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Schizophrenia

a condition characterised by hallucinations, delusions and disorganised thinking

Schizophrenia is a condition characterised by hallucinations, delusions and disorganised thinking. It affects the way you think and cope with day-to-day life. 

Schizophrenia can change how you think and handle your daily life, affecting those who experience it. Common signs may involve seeing or believing things that aren’t real, having thoughts that are confusing, and finding it challenging to stay motivated for everyday activities. It is estimated that around 1 in 100 people will develop schizophrenia, which typically starts during young adulthood.

Schizophrenia and stigma

The negative stereotypes and stigmatisation of schizophrenia can cause social isolation and discrimination, making it difficult for individuals to seek help and delay regaining a good quality of life.

People with schizophrenia are dangerous 

Most individuals with schizophrenia are unlikely to display any form of dangerous behaviour. When they do, it’s more often directed towards self-harm rather than posing a threat to others. 

People with schizophrenia have multiple personalities

Schizophrenia doesn’t have anything to do with a person’s personality and is not a personality disorder. People with schizophrenia usually handle their altered perceptions in a way that reflects their typical personality. 

If your mum or dad
has schizophrenia,
you will have it too

While it is a factor, genetics does not fully determine if someone will get schizophrenia. There is no single gene associated with schizophrenia. Some people with schizophrenia have a family history without the condition. 

Schizophrenia always requires long hospitalisation 

Many people with schizophrenia can get treatment without staying in the hospital and continue to live at home. The symptoms and severity of schizophrenia vary depending on the person. 

People with schizophrenia cannot live fulfilling lives 

Although they might face challenges in their daily life, research that followed people over time has shown that after getting treatment, they improved. They could live independently, support themselves, and achieve their personal goals. 

Symptoms of schizophrenia

It’s important to recognize that schizophrenia can affect individuals in unique ways. People with schizophrenia experience various symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions and disorganised thinking. You might see, feel and hear things that are not there. Hearing voices is the most common type of hallucination. You might believe things others don’t, or things you say might not make sense to others. 

Negative symptoms 

We speak of negative symptoms when signs involve loss of ability and enjoyment. Those can include:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Slow movement
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Poor hygiene
  • Difficulty planning or setting goals
  • Difficulty to concentrate
  • Being withdrawn from social life
  • Fewer emotions
  • Low sex drive
  • Poor attention span and decision-making
  • Memory problems

Positive symptoms

Despite its phrasing, ‘positive’ does not mean that it is helpful or food for you.  These symptoms can also occur in other mental health conditions. ‘Positive symptoms’ involve signs experienced in addition to reality. They are usually named ‘psychosis‘. They include: 

Recognising that schizophrenia impacts the individual diagnosed and those close to them is essential. Building a caring community that supports those who look after people living with this mental health illness. Read Lee’s experiences about supporting a family member with schizophrenia.

There is no known cause of schizophrenia, but it can be linked to genetics or complications at birth. Some people might develop schizophrenia after hardship or a stressful life event.

Types of schizophrenia

Schizophrenia with paranoia

It is the most common form of schizophrenia, characterised by prominent paranoid delusions and auditory hallucinations. People with this subtype might have their speech and emotions affected.

Hebephrenic
Schizophrenia

Displays disorganised speech, behaviour, and emotions. Thought processes are fragmented, making it challenging to keep coherent conversations. This type of schizophrenia, also known as disorganised schizophrenia, is typically diagnosed in adolescents or young adults.

Catatonic Schizophrenia

This subtype involves severe disturbances in psychomotor function,  people may experience catatonic stupor (immobility) or catatonic excitement (excessive and purposeless movement). It is considered less common compared to other subtypes.

Residual
Schizophrenia

Often diagnosed in the later stages of schizophrenia. Following a major psychotic episode, certain people may experience residual positive symptoms like social withdrawal, reduced emotional expression, and mild hallucinations.

Simple
Schizophrenia

It’s characterised by an early onset and gradual decline in functioning. People with simple schizophrenia typically experience social withdrawal, reduced emotional expression, apathy, difficulty maintaining relationships and work or school performance.

Schizophreniform
disorder

It is a type of psychotic illness with symptoms similar to those of schizophrenia. But symptoms last for a short period and must occur at least one month but less than six months.

Undiferentiated
Schizophrenia

Diagnosed when the symptoms do not fit into one of the specific subtypes but are typical for schizophrenia.

Schizoaffective
Disorder

A hybrid condition where individuals experience both schizophrenia
symptoms and mood disorder symptoms (e.g., depression or mania) at the same time.

More

Causes 

Schizophrenia doesn’t have a specific cause, but it typically involves a mix of these factors: 

  • Genetic transmission/Family history
  • Birth complications 
  • Chemical imbalances in the brain 

Sometimes, stressful events like losing a loved one can lead to schizophrenia. Also, immigrating to a new place or even stress over the cost-of-living crisis can trigger symptoms. It’s important to note that using psychoactive drugs such as cannabis is strongly linked to developing schizophrenia.

Treatment 

Schizophrenia is usually addressed through a mix of therapy and medication that suits the individual’s unique requirements/needs. 

Antipsychotic Medication  

People affected by schizophrenia often receive antipsychotic medications as the primary treatment. Your healthcare provider may also discuss the possibility of prescribing antidepressants or medications to help manage potential side effects associated with antipsychotic drugs. 

It is very important to talk to your doctor about what medication to take.

Therapy   

In addition to taking medication, patients often engage in therapy to gain a deeper insight into their condition. One commonly used therapeutic approach is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy focused on improving your comprehension of your experiences and addressing any distressing or problematic thoughts and beliefs you may hold. 

CBT operates on the fundamental idea that our thoughts, beliefs, sensations, and emotions are interconnected. By addressing one aspect, CBT has the potential to influence the other three. It equips individuals with valuable tools to manage and alleviate the distress associated with their condition effectively. 

support

Change Mental Health runs the Hearing Voices service in Tayside and Fife, to support people to live around their voices and other symptoms of schizophrenia. Our support pages share lived experiences from our staff and people supported within the service and how we support people to develop strategies when coping with schizophrenia. Getting support or medical advice from your GP will make treatment more effective.

Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our own Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at advice@changemh.org or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.

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