In order to examine antioxidant status and lipid peroxidation in schizophrenia patients, activities of three free radical scavenging enzymes (superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) and catalase (CAT)), and the level of thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS) as an index of lipid peroxidation have been studied in red blood cells. Schizophrenic patients were divided into three groups (disorganized (n = 21), paranoid (n = 26) and residual types (n = 18)) to determine differences between subgroups. SOD, CAT and GSH-Px activities in the control group were found to be 1461.0 +/- 248.6 U g(-1) Hb, 148.2 +/- 59.3 k g(-1) Hb and 25.87 +/- 4.25 U g(-1) Hb, respectively. We found no significant differences in SOD activities between study and control groups. There was a significant increase in SOD activity in the residual group compared to the paranoid group (P < 0.005). CAT activity was found to be increased in disorganized (148%), paranoid (147%), and residual (165%) groups compared to the control group. GSH-Px activity was markedly increased in the study groups except the paranoid group. Statistically significant (3-4 fold) increases in TBARS levels of red blood cells were found in all the study groups. It is proposed that antioxidant status may be changed in schizophrenia and thus may induce lipid peroxidation. Therefore, oxidative stress may have a pathophysiological role in all the subtypes of schizophrenia.