Schizophrenia is a mental illness that occurs when the parts of the brain that control emotion and sensation stop working properly. Affected people may have difficulty deciding what is real and what is not.

Schizophrenia is probably caused by a combination of life stress and problems with brain functioning. In young adults, the illness may be triggered by severe life stress and/or illegal (street) drug abuse. You may be more vulnerable to experience schizophrenia if you have a relative who has had the diagnosis.

Common symptoms include hearing voices (‘auditory hallucinations’) and unusual beliefs (‘delusions’). Symptoms usually develop at the most stressful periods in life; in men in their late teens or early twenties and women in their twenties and thirties.

Most people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia recover. A third only ever have one episode and a further third have occasional episodes. Others live with it as an ongoing condition. Positive results often involve a combination of medication, talking therapies and encouraging people to be more independent.