Schizophrenia is a type of long-term mental health condition. It causes a lot of psychological symptoms and is a rather traumatic time for anyone who is suffering from it. It is commonly described as a type of psychosis. Which means that the individual who is suffering might not be able to set apart their own thoughts and ideas from reality. 

Psychosis is when a person may feel like they’ve lost touch with reality. This could include maybe seeing or hearing things that other people can’t. Which are commonly known as hallucinations and often they will believe things that are not actually true known as delusions. 

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Symptoms of schizophrenia can vary and it’s vital to seek help as soon as any of these symptoms appear. The first most common one is hallucinations, which is seeing or hearing things that do not actually exist. Delusions meaning having strange beliefs that are not necessarily based on reality.

They may experience muddle thoughts which are based around the delusions and hallucinations. They will lose interest in everyday activities, they will give up caring about personal hygiene or even trying their best to avoid any social contact with friends or people in general.

Schizophrenia changes how the individual thinks and behaves, the condition can, however, develop slowly. The first time signs begin to appear it can be difficult to identify straight away as they often occur in the teenage years. Sometimes the individual will have episodes of schizophrenia and during their symptoms are very severe and then there are times where they experience few or even no symptoms at all.

They may experience confused thoughts, which is known as though disorder. Those who experience psychosis often have trouble keeping up with their thoughts and conversations. They might find it hard to concentrate and will often drift from one idea to another. It may be that they have trouble watching TV or reading a newspaper.

Some of those that suffer may describe their thoughts are hazy or misty when it’s happening to them. Their behaviour may become a lot more disorganised and often feel very unpredictable. Feeling like their thoughts are being controlled by someone else, that they’re not actually their own thoughts. They might feel like their body is somewhat being taken over and that someone else is directing their movements.

They might lose interest and motivation in daily life and activities, including sex, relationships and friendships. Lack of concentration will keep themselves locked away in their house and change in sleeping patterns. Finding it hard to start conversations and often feeling uncomfortable with people or just generally feeling like there’s nothing to say.

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The exact cause for schizophrenia is still somewhat unknown, but it is believed that the condition is caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors. Some situations can trigger the condition such as a stressful life event or drug misuse.

Genetics: Schizophrenia can tend to run in families, it’s more likely that a variety of different combinations of genes make people more vulnerable to the condition. Although, having the genes does not mean that you will develop it.

Brain development: People who suffer from schizophrenia have shown that there are slight changes in the way their brain is structured. They’re not always seen in everyone who suffers from it and this can occur in those who do not even have a mental illness. But it is suggested that schizophrenia is a disorder of the brain.

Pregnancy and complications at birth: Those who develop schizophrenia are more likely to maybe experience complications and during their birth. These could include low birth weight, lack of oxygen during birth or premature labour.

Triggers: Sometimes schizophrenia can be brought on by certain triggers. These could include stress, so bereavement, losing your job at home, divorce, physical, sexual or emotional abuse and perhaps the end of a relationship. These experiences alone do not cause schizophrenia but they can trigger it’s development in someone already vulnerable to it.

Drug abuse: Again, they do not directly cause the illness but drug misuse increases the risk of developing schizophrenia or a similar illness. Drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, LSD or amphetamines may trigger symptoms of the illness.

Neurotransmitters: This is a chemical in the brain that carries messages between brain cells. There are connections between neurotransmitters and schizophrenia because the drugs that are used to alter levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.

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Living with schizophrenia

Most people who suffer from the illness make a recovery, however, some may experience the occasional return of some symptoms often known as relapses. Support is always there for anyone suffering. It can also help the individual to manage their condition and the impact it will have on their life.

Caring for your own health is so vital and it’s something we should all be doing. It can also make treating the individual’s condition easier and help reduce anxiety, depression and fatigue. Some self-care tips include keeping up with good physical and mental health, dealing with minor ailments and long-term conditions, preventing the illness or any accidents. The individual will have to keep in contact with a healthcare team regularly.

The individual should try to keep healthy and monitor their mental health. A healthy lifestyle, a balanced diet, lots of fruit and veg and regular exercise. They should try and avoid a load of stress and have a regular sleep pattern. Try and avoid smoking and avoid taking drugs and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

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Schizophrenia is usually treated with individual combinations of talking therapies and medication. Most of those who suffer from it are treated by community mental health teams. Which often provide day-to-day support and treatment while making sure that your independence.

Someone who is suffering from schizophrenia may experience periods of depression and it’s important not to ignore them. If depression is not treated as soon as possible it can get a lot worse and lead to suicidal thoughts. A care programme approach is for those who have complex mental health conditions that are entered in a treatment process. It will include an assessment, care plan, key worker appointments and reviews. Not everyone will need to use the CPA, some maybe care for by a GP.

Crisis resolution teams: This is a treatment option that is a home treatment. CRTs treat people with serious mental health conditions who are currently experiencing an acute or severe psychiatric crisis. Without the CRT those suffering would need help in a hospital.

Voluntary and compulsory detention: This is for those who are suffering in an alarming way. They may require admission to a psychiatric ward at a hospital or clinic. It’s a decision that depends on whether they are having severe mental disorders and it’s in the interest of the person’s own health but also to protect others. The individual might have to stay for as long as it takes and it’s absolutely necessary.

Antipsychotics: These are commonly used as the initial treatment for symptoms of an acute schizophrenic episode. The way they work is by blocking out any effects of the chemical dopamine on the brain. They can help reduce feelings of anxiety or aggression within a few hours. It’s important to get a full check by your GP to determine the dosage and what type. Whether they will prescribe you typical or atypical antipsychotics.

Physcholigcal treatment: This can help people who are suffering from illness cope with the symptoms in a more sustainable way and also help with the hallucinations and delusions. Some of these include cognitive behavioural therapy, family therapy or art therapy.

Getting help

If you’re having suicidal thoughts, which is a common symptom of schizophrenia. Without any form of treatment, these can get worse so it’s vital to get help. If you’re feeling suicidal be sure to ring someone, go to your nearest A&E or ring a helpline straight away. Call 111 as soon as possible, for an immediate assessment.

If you yourself or you know someone that has been diagnosed with schizophrenia or you think you may be suffering from it. It’s vital to get help, reach out to your GP and then work with them on the next steps. Perhaps seeing a therapist would be beneficial, it’s a key part of recovery is to reach out and get the help you need and to not be afraid.

If you’re looking for any online counselling or walk and talk therapy whether you’re a parent and you’re looking for your children. You yourself need it or you’re a student or anyone that is struggling at this time, then please do not hesitate to contact Becky. You can access contact details here. Check out the website for more information.

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Call Mind on 0300 123 3393 or visit their website. 

Call PAPYRUS on 0800 068 4141.