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NHS Choices Condition

Content supplied by NHS Choices

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health condition that causes a range of different psychological symptoms. These include:

  • hallucinations - hearing or seeing things that do not exist, and
  • delusions - believing in things that are untrue.

Hallucinations and delusions are often referred to as psychotic symptoms or symptoms of psychosis. Psychosis is when somebody is unable to distinguish between reality and their imagination.

The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. However, most experts believe that the condition is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

How common is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is one of the most common serious mental health conditions. One in 100 people will experience at least one episode of acute schizophrenia during their lifetime. Men and women are equally affected by the condition.

In men who are affected by schizophrenia, the condition usually begins between 15-30 years of age. In women, schizophrenia usually occurs later, beginning between 25-30 years of age.

Misconceptions about schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is often a poorly understood condition and many people hold a number of misconceptions about it. Two of the most common misconceptions regarding schizophrenia are:

  • people with schizophrenia have a split, or dual, personality, and
  • people with schizophrenia are violent.

Split personality

It is commonly thought that people with schizophrenia have a split personality, acting perfectly normal one minute, and irrationally, or bizarrely, the next. However, this is not true, and although the term schizophrenia is a Greek word that means 'split mind', the term was first used long before the condition was properly understood.

It would be more accurate to say that people with schizophrenia have a mind that can experience episodes of dysfunction and disorder.

Violent crime

Most studies confirm that there is a link between violence and schizophrenia. However, the media tends to exaggerate this, with acts of violence committed by people with schizophrenia getting a great deal of high-profile media coverage. This gives the impression that such acts happen frequently when they are in fact very rare.

The reality is that a person with schizophrenia is far more likely to be the victim of violent crime, rather than the instigator.

Experts at the Royal College of Psychiatrists estimate that around 99% of violent crime in England is committed by people who do not have schizophrenia.  Also, one study found that the risk of someone with schizophrenia being convicted of a serious violent crime is only 0.03% in any given year.


If you have schizophrenia, it may have implications for driving. See the DVLA website for information and advice about informing the DVLA about medical conditions.

view information about Schizophrenia on www.nhs.co.uk »

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