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Schizophrenia – Guide for the public

Key points about schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental illness about which there is much stigma and misinformation. This often causes people with schizophrenia and their family additional distress.

The typical symptoms of schizophrenia involve disorders of thinking, perception and motivation that distort reality and cause changes in behaviour.

Although it is likely that there is no single cause of schizophrenia, current evidence supports the belief that it is due to biological abnormalities of brain function.

Schizophrenia may develop very gradually, or it may present abruptly.  The diagnosis of schizophrenia is best made by a psychiatrist, and your family doctor can make a referral for an assessment.

Modern treatments exist. New medications are possibly more effective than the older treatments, and are certainly more tolerable.

It is important for people with schizophrenia and their families to establish a positive working relationship with the treatment team, especially as treatment is long term. Modern treatment combines medication with education, family, social and community support.

More information

The RANZCP has developed the following guides for members of the public interested in schizophrenia.

Get the Schizophrenia treatment guide for consumers and carers - Australian version [PDF; 867 KB]

Get the Schizophrenia treatment guide for consumers and carers - New Zealand version [PDF; 814 KB] 

These guides were written by mental health specialists, based on the best available evidence and with extensive input from consumer and carer representatives.

These guides can:

  • help you to make decisions about treatment
  • outline the value of treatment and what to expect at critical times such as diagnosis, admission and discharge
  • inform you of your rights
  • outline the standard of services you can expect.


Interested in information for clinicians? Visit the Statements and Guidelines page.