While uncommon, schizophrenia still affects millions of people worldwide. There’s currently no cure, but many treatments are available.

Schizophrenia is one of many mental illnesses. It can change how a person perceives the world around them and interacts with it.

It’s also one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses. This causes a stigma that often makes it hard for people living with schizophrenia and their caretakers to seek the help needed to live productive lives.

In this article, we’ll go over what causes schizophrenia, how to spot early signs of the condition, and treatment options that are essential for maintaining good mental health.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 24 million people, or one in 300 people worldwide, lives with schizophrenia.

When you filter for just adults, the figures increase to 1 in 222 people. It can affect people from all walks of life — some well-known celebrities have been open about their experiences living with schizophrenia.

In the United States, estimates suggest that 0.25 to 0.64% of the adult population has schizophrenia.

Regardless of location, most people start exhibiting symptoms in their late teens or early twenties for males and late 20s to early 30s for females.

But schizophrenia can develop at any age. Very rarely is the condition diagnosed in people younger than 12 or older than 40.

To date, the exact cause of schizophrenia isn’t known. Experts believe that it’s a combination of nurture and nature. This means that while genetics can play a role, simply having a family history of schizophrenia won’t guarantee that someone will develop this mental illness.

But if you do have a family history of a close relative having schizophrenia, your chances of also having this disorder are six times higher than someone that doesn’t.

Learn more about what causes schizophrenia.

Even though most people aren’t likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia before their mid-teens through age 30, sometimes early signs are visible at a much younger age.

But it’s important to note many behaviors listed as early signs can also apply to other conditions. They may not be of significance when it comes to every person.

Often, the first signs of schizophrenia can be so subtle that it may be hard to imagine that a person has it. Hallmark symptoms like a change in social behaviors or cognition can be attributed to a variety of factors — making a diagnosis that much harder.

Click here to learn more about the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Because schizophrenia causes symptoms similar to other mental health and cognitive decline conditions, it’s easy for a person to be misdiagnosed.

In particular, schizophrenia is most frequently misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder. Sometimes, people with cognitive disabilities are also misdiagnosed with schizophrenia.

Additionally, an autoimmune disease known as anti-NMDAR encephalitis can cause brain swelling that encourages symptoms exhibited in schizophrenia — namely paranoia and hallucinations. As a result, people don’t get the proper treatment that they need.

The first thing you need for treatment to be effective is a willingness to seek help, which can be difficult for many people to accept. But when treatment is sought, a multifaceted approach can be used to manage symptoms.

Along with treating the patient, loved ones also need education and support to better understand what to expect and how to manage schizophrenic episodes when they occur.

Learn more about traditional treatments for schizophrenia.

People that take a proactive approach to their diagnosis and seek treatment can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. While medications won’t entirely prevent episodes, individuals who seek help are better able to manage them when they occur.

Finding a therapist can be a great gateway to finding the other treatments you need. And make sure to reach out to organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for support and resources on living with mental health conditions.

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and even underlying physiological or brain chemistry imbalances that impacts less than 1% of the U.S. population.

The condition is most notable for causing episodes where delusions, hallucinations, and an inability to properly regulate emotions are the most common symptoms.

Although there’s currently no cure for schizophrenia, when treatment is sought, the combination of antipsychotic medications and psychosocial treatments can help people with schizophrenia live happier and healthier lives.