Schizophrenia is a common mental illness that affects approximately 1 in 100 people. It is a disturbance of thought, most likely caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain linked to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Schizophrenia may be triggered by a mix of hereditary factors and environmental life events.

Schizophrenia is diagnosed in men from the age of 18 to late 20’s, and women from their 20′s to early 30′s. People can develop it in childhood and later adulthood although this is rare. There are several different classifications of schizophrenia:

  • Paranoid schizophrenia
  • Disorganised schizophrenia
  • Catatonic schizophrenia
  • Undifferentiated schizophrenia
  • Residual schizophrenia

Symptoms

-There are three major symptoms of schizophrenia,  ‘negative’, ‘positive,’ and ‘cognitive’.

-Positive symptoms are psychological problems that are gained such as hallucinations, illusions, voices, delusions, mania.

-Negative symptoms are psychological problems that are lost such as motivation, flat effect (lack of emotion), poverty of speech, and apathy.

-Cognitive symptoms are poor executive function (interpreting information), trouble focusing and concentration, problems with working memory (understanding information in memory).

Some tell-tale signs of paranoid schizophrenia:

-Feelings of persecution usually involving conspiracy, and being spied on by the government.

-Loss of motivation, and overwhelming emotions.

-Psychosis (lack of insight into one’s illness eg not being aware of dangers to oneself).

-Delusions of grandeur, where a person believes themselves to be famous or very important.

-Loss of appetite.

-Social anxiety.

-Lack of personal hygiene.

-Hallucinations (hearing voices/visual hallucinations- rare).

-Illusions (such as ‘increased awareness’ which may be a state of mind and a distortion of reality).

Medication

There are a number of different medications for schizophrenia. The newer (atypical) antipsychotics such as Olanzapine seem to have great results in helping people to lead normal lives. These can be administered by a tablet each day, or by injection (depot) every few weeks. Some people take Lithium, and older generation antipsychotics (typical), but these are on the decrease. The side effects can be very troublesome at first. The side effects may include increased weight gain, and slowed thinking, among many others. These compound the problems related to the sufferer, and add to the nature of stigma in society. As the media has little sympathy for those who choose not to take their meds.

Useful Treatments:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Talking treatments
  • Hobbies eg Dance/Music
  • Community care
  • Poetry therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Meditation

Recovery

Even though there is no cure for schizophrenia; people do recover. 1 out 4 people are reported as making a full recovery. Unfortunately many with schizophrenia may try to, or succeed in taking their own lives through suicide. If you feel suicidal, or know somebody who does feel suicidal please take the right step to get counselling and help. Once you suspect something is wrong go to your GP at once, as they may be able to prescribe medication or advise you about what to do next, or you can phone a helpline to get confidential advice. Schizophrenia is usually an illness that ebbs and flows, and is hard to cope with at different moments in life. I believe you can make this recovery easier by choosing to follow certain lifestyles, as mentioned on this blog ie diet, exercise, sleep. (see top ten schizophrenia pitfalls).