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What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health disorder that affects how we think, feel and behave. Schizophrenia causes a range of different psychological symptoms and is often described as a type of psychosis because of the similarities in symptoms.

The condition affects approximately 1 in every 100 people in the UK and both men and women can equally be affected.

Some people think schizophrenia causes a split personality or makes people violent and aggressive – this is not true. Violent or dangerous behaviour is usually caused by the misuse of drugs or alcohol.

The possible causes of schizophrenia

Genetics – someone is more likely to develop schizophrenia is they have a close family member such as a parent who has the condition, but no single gene is thought to be responsible.

Problems with brain development – studies have shown that people with schizophrenia have slight differences in the structure of the brain.

Neurotransmitters – an imbalance in the level of neurotransmitters (dopamine and serotonin) that carry messages between cells.

Pregnancy complications – people who develop schizophrenia are more likely to have experienced complications before and during their birth, such as premature labour, or lack of oxygen during birth.

Triggers for people at risk – stressful events such as bereavement, divorce, or physical and sexual abuse can trigger the condition.

Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia

Positive symptoms – any change in behaviour or thoughts, such as hallucinations or delusions.

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Confused thoughts
  • Behavioural changes

Negative symptoms – a withdrawal or lack of function that you would not usually expect to see in a healthy person; for example, people with schizophrenia often appear emotionless and flat.

  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Loss of motivation and concentration
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Not caring about hygiene or appearance

Helping someone with schizophrenia

  • If you believe someone is experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, approach them with a calm and caring attitude
  • Choose an appropriate time and place where you will both feel comfortable
  • The person may be very frightened about what they are experiencing and worry about what other people may think about them
  • Share your concerns with them, listen to what they have to say without judgement and show that you are there to support them
  • The person may say things out of character which you may find unusual so do not dismiss what they say or try and correct the person
  • If they are experiencing severe psychotic symptoms, the person should go to the hospital. Call the emergency services for assistance

Useful contacts

Living With Schizophrenia – A charity website managed by people with personal experiences of the condition
Website –  https://livingwithschizophreniauk.org/ 

SANE – A forum which allows people to share their feelings and provide mutual support to anyone with mental health problems 
Website – https://www.sane.org.uk/

Young Minds – Support for young people affected by mental health, including schizophrenia
Website – https://www.youngminds.org.uk/

 

 

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