“High functioning schizophrenia” is not a medical term. However, some people may refer to someone with schizophrenia as “high functioning” if their symptoms are more mild and do not dramatically impact their daily life.

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that causes a person to experience a number of symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions.

Schizophrenia may have a serious impact on a person’s daily life.

If a person has schizophrenia but they are still able to function well in daily life, some people may refer to them as having high functioning schizophrenia.

This article outlines what high functioning schizophrenia is. It also discusses the symptoms and treatment options for people with schizophrenia.

A note about the term ‘high functioning’

“High-functioning schizophrenia” is not a medical diagnosis. It is a term people often use to describe mild symptoms of a condition. Mental health and healthcare professionals will generally not refer to a mental health condition as “high functioning.” They will typically say a person is experiencing milder symptoms.

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Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that affects approximately 0.25–0.64% of people in the United States.

Schizophrenia can cause a person to experience disruptions in their:

  • thought processes
  • perceptions
  • emotional responsiveness
  • social interactions

The condition can affect people differently. For many people, schizophrenia symptoms can be both severe and disabling.

In some cases, a person may have schizophrenia but function well in daily life. Some people may refer to this person as having high functioning schizophrenia. This refers to someone experiencing milder symptoms of the condition.

Learn more about schizophrenia.

All people with schizophrenia may experience the same range of symptoms. However, the severity of symptoms may vary from person to person.

Psychotic symptoms

Psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia can change the way a person thinks and acts.

Psychotic symptoms may also cause a person to lose a shared sense of reality with others. This may cause them to view the world in a distorted way.

Psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Hallucinations: Hallucinations may cause a person to:
    • see things that are not there
    • hear things that are not there, like voices
    • smell or taste things that are not there
    • feel things that are not there
  • Delusions: Delusions cause a person to have strong beliefs in things that are not true. These beliefs may also appear irrational to other people. This may cause a person to believe another person or group is harming or harassing them.
  • Thought disorders: Thought disorders can cause a person to think in an unusual or illogical way. This may cause them to have trouble organizing their thoughts and speech. Thought disorders may cause a person to:
    • stop talking in the middle of a thought
    • jump from topic to topic
    • make up words
  • Movement disorders: This can cause a person to carry out abnormal body movements. They may repeat these movements continually.

Some professionals refer to psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia as “positive symptoms.” These are symptoms that are abnormally present.

Negative symptoms

Negative symptoms often refer to things that a person with schizophrenia is abnormally lacking. These may be things that are noticeably absent, such as:

  • an impaired ability to express emotions
  • decreased speech
  • reduced desire for social contact
  • reduced desire to engage in daily activities
  • decreased experience of pleasure

In some cases, professionals may mistake negative symptoms of schizophrenia as symptoms of depression or another mental illness.

Cognitive symptoms

Schizophrenia may also cause a person to develop cognitive symptoms. These are symptoms that affect a person’s:

  • attention span
  • concentration
  • memory

Common cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • finding it hard to follow a conversation
  • struggling to learn new things
  • having difficulty remembering appointments
  • finding it hard to process information
  • struggling to make decisions
  • having difficulty focusing or paying attention

Professionals will often use a person’s ability to think to best predict their day-to-day functioning.

Learn more about the symptoms of schizophrenia.

A healthcare professional may carry out a thorough medical examination before they diagnose someone with schizophrenia.

This is because they will want to rule out certain conditions that cause symptoms similar to schizophrenia, like substance misuse and other neurological illnesses. They may also refer an individual to a mental health professional for further diagnosis.

In order to diagnose schizophrenia, a mental health professional will use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR). This is a manual that provides mental health professionals with specific diagnostic criteria for mental health disorders.

The DSM-5-TR states that in order for a professional to diagnose schizophrenia, the person must have two or more of the following symptoms that are present for a significant portion of time over a period of 1 month:

  • delusions
  • hallucinations
  • disorganized speech
  • grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior
  • negative symptoms

A person must also experience some social and occupational dysfunction.

The DSM-5-TR states that for a diagnosis of schizophrenia, the person must have experienced disturbance for a period of at least 6 months, including at least 1 month of symptoms.


A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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A person will usually first experience symptoms of schizophrenia in early adulthood.

Males will often experience early symptoms of schizophrenia in their late teens or early 20s. Females will often experience early symptoms of schizophrenia in their late 20s and early 30s.

Learn more about the onset of schizophrenia.

Treatment options for schizophrenia often include a combination of antipsychotic medications and psychological treatments.

Antipsychotic medications can make psychotic symptoms less intense. They can also reduce the frequency of these symptoms.

Psychological treatments for schizophrenia include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of therapy that aims to help a person modify the way they think and behave. CBT can help a person to make positive changes to their mood and quality of life.
  • Supportive psychotherapy: Supportive psychotherapy encourages a person to develop mature defense and coping mechanisms. It can help a person to:
    • reduce certain symptoms of schizophrenia
    • reduce anxiety
    • enhance self-esteem

Learn more about treatments for schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that can disrupt a person’s thought processes, perceptions, emotional responsiveness, and social interactions.

A person with schizophrenia may experience hallucinations, delusions, thought disorders, an impaired ability to express emotions, decreased speech, reduced desire for social contact, and a decreased experience of pleasure.

In some instances, the symptoms of schizophrenia can be disabling. However, other people are able to function well in daily life despite their symptoms.

Some people may refer to those who can function well in daily life as having high functioning schizophrenia. This is not a medical diagnosis, and “high functioning” is generally a term that people may use to define certain types of mental health conditions.

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