Hi, I am Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman. I am the Chairman of Psychiatry at Columbia University’s College of
Physicians and Surgeons and I am the Director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute. I am a
psychiatrist who is trained in research, who has taken care of patients for more than 25 years, and my area
of interest has been schizophrenia, particularly in terms of its treatment, and understanding the underlying
neurobiological basis of the illness.
Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects the way people think and perceive things. It usually occurs
during late adolescence or early adulthood and it does not begin abruptly, like you wake up one day and all
of a sudden you have schizophrenia. It usually beings gradually and people experience changes in their
thought process, and how they are perceiving and experiencing things.
A common way in which people begin to experience the symptoms of schizophrenia is to become suspicious
of the motives of other people; they become paranoid. People are trying to play tricks on them, or trying to
harm them, or spying on them, or they may have strange or funny thoughts. They may become, all of a
sudden, fascinated with the supernatural or become extremely religious or, all of a sudden, become very,
very concerned about their health.
This makes it difficult to recognize because during adolescence, for anybody who has children, you know
that there are tendencies for extreme or erratic behavior. So we can’t really make the diagnosis till it goes
clearly outside the bounds of what is normal behavior and until it lasts for a long time, meaning not just a few
hours, or a few days, or even a couple of weeks, but lasts for many weeks or months.