This important day shines a light on the challenges faced by hundreds of thousands of people living with a diagnosis of schizophrenia in the UK and millions more worldwide.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects the way you think. It affects about 1 in every 100 people, and may develop during early adulthood.
People can experience ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ symptoms of schizophrenia:
- Positive symptoms are when you experience things in addition to reality. For example, you might see or hear things that others don’t, or believe things that other people do not
- Negative symptoms are when you lose the ability to do something. For example, losing motivation to do things or becoming withdrawn. They often last longer than positive symptoms
- Hallucinations – hearing, seeing, tasting or smelling things that exist outside of the mind
- Delusions – unusual beliefs not based on reality
- Muddled thoughts based on these hallucinations or delusions
- Losing interest in everyday activities
- Not caring about your personal appearance
- Avoiding people
Despite media portrayals, schizophrenia does not cause someone to be violent and people with schizophrenia do not have a split personality. People with this diagnosis are much more likely to harm themselves than to harm someone else. There are lots of reasons someone might commit a violent crime, and factors such as drug and alcohol misuse are far more likely to play a part.
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, schizophrenia affects around 1 in 100 people. For some people, schizophrenia can develop during young adulthood and develop slowly. The early stage of the illness is called ‘the prodromal phase’. During this phase your sleep, emotions, motivation, communication and ability to think clearly may change.
Causes of Schizophrenia?
The exact causes of schizophrenia are unknown, but research suggests a combination of physical, genetic, psychological and environmental factors may make a person more likely to develop the condition.
A stressful or emotional life event may trigger a psychotic episode.
How is Schizophrenia diagnosed?
Only a psychiatrist can diagnose you with schizophrenia after a full psychiatric assessment. You may have to see the psychiatrist a few times before they diagnose you. This is because they need to see how often you are experiencing symptoms.
There are currently no blood tests or scans that can prove if you have schizophrenia, so psychiatrists use manuals to diagnose schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.
Schizophrenia is usually treated with a combination of medication and therapy.
Community mental health teas can also offer day to day support and treatment.
Many people with Schizophrenia recover from their symptoms but may have periods where their symptoms return (called relapses).
Living with Schizophrenia
Caring for your own health can reduce anxiety, depression and fatigue which may be impacted. Good self-care is important and can include:
- Speaking to a supportive, friend, family member or someone else who has schizophrenia or has experienced psychosis
- Trying relaxation techniques, mindfulness and breathing exercises
- Doing things that you find relaxing such as having a bath
- Trying a complementary therapy such as meditation, massage, reflexology or aromatherapy
- Sticking to a sleep pattern, eating well and looking after yourself
- Setting small goals such as going out for a small amount of time every day. Reward yourself when you achieve a goal
- Doing regular exercise such as walking, swimming, yoga or cycling
- If you hear voices, you could try to talk back to them, distract yourself, or keep a diary
How can you help?
Campaign and Influence
You can help campaign to support Mental Health including Schizophrenia to make positive changes to the Mental Health Act, or perhaps you could be part of the drive to influence the NHS to improve services for people severely affected by mental illness, so they can access the right treatment at the right time. Information on how you can help can be found here: https://www.rethink.org/get-involved/campaign-with-us/
Run, ride, bake or game! Re-Think have a variety of fundraising ideas for you to support – so sign up and make that difference here: https://www.rethink.org/get-involved/ways-to-give/virtual-fundraising-events/
Whether it’s a one-off donation, regular contributions, or leaving a gift in your will, your generosity will help fund vital research and offer support to anyone living with Schizophrenia.
For more information on Schizophrenia and how you can support: