Schizophrenia is a mental health condition involving what some may describe as a break from reality, in the medical world, you may hear the term psychosis being used.
Schizophrenia impacts a person’s thoughts, perceptions, and behaviour and is often inclusive of feelings of paranoia. This can lead a person to act in a way that they would not usually which can be perceived as unusual or at times reckless by others.
Signs and symptoms
A person living with schizophrenia may experience:
- altered perceptions, referred to as hallucinations, or delusory beliefs (delusions)
- confused or disjointed thoughts which can also impact a person’s speech
- hallucinations such as seeing or hearing things that are not there. It is important to recognise that these visions or voices appear to be very real to the person.
- feeling as though others may be controlling their body, and thoughts or that someone is not who they say they are. You may hear a health professional describe this as an experience of paranoia.
Causes of schizophrenia
Typically, schizophrenia occurs in approximately one percent of the population with symptoms emerging in a person’s early 20s however for some symptoms can also appear later in life.
There is no singular exact known cause of schizophrenia however genetic factors have been shown to play a significant role in a person’s likelihood of experiencing the health condition. For example, if you have a family member who has experienced schizophrenia then you are more likely to experience this too.
It is also believed that stressful, emotional, or traumatic life events as well as drug use may initiate a person’s first symptoms.
How is schizophrenia diagnosed?
Schizophrenia is usually diagnosed by a health professional such as a psychiatrist.
There is no specific assessment or test that a person completes to determine whether they are experiencing schizophrenia however completing a mental health assessment with your GP is a good place to start.
How is schizophrenia treated?
Many people who experience schizophrenia will recover, while others may experience symptoms on and off for an extended period. Some may visit and spend time in the hospital when they are feeling unwell whilst others may not.
Treatment can involve linking in with health professionals such as community support workers, peer mentors, mental health nurses, psychologists, and psychiatrists.
Medication is a common form of treatment. In the treatment of the symptoms of schizophrenia the type of medications used are referred to as anti-psychotic medications. As with most treatments medication can be effective for some and not others. Those who take medication can also experience side effects, such as weight gain, sleepiness, or twitching.
Some people experiencing schizophrenia may at times need to be admitted to hospital.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, CBT, is a form of talking therapy that focuses on the present. CBT can assist people with their thought patterns and behavior and aims to teach people practical ways to challenge negative ways of thinking.
Other forms of treatment
Other forms of treatment that can play a valuable role in a person’s recovery include community supports such as
- one to one support with a mental health support/recovery worker
- one to one support with a lived experience peer support mentor
- attending hearing voices groups
- and open dialogue therapy
For some, a combination of clinical and community support is most beneficial.
Help & Support
If you are experiencing any signs and symptoms associated with schizophrenia it is important that you see your health professional. A GP can complete a mental health treatment plan with you and link you with other health professionals if necessary.
If a loved one is experiencing symptoms associated with schizophrenia, it’s important to speak to a GP, psychiatrist or other trusted health professional.
There are also many support groups, websites, and virtual networks, that can assist you to understand what it is like for the person experiencing schizophrenia or help connect with others who have lived experience.
If you are concerned for your wellbeing or the wellbeing of others call ‘000’ for an ambulance.
SANE Forums: SchizophreniaThe moderated forums offer a supportive community where people experiencing mental health issues can chat with others in similar situations. It’s free to join. Visit site(Opens in a new tab)
headspace Early PsychosisSome headspace branches offer expert support through headspace Early Psychosis. Visit site(Opens in a new tab)
ReachOut: SchizophreniaRead about schizophrenia through real stories from people with lived experiences of schizophrenia. Visit site(Opens in a new tab)
My Lived Experience Story – Jenny Smith
A story is written by Jenny Smith to inspire others. Jenny is Mental Health Lived Experience Educator/Speaker, Writer/Author and Adviser/Advocate.Read story