Schizophrenia is a mental disorder, which generally develops in early adulthood and can lead to profound changes in personality and behaviour. The condition is characterized by abnormal social behavior and failure to understand what is real.

Schizophrenia was first described as a distinct syndrome affecting young people by Bénédict Morel in 1853, termed démence précoce (literally ‘early dementia’).

A painting that explains what a person with schizophrenia experiences.

In 1893 German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin introduced a new distinction in the classification of mental disorders dividing them into two groups, “dementia praecox” (schizophrenia) and “manic – depressive insanity”. Kraepelin believed that dementia praecox was primarily a disease of the brain, different from other forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease which usually happen later in life.

People with schizophrenia who were born deaf see disembodied hands signing to them, as opposed to “hearing” voices.

People with schizophrenia have the ability to tickle themselves.

Schizophrenic voices are shaped by local culture. Patients in America hear voices asking them to do violent things whereas in Africa and India the voices they hear are usually of dead relatives or nice voices offering comfort.

The picture below is a cloth embroidered by a person with schizophrenia. This is a written example of a “word salad”; a meaningless mixture of words and phrases demonstrating the disorganized thinking caused by the disorder.

By cometstarmoon – originally posted to Flickr as Embroidered Schizophrenia

People with schizophrenia have the ability to tickle themselves.

People who grow up in cities are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia, even when controlling for drug use and ethnicity.


Charles VI of France (1368 – 1422), suffered from bouts of madness, probably schizophrenia. His doctors tried everything from exorcism to trepanning to cure him.

Charles VI  by Master of Boucicaut (1412).

In 1889, after the completion of Ecce HomoFriedrich Nietzsche‘s health rapidly declined and is said to have tearfully embraced a horse in Turin because it had been beaten by its owner. He was taken back to his room and spent several days in a state of ecstasy writing letters to various friends, signing them Dionysus. He gradually became less coherent and almost entirely uncommunicative. Nietzsche was diagnosed as a schizophrenic and never recovered.

Albert Einstein‘s second son Eduard was born in 1908. He was institutionalized for schizophrenia and died in an asylum.

Irish novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett was in the same circle of artists as renowned Irish writer James Joyce. However, Beckett’s close relationship with Joyce and his family cooled, when he rejected the advances of Joyce’s daughter Lucia owing to her progressing schizophrenia.

The novelist Scott F Fitzgerald‘s wife, Zelda, was a schizophrenic. She was confined to an expensive asylum in South Carolina from 1930 to her death in 1947 in a fire at her asylum. Scott was loyal, not divorcing Zelda and visiting her in hospital.

Zelda Fitzgerald self-portrait, watercolor, probably painted in the early 1940s

David Bowie‘s schizophrenic half-brother Terry killed himself in 1985 when he escaped the grounds of the mental hospital where he was staying and put his head in the way of an oncoming train.. His 1993 song “Jump They Say” deals with Bowie’s feelings about his brother and the factors that lead to his mental illness.


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