What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a long-term, severe mental health condition which causes a variety of different psychological symptoms.
Schizophrenia is often referred to by doctors a type of psychosis. What this means is that a person may not be able to distinguish their own thoughts and ideas from reality at all times.
Mental health treatment may be covered by a health cash plan, that allows you to get up to 6 times what you pay e.g £100 in cover equals £600 towards appointments and smaller treatments.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Ultimately, Schizophrenia changes how a person thinks and behaves. The condition can develop slowly or quickly. The initial symptoms and signs may be difficult to identify as they often manifest during the teenage years.
Signs like becoming a person socially isolated and unresponsive or changes in sleeping patterns can be mistaken for a teenage “phase”, as these symptoms are experienced commonly in adolescence.
It is common for people to have episodes of severe schizophrenia, followed by periods where they experience little, few or no symptoms. This is what is known as acute schizophrenia.
The symptoms of Schizophrenia are typically classified into two categories:
- Positive symptoms – this refers to any change in behavior or in the though pattern. This could be hallucinations or delusions.
- Negative symptoms – this is when a person experiences withdrawal or lack of function that are not usually seen in a person who is considered mentally well. For example, appearing emotionless and generally flat.
Common symptoms of schizophrenia include:
- Having hallucinations – this is when you hear, see, smell, taste or feel things that other cannot and are not real. The most common form of hallucination is hearing voices in a person with schizophrenia. To the person experiencing hallucinations, the experience is very real and it is impossible to distinguish what is real and what is in your own mind. When people hear voices, they can vary in tone; some people claim that voices are perfectly pleasant and other people claim that the voices are destructive and abusive.
- Having delusions – unusual beliefs that are not based on reality. It is common that delusions develop to explain the hallucination they are experiencing. An example of this may be, if a person is hearing voices which describe their actions, they may develop the delusion that they are being monitored and become paranoid. It is common for people with Schizophrenia to feel as though they are being watched, chased, followed, stalked or plotted against.
- Muddled thoughts which are based on the hallucinations and/or delusions. People who suffer with schizophrenia often find they have trouble with keeping track of their thoughts and conversations, as well as finding that they drift from one idea to another.
- Changes in behaviour. A person’s behaviour can become extremely disorganised and very unpredictable. They also may change their appearance and the way they dress in a way that is typically out of character. It is common that suffers believe that their thoughts are being controlled by others and that their thoughts are not their own as they have been planted in their mind by someone else.
- Loss of interest and motivation in activities such sex, and in their general life
- Lack of concentration
- Changes in sleeping pattern
- Not wanting to leave their house
- Feeling uncomfortable around others
Causes of Schizophrenia
Like with a lot of mental health conditions, the exact causes of schizophrenia are not yet known. However, medical research has suggested that a combination of physical, genetic, psychological and environmental factors is responsible for the manifestation of schizophrenia and can may a person more likely to develop the disorder.
It has been suggested by medical professions that some people may be more prone to developing the condition and having a stressful or emotional period in their life may trigger it. However, it is still not known why some people develop symptoms and others do not.
Drug abuse is a huge factor in increasing your risk in getting schizophrenia. Nevertheless, drug abuse is not a direct cause, rather a catalyst for those who are prone to developing schizophrenia. The main drugs that may play a role are cannabis, cocaine and LSD. Cocaine is linked to the development of psychosis and can easily cause a relapse in people who are in recovery from a previous episode. Three major studies suggest that people who regularly use cannabis in their teenage years are four times more likely to develop schizophrenia by the age of 26. This is because cannabis can affect the way the brain develops and use in the teenage years can servery stunt development.
Treatment for Schizophrenia
The treatment for schizophrenia is usually an individually tailored combination of therapy and medication.
The majority of people with schizophrenia are treated by community mental health teams (CMHTs). The goal of this is to provide daily support and treatment for the sufferers, meanwhile placing the importance on ensuring the person maintains as much independence as possible.
The CMHT can be made up of and provide access to:
- social workers
- community mental health nurses – all of which have specialist training in mental health conditions
- psychologists and psychiatrists
- occupational therapists
- counsellors and psychotherapists
To see what it may be like to have schizophrenia, watch this simulation: