Schizophrenia is a complicated mental health condition, and can affect many aspects of your thoughts and emotions. It can look and feel different for everyone. Sadly, schizophrenia is still a very misunderstood and stigmatised mental health condition.
So, what is schizophrenia?
Doctors talk about schizophrenia as a type of psychosis, which means that your perception of reality is different to the people around you. Similarly, psychosis can affect people in lots of different ways.
What does schizophrenia feel like?
No two experiences with schizophrenia are the same, but common symptoms of schizophrenia might include:
- Hallucinations – this could include hearing things that are only in your mind, or seeing things that aren’t there for anyone else. This is a type of psychosis.
- Delusions – these are beliefs that may be unusual or strong and not based on reality. This is also a type of psychosis.
- Disorganised thoughts or speech – your thoughts and speech may be muddled or scattered, and are based on hallucinations or delusions.
- Losing interest – you may no longer enjoy the activities or hobbies you used to enjoy.
- Feeling disconnected – you might feel like you’re disconnected from your feelings or emotions.
If you’re noticing that you’re experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, it’s really important to see a GP as soon as you can. It’s much better to treat schizophrenia sooner rather than later.
What can cause schizophrenia?
The mind is a powerful thing, and often we don’t yet know what might cause certain mental health conditions. Experts believe that the condition may be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
How is schizophrenia treated?
Usually, schizophrenia is treated with a combination of medicine and the right support. It’s common for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to be used when treating schizophrenia. This support is always tailored to the individual because no two experiences of schizophrenia will be the same.
If you have schizophrenia, you may also receive help from a community mental health team. These teams can offer you support with day-to-day tasks, as well as treatment depending on your needs.
Getting the right support is really important and getting it sooner rather than later can be a big help in how the condition may impact your day-to-day life.
Can you recover from schizophrenia?
Yes! Most people with schizophrenia make a recovery. Although for some, this may be a long-term condition and many may experience the occasional return of symptoms. Good self-care can also be a great way to help you increase your quality of life. Keeping good physical and mental health such as getting a good amount of sleep can help, as well as having a healthy diet which can help you better manage your symptoms. It’s important to know that smoking can also change the effects of antipsychotic medication. If you smoke, it may be a good idea to try giving up smoking – your GP will be able to help you with this.
What are the misconceptions about schizophrenia?
Sadly, there are some myths and misconceptions about schizophrenia and what it means. Not only can these misconceptions be upsetting to people living with schizophrenia, but these myths can add to the stigma surrounding this condition. It’s so important for us to avoid using misconceptions by being more mindful of the language and terms we use.
Common misconceptions of schizophrenia are:
- ‘People with schizophrenia have a split personality’ – the name ‘schizophrenia’ comes from the Greek language, meaning ‘split’ and ‘mind. However, people with schizophrenia do not have a split personality.
- ‘People with schizophrenia are dangerous’ – People who live with schizophrenia usually are not dangerous, and are actually more likely to have harmful experiences from other people. Although we do hear of people who live with schizophrenia committing a violent crime, the media may report this in a way that creates a sense of fear among the general public. It’s important to remember that violent crimes are also committed by people who do not live with schizophrenia. It’s also important to consider that people can sometimes be failed by mental health systems, and the crime may have been prevented if the right support was received. Therefore saying that someone with schizophrenia is dangerous, is not helpful, appropriate or right.
- ‘It can’t be treated’ – Although there isn’t a known cure for schizophrenia, good treatment and the right support can help you manage the impact on your life, helping you live a fulfilling, healthy and happy one!
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