Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Individuals living with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality. They may experience, in some combination, hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and behaviour. These symptoms can make it difficult for people to participate in usual, everyday activities.


Individuals are usually diagnosed between the ages of 16 and 30, and usually after the first episode of psychosis. It is important to recognize symptoms and seek help as early as possible. Symptoms of schizophrenia can differ from person to person but generally there are three main categories: psychotic, negative, and cognitive.


Psychotic Symptoms may include:


  • Delusions: These are false beliefs that are not based in reality. For example, individuals may believe that people on the radio and television are sending special messages that require a certain response.
  • Hallucinations: When a person sees, hears, smells, tastes, or feels something that does not exist. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination for people living with schizophrenia.
  • Disordered thinking (speech): When a person has ways of thinking that are unusual or illogical. People with thought disorder may have trouble organizing their thoughts and speech, or stop talking in the middle of a thought, jump from topic to topic, or make up words that have no meaning.
  • Disordered movement: A person may exhibit abnormal body movement such as childlike silliness, unpredictable agitation, resistance to instructions, inappropriate or bizarre posture, a complete lack of response, or useless and excessive movements. Repetition of certain motions over and over may also happen.


Negative Symptoms may include:

  • Loss of motivation, loss of interest or enjoyment in daily activities, withdrawal from social life, difficulty showing emotions, and difficulty functioning normally.
    • Examples of this could include:
  1. Grocery shopping
  2. Talking in a dull voice and showing limited facial expressions
  3. Avoiding social interaction or interacting in socially awkward ways
  4. Having very low energy
    • **These symptoms are sometimes mistaken for symptoms of depression or other mental illnesses.



Cognitive Symptoms may include:

  • Problems in attention, concentration, and memory.
  • These symptoms can make it hard to follow a conversation, learn new things, or remember appointments.


Most people with schizophrenia are not violent. Overall, people with schizophrenia are more likely than those without the illness to be harmed by others. It is important to help people who are showing symptoms to get treatment as quickly as possible.


How can you help someone who may have schizophrenia

  1. Talk to them about your concerns.
  2. Help them get treatment and encourage them to stay in treatment.
  3. Remember that their beliefs or hallucinations seem very real to them.
  4. Be respectful, supportive, and kind without tolerating dangerous or inappropriate behaviour.
  5. Look for support groups and family education programs.


Causes and Risk Factors


It is believed that a combination of genetics, brain chemistry and environment contributes to development of the disorder.



Treatments and Therapies


Current treatments focus on helping individuals manage their symptoms, improve day-to-day functioning, and achieve personal life goals.


The following are some different treatments available for individuals living with schizophrenia:

  1. Antipsychotic Medications
    1. Can help make psychotic symptoms less intense and less frequent
    2. Usually a pill or liquid form taken daily
    3. Make sure to monitor the side effects closely with a medical doctor
  2. Psychosocial Treatments
    1. Help people find solutions to everyday challenges and manage symptoms while attending school, working,m and forming relationships.
    2. Often used together with antipsychotic medications.
    3. Examples of this type of treatment are: cognitive behavioral therapy, behavioral skills training, supported employment, and cognitive remediation interventions.
  3. Nutrition
    1. Foods to Embrace
      1. Omega-3 fatty acids: fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines.
      2. N-acetylcysteine: While NAC itself must be taken as a supplement, cysteine-rich foods can also be effective. Try meat, grains, eggs, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, broccoli, red pepper, and onion.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid: Spinach, broccoli, tomato, and meats, especially organ meats like heart, kidney, and liver.
  1. L-theanine: Green, black, and oolong tea.
  2. Melatonin: eggs, fish, milk, rice, barley and rolled oats, grapes, pomegranates, walnuts, sunflower seeds, mustard seeds, flaxseed, asparagus, broccoli, and cucumber.
  3. Vitamins B9, B12, and C.
  1. Foods To Avoid
    1. Foods high in bad fats (red meat, fried foods) and high-glycemic-index carbs (white bread, white rice, potatoes, pasta, and anything else made from refined flour).
    2. Gluten: If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, avoid all wheat products, such as bread, pizza, pasta, and many alcoholic drinks.
  • Sugar: Baked goods, candy, soda, or anything sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
  1. Alcohol: Schizophrenia patients should try to abstain from or heavily restrict alcohol use.



There is no way to prevent schizophrenia, but sticking with a treatment plan set out by a medical professional can help prevent relapses or worsening of symptoms.



Sources: This is Your Brain on Food by Uma Naidoo, MA