Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition that can cause a range of psychological symptoms. This means that those with the condition may not be able to distinguish their own thoughts and ideas from that of reality.
1 in 100 people will experience and episode of schizophrenia at some point in their lives and the condition is often diagnosed between the ages of 16 and 30 (although it is not limited to this age range.)
Symptoms of Schizophrenia:
- Lack of interest in things that you once enjoyed
- Feeling disconnected from your feelings
- Finding it hard to concentrate
- Wanting to avoid people
- Hallucinations – Hearing and seeing things that do not exist outside of the mind
- Delusions – Unusual beliefs that are not based off of reality
- Disorganised thinking and speech
- Not wanting to look after yourself
- Feeling unable to carry out day-to-day activities (going to work, taking children to school, cooking meals etc)
- Become upset, confused, distrusting or suspicious of other people or particular groups such as strangers or people who are in some form of authority role (politicians, police, doctors, carers, social services etc…
- Changes in behaviour
- Becoming socially withdrawn
- Changes in sleeping pattern
It is important to mention that split personality is NOT a symptom of Schizophrenia – This is a common misconception.
People with this condition are also often believed to be violent in nature; this is another misconception. It is very rare for a person with schizophrenia to be violent and/or dangerous to others.
Positive and Negative Symptoms:
Symptoms of schizophrenia are often referred to as being either positive or negative; positive symptoms include any form of changes to the individual’s behaviour or thoughts, including hallucinations and delusions.
If a person experiences a hallucination, this means that they hear or see things that are not really there whereas delusions come in the form of having strong beliefs about something which other people do not share… this could be having a strong belief that people are watching you or that someone is out to get you, despite there not being any evidence to support this.
Negative symptoms are when the individual becomes withdrawn from society or when they are not functioning well when it comes to the stressors of day-to-day life. These are not usually things that you would expect to see from a healthy human being. People who suffer from schizophrenia often appear emotionless and withdrawn.
There is no definitive cause of schizophrenia, but there are some potential risk factors which could contribute to the development of the condition.
Schizophrenia often runs in families, suggesting that genetics may be a factor. Although it is believed that there is no specific gene which causes the condition, studies have found that people are much more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia if a parent or sibling also has it. In identical twins; if one person develops schizophrenia there is a 1 in 2 chance that the other will also develop it…even if the twins are raised separately.
In non-identical twins; if one person develops schizophrenia, the other has a 1 in 7 chance of also developing it.
However in the general population 1 in 10 people are diagnosed with the condition, meaning that genetics are not the only contributing factor.
Many professionals believe that schizophrenia is caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors surrounding the individual.
It is believed that some people are more vulnerable than others when it comes to developing this condition and that some circumstances can significantly increase the risk of development.
Some of the triggering factors may include:
- Stress: such as bereavement, losing a job, going through a divorce.
- Drug or alcohol abuse can also increase a persons chance of developing schizophrenia or other similar conditions. Certain drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, LSD or amphetamines are possible triggers. Using amphetamines and/or cocaine can lead to psychosis. Teenagers under the age of 15 who smoke weed regularly (especially ‘skunk’ and other more potent forms of the drug) are 4 times more likely to develop schizophrenia by the age of 26.
- Traumatic life events such as physical, emotional and sexual abuse, being in a life changing accident, natural disasters.
Treatments for Schizophrenia:
There are a range of treatments available, including antipsychotic medications, which help with feelings of anxiety after a couple of hours, as well as reducing symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions after several days or weeks.
There are also a variety of different therapies available such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which looks at the individuals negative thought patterns and gets them to talk about the things that they find triggering to them, this way the therapist can help the individual to come up with better coping mechanisms and help them to become more independent. There are also family therapies available, not only helping the individual with schizophrenia but also helping family and friends to better understand the condition and teach them various ways of coping and different ways to approach certain situations in a safe and helpful manner.
Another popular therapy for people with schizophrenia is art therapy. This enables the individual to express themselves through arts and crafts as well as offering a fun and creative activity for them to regularly engage in.
People with schizophrenia are often provided with a Community Mental Health Team (CMHT). This is a team of professionals such as mental health nurses, social workers, pharmacists, psychologists, psychiatrists and so on, who work together to come up with the best possible care plan for that individual.
Many people recover from schizophrenia; though some may have periods where their symptoms return, this is known as a relapse.
If well managed, it is possible so significantly reduce the chances of a relapse. Good management includes:
– Being able to recognise the signs of acute episodes and knowing who to contact for help and support.
– Taking medications as prescribed.
– Talking to others about your condition, helping them to understand your individual needs.
25% of those who experience an episode of schizophrenia will go on to recover completely, without any reoccurrence in the future.
If you feel as though you are suffering from schizophrenia, please go to see your GP as soon as possible!
*Updated July 2023