. It is common for the individual to notice the changes a few months before anyone else visibly recognizes the differences in behavior. If left untreated, the symptoms of schizophrenia can expand and present more persistently later in life.

Several factors contribute to the risk of developing schizophrenia, including genetics, one’s environment, and brain structure and function. While genetic studies strongly suggest that many different genes increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, no single gene causes the condition by itself. Environmental risk factors may include living in poverty, having stressful surroundings, and being exposed to viruses or nutritional problems before birth.

As per the focus of our ASPIRe program, our personal experiences, and the research advancements being made by our schizophrenia focused Rising Star Awardees, One Mind firmly believes that early interventions can significantly improve the course of schizophrenia. When delivered in a timely, coordinated, and consistent manner, treatment can help those affected engage in school or work, achieve independence, and enjoy personal relationships. One Mind is also a proud partner in the NIH’s Accelerating Medicines Partnership for Schizophrenia (AMP-SCZ), a pivotal initiative that will help identify biomarkers and develop research infrastructure that will enable early detection of schizophrenia and lead to new treatments.


The symptoms of schizophrenia generally fall into the following three categories:

Psychotic symptoms

  • Hallucinations, such as hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there
  • Delusions, which are firmly held beliefs not supported by objective facts (e.g., paranoia)
  • Thought disorder, which includes unusual thinking or disorganized speech

Negative symptoms

  • Reduced motivation and difficulty planning, beginning, and sustaining activities
  • Diminished feelings of pleasure in everyday life
  • “Flat affect,” or reduced expression of emotions via facial expression or voice tone
  • Reduced speaking

Cognitive symptoms

  • Difficulty processing information to make decisions
  • Problems using information immediately after learning it
  • Trouble focusing or paying attention


Approximately half of individuals with schizophrenia have co-occurring mental and/or behavioral health conditions, the most common of which are substance abuse, anxiety disorders, and depression.

The wide range of symptoms that someone with schizophrenia may experience can also affect their loved ones. Their ability to function as a family member or friend may be impacted, increasing stress on their relationships.

If You Are In Crisis

Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to everyone. All calls are confidential. Contact social media outlets directly if you are concerned about a friend’s social media updates or dial 911 in an emergency.

If you are thinking about harming yourself or thinking about suicide:

  • Tell someone who can help right away.
  • Call your licensed mental health professional if you are already working with one.
  • Call your doctor or health care provider.
  • Go to the nearest hospital emergency department or call 911.

By the Numbers

20 million

People worldwide suffering from schizophrenia at any given time


Minimum share of people with schizophrenia that are not receiving adequate care


Share of people with untreated schizophrenia that live in low- and middle-income countries


Share of people with schizophrenia that attempt suicide at least once


One Mind is forging a bright future for those who live with schizophrenia.


ASPIRe (Applications for Serious Psychiatric Illness Recovery) is One Mind’s initiative to enable youth with Serious Psychiatric Illness to receive gold-standard, individualized care that has been shown to dramatically improve outcomes.
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Rising Star Awards

These competitive grants fund pivotal, innovative research from the most promising leaders in neuropsychiatry, accelerating discoveries of the causes of and cures for brain illnesses and injuries.
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The Healthy Brains Global Initiative (HBGI) is a global effort to mobilize US$10 billion for brain health research that will ultimately benefit people living with neurological and mental health conditions.
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