What is schizophrenia? – Anees Bahji

Schizophrenia was first identified
more than a century ago, but we still don’t know its exact causes. It remains one of the most misunderstood
and stigmatized illnesses today. So, let’s walk through what we do know—
from symptoms to causes and treatments. Schizophrenia is considered a syndrome, which means it may encompass
a number of related disorders that have similar symptoms
but varying causes. Every person with schizophrenia
has slightly different symptoms, and the first signs can be easy to miss—
subtle personality changes, irritability, or a gradual encroachment
of unusual thoughts. Patients are usually diagnosed
after the onset of psychosis, which typically occurs in the late teens
or early twenties for men and the late twenties
or early thirties for women. A first psychotic episode can feature
delusions, hallucinations, and disordered speech and behavior. These are called positive symptoms, meaning they occur
in people with schizophrenia but not in the general population. It’s a common misperception
that people with schizophrenia have multiple personalities, but these symptoms indicate a disruption
of thought processes, rather than the manifestation
of another personality. Schizophrenia also has negative symptoms, these are qualities that are reduced
in people with schizophrenia, such as motivation,
expression of emotion, or speech. There are cognitive symptoms as well,
like difficulty concentrating, remembering information,
and making decisions. So what causes the onset of psychosis? There likely isn’t one single cause,
but a combination of genetic and environmental
risk factors that contribute. Schizophrenia has some of the strongest
genetic links of any psychiatric illness. Though about 1% of people
have schizophrenia, children or siblings of people
with schizophrenia are ten times likelier to develop the disease, and an identical twin
of someone with schizophrenia has a 40% chance of being affected. Often, immediate relatives
of people with schizophrenia exhibit milder versions of traits
associated with the disorder— but not to an extent
that requires treatment. Multiple genes almost certainly
play a role, but we don’t know how many, or which ones. Environmental factors like exposure
to certain viruses in early infancy might increase the chance
that someone will develop schizophrenia, and use of some drugs,
including marijuana, may trigger the onset of psychosis in highly susceptible individuals. These factors don’t affect
everyone the same way. For those with very low genetic risk, no amount of exposure
to environmental risk factors will lead them to develop schizophrenia; for those with very high risk, moderate
additional risk might tip the balance. The antipsychotic drugs used to treat
schizophrenia have helped researchers work backwards to trace signatures
of the disorder in the brain. Traditional antipsychotics
block dopamine receptors. They can be very effective
in reducing positive symptoms, which are linked to an excess of dopamine
in particular brain pathways. But the same drugs
can make negative symptoms worse, and we’ve found that negative symptoms
of schizophrenia may be tied to too little dopamine
in other brain areas. Some people with schizophrenia
show a loss of neural tissue, and it’s unclear whether this atrophy
is a result of the disease itself or drug-induced suppression of signaling. Fortunately, newer generations
of antipsychotics aim to address some of these issues by targeting
multiple neurotransmitters, like serotonin in addition to dopamine. It’s clear that no one transmitter system
is responsible for all symptoms, and because these drugs affect signaling
throughout the brain and body, they can have other
side effects like weight gain. In spite of these complications,
antipsychotics can be very effective, especially when combined
with other interventions like cognitive-behavioral therapy. Electroconvulsive therapy, though
it provides relatively short-lived relief, is also re-emerging
as an effective treatment, especially when other options
have failed. Early intervention
is also extremely important. After months or years
of untreated psychosis, certain psychoses can become embedded
in someone’s personality. And yet, the dehumanizing stigma
attached to this diagnosis can prevent people from seeking help. People with schizophrenia
are often perceived as dangerous, but are actually much more likely
to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. And proper treatment may help reduce
the likelihood of violence associated with schizophrenia. That’s why education— for patients,
their families, and their communities— helps erode the stigma
and improves access to treatment.

About the author


  1. As someone with schizophrenia, this video is so heart warming with its message to break the stigma and have people understand it. I actually have to hide my diagnosis from my employer due to an episode not counting as a reasonable use of sick hours.

  2. this is why i love ted-ed videos. i didn't know anything about schizophrenia but i really wanted to. glad i clicked on this video 🙂

  3. "Ok, I learned a bit of its history, treatments, prejudice, but I'd like to know what is schizophrenia…
    What was the title of the video, again?"

    'What is schizophrenia?'

    "Wait… Huh??…. "

  4. I thought that I had Schizo in high school but that was just severe anxiety. The reason I thought that was bc I was hearing voices a lot! But now that I know there are spiritual guides with me, I think that was the reason why I was hearing “voices.” 🤔

  5. When I'm scared at night I start to hear natural creaking a lot louder and when I'm not fully conscious or when it's dark I sometimes hear random sounds that aren't there. Is that a psychosis or just being a bit paranoid?

  6. Causes of psychosis is Genetics and Environmental. Certain drugs such as marijuana. You did not emphasize which factors on environmental? Is this the same such as Experiences=Environmental. What are drug choices for early onset of psychosis? How about my Case? How can you explain my situation and my case? How can you give justice to me? How can you explain factors such as Media contributing to my illness. How can you assessed, diagnose and draw into conclusion that I have Schizophrenia or psychosis? How can you Explain my Situation and My Case Here? What actions did you take in able to extend any help or aids about my situations? Did you held yourself accountable for all the moral damages? Did you give assistance or access to affordable health care for all? How about Jobs or livelihood program for us? Did you extend any humanitarian aid, assistance or help for us? a little transformation and improvements in our quality of life and well being. Did you take any actions in able to extend any help or accountability for all the damages happened to me including financial, psychological, educational, moral, and spiritual. Did you take any actions protecting my Safety, securing my health and well being here after of all the betrayals, injustices and bullying happened to me for the past years.

  7. my brother does not take medicine when he is not ill. He believes he has been mis-diagnosed, he lost his hand during schizophrenic episode

  8. My sister shows all the symptoms discuss in here. She's not clinically diagnosed. My parents tried to do so many times. But we're living in a country where schizophrenic persons are labelled as "crazy." so everytime she would see a doctor, they would just give her prescriptions. I know its not enough, cause she's not taking it seriously. She would hide her meds and pretends she had taken it already. As far as I remember, she had a lot of seizures wayback 2014 until 2019. She's delusional and paranoid. She has anger issues. My family is like a mess everytime she got angry even the smallest things. Its exhausting. And just last year, I started to live alone, so I don't know what she's doing now. We're not close, we had a lot of issues as sisters. I don't know how to deal with her anymore.

  9. So wild how I just watched a Scishow Psych episode that said that schizophrenia might be a autoimmune related disease and now this.

  10. Idk why it makes me feel good to see that people in the comments are actually talking about the video instead of posting something on Coronavirus or social distancing or quarantine…

    But, amazing explanation as always Ted-ed! Thanks for this video!

  11. okay, I know that isn't really relevant and others have it but: Princess Alice of Greece and Denmark (Prince Phillip's mother) had schizophrenia.

  12. I wish I didn't watch this. Two of my half brothers have schizophrenia. I thought I was in the clear after turning 22 💀

  13. my mom was schizophrenic. whenever my dad was at work or asleep, she would swear, get short tempered, lie, etc. she would sometimes ignore me, snap at me.. it was scary. my sister said she doesn't like it either. mmy mom was also a lazy procrastinator, sleeping the days off, doing nothing to care for me. i honestly felt lonely, outcasted, and detested. she would easily get emotion swings, getting mad and sometimes arguing with my dad, or start crying for no reason. my dad sometimes says i act like her. i mean, i do carry a bit of her schizophrenia with me, but im nice, calm, and tempered well. i dont swear. she's recently left, but im scared she might return.

  14. I often wonder how you guys make your videos. Could u make a video explaining the process of making a Ted-Ed video?

  15. Mental health is so complicated and saddening. Stressful childhood, dysfunctionality in the family and continuous family feuds is one of the main reasons children supper and develop schizophrenia. My cousin has been suffering from schizophrenia since he was 16, now he is in his 30s, and his family argues non-stop.

  16. What I find interesting is that people with schizophrenia in developed countries usually tend to have scary hallucinations while people in developing countries tend to have happier hallucinations.

  17. You guys should make a video on why people for some strange reason want or think it’s cool to have a mental illness.

  18. I have both schizophrenia and Asperger's (i inherit schizophrenia from my great great grandparents) ……..medicine doesn't help much and the side affects then to be more than mild for me(one of the side affects of my medication is paralysis and everytime I had my medicine I would be fully paralyzed and have difficulty breathing. any movement causes me great pain because of that I haven't taken my meds)
    but I been much more well in mind since I met my lover. being by her side helps me greatly and the fact that I could only feel safe and not be on guard or paranoid around her…it's the same for her (she deals with trauma from being in a emotional abusive household)

  19. My brother was recently diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. This video helped me to understand his symptoms much better. Thank you.

  20. How weird I just finished my report about how substance use disorder can contribute to the development of schizophrenia lol

  21. A sister in law had suffered of this her entire life. She choose to starve herself and so called professionals, allowed it. Even gave her a bedroom in a hospital to die. So she never even doubted her efficacy to die. She was survived by three children and her husband. Whom has been broken since. Tam believed she was a bird on one of her many mind-vacations, and had changed into a mother and wife to see why people don't whistle when they talk. It took the whole family to reconnect her to her childhood growing up. There is nothing easy about the condition. Except the love, she was loved so much that it must have seemed fake. Because in the end she didn't even want her grand daughter to know her. So we all suffer of that.
    Maybe I didn't need to post this. I could refrain from sharing Tammy's story. Or just accept that someone will read this, that needs to read this.

  22. Is it normal that I have conversations with other person's in my head when I'm alone? Like I would start telling a story and get really exicited or angry or happy and all sort of different emotions (even though I'm all alone)
    # if it helps…. I had a bad childhood

  23. Any disease that has a multitude of symptoms that are wildly different in each person is not a disease, its a mental health concern. We are biologically predisposed to think/act certain ways & can all develop bad habits, these things should not be solved with medication Instead they should be solved with professionals that are capable of guiding that person in the right direction to heal themselves. There is no magic pill that can "solve" your brain. I'd encourage anyone reading to go out and really help themselves by talking with others, and seeking real long-term solutions to their problems. Drugs are a short-term solution, and not effective in the long run.

  24. I used to have schizophrenia I've been feeling extremely paranoid but not anymore because I've stopped eating lots of grains & junk foods I've eaten lots of animal protein like pasture-raised eggs meats.

  25. The saddest part of psychiatric disorders is that the manifestations lie on one's behavior which can be perceived by the society as a definition of an individual as a whole without knowing that it's only a part of the disease process. They might think that a person is completely corrupted and consumed by the disease without realizing that, just like any other illnesses, it's just a part of one's wholeness. I mean, would the society judge someone for having a high blood pressure? Or high blood sugar level? No. We will less likely to be ashamed of taking antihypertensive or antidiabetic drugs, and yet we're so scared to let others know if we're taking antipsychotics/antidepressants.

  26. For my mother, it started with hearing people that she has met before telling her horrible things like someone was after her and she really believed it. I still remember the first time, when I came back from school she ran to the door shaking and pulled me in telling me she was terrified about something, that she kept hearing people and was afraid that they would hurt me. At night she didnt want to turn off the lights and couldnt sleep because the voices never stopped.

    There's a lot more but I want to talk about what I believe caused her symptoms. My mother has gone through a harsh divorce leaving her with me and my brother. When she talks to other ppl, thats all she can ever talk about: the divorce and other bad things in her life. Because of this, ppl didnt really like her since she brought her problems with her which others assumed was because she wanted pity. She moved to the US with my father and her english is pretty decent but because of this, we didnt have much family around either. She was alone and when my brother went to college, I isolated myself in my room because I liked being alone and could only concentrate on work this way. I also pushed myself away from my mother which I truly regret and this isolated her even more. Yes, we still talked but for the majority of the day, she would be alone. She worked in a casino which I believe made her mental health worse because of the type of ppl she had to serve. She would tell me ppl were always playing mind games with her and it was a toxic environment. I didn't know what to make of it because she said some strange things as well which make me question when her delusions really started.

    There's a lot more but in essence, her isolation, depression, potential harassment in the workplace, previous bad experiences, and her negative mindset were some of the main precursors to getting schizophrenia.

  27. Some people see things that others don’t see are happening also ! Some knew that our government was spying watching them we all called them crazy until the government now show its true that’s what’s eye opening reality they have puzzle pieces they observe that we all don’t see it but then wow out comes truth that what they were telling others was happening really are ! That’s weird over time what many of these people were saying was indeed reality we did t observe !

  28. I've always been a little 'off'. Social anxiety, never creating strong bonds with people (even family), getting irritated when someone sits in 'my' seat. I recently found my biological father through DNA testing and it turns out he has schizophrenia. Now I wonder if that contributed to some of my quirks.

  29. Today, I was searching about schizophrenia on Google and now Ted-Ed made a complete video on it. What a coincidence!

  30. I suffer from epilepsy , depression and anxiety , and I hate that a lot believe me ! I at least watch your videos twice because I lose my concentration haha , I just love you . 
    yes I know it's not the same , so can you make a video about epilepsy ?

  31. Please do a video about the chronic fatigue and illness and FIBROMYALGIA. We (people with this sickness) are tremendously and achingly struggling in silence. And we need awareness and explanations.
    Thank you for the hard and fruitful work of your channel.
    You really open for us the gates of knowledge

  32. I also respect and adore the fact that the video is devoid of colours because some people with schizophrenia can get irritated with some colours, Day after day a video after a video I thank God for the existence of this platform and how smart are the creators of it.

  33. I had a psychotic episode when I combined alcohol and cannabis shortly after my mother was diagnosed with ALS. Voluentarently got myself checked in a psychiatric clinic because I knew there was a risk of getting Schizophrenia. They let me out after around 1 or 2 months and prescribed drugs to me. I eventually stopped taking them because the side effects were horrible and they negatively affected my education as a lab assistant. Let's hope I don't turn crazy 😛

  34. A lot of those things you say about people and their traits or personality’s, or whatever, I seem to have a lot of. But I don’t see things or hear things or anything. I’m just not motivated etc

  35. I really like this video!! I suggest watching the documentary called Evelyn on Netflix which is about a family was effected by schizophrenia because one of the sons had it and his eventual death by suicide and we see how the family deals with it about 20 years later. It’s beautiful and reminds me of this video.

  36. My beloved uncle has this disorder. He's a sweet kind gentle person. Thanks for putting this information out on YouTube.

  37. I think I have psychosis, but I also think it's more due to my family situation and my family history with depression and anxiety, than being schizophrenic. I don't typically have hallucinations, but when I'm incredibly stressed or anxious for a long time, I tend to start hallucinating for long periods of time and repetitively. It started at 5, as far as I can tell, and does re-emerge, but I was once told by a psychiatrist I "just had an active imagination", so I don't think any other major signs of schizophrenia are present. Obviously, I got a bad diagnosis, and a lot of my hallucinations stem from paranoia and some small delusions, but I don't think if I had it that I could be diagnosed at this point.

  38. People that got schizophrenia is like people with ability to see the world with their perspective like the game.
    But with DLC

    Sorry,bad english

  39. It there any evidence that drug usage ‘causes’ psychosis. According to the stress-vulnerability model greater stress increases the risk of mental illness. So possibly those with more stressful lives have a greater disposition to engage with drug use behaviour and also to develop mental disorders. So there maybe a correlation between drug usage and mental illness, specifically schizophrenia, but perhaps the common variance is explained by a third variable- life stress, quality of life.

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