Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health problem, also known as a psychotic illness, which affects your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
It is not clear what causes schizophrenia. It is though that there are probably several factors that contribute and it may be a combination of several of these factors (rather than one alone) that results in the development of this condition. It is known that having a parent with schizophrenia increases your risk. Other factors that might contribute include brain damage, using street drugs, experiencing severe stress, or having a difficult childhood.
About 1 per cent of people (1 in 100) experience schizophrenia at some point in their lives, mostly between the ages of 15-35, although symptoms can start at any time. Schizophrenia affects more males than females.
If you are concerned that you may have schizophrenia, it is important to get help as early as possible. You may experience hallucinations and delusions that feel real, so you may not realise there is anything wrong even when the symptoms are quite severe.
Talk to someone you trust, and visit your GP – they are likely to refer you to a health professional trained in psychosis such as psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse.
You may also be offered therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a talking therapy that aims to help you understand your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
There are also things you can do to help yourself, such as regularly doing things you enjoy, avoiding drugs and alcohol, avoiding stressful situations. It may also be worth keeping a diary of how your thoughts, feelings and behaviour are so that you can share this information with your doctor or psychiatrist.
Symptoms of schizophrenia
Young people suffering from schizophrenia may experience symptoms including:
- Confused thoughts
- Changes in behaviour
- Difficulty telling the difference between their own thoughts and reality
Schizophrenia is one of the most common serious mental health illnesses. However, for most people it can be successfully treated with medication called antipsychotic medication alongside other interventions that are also known to help, such as psychological treatments. Antipsychotic medication should help to get rid of the symptoms you’re experiencing, but it can take a few weeks of taking the medicine regularly before it has its best effect. All medicines have some side effects. Not everyone will get side effects, but it is important to be familiar with the possible effects that a medicine can have and to know what to do if you think you are experiencing a side effect.
If your GP suggests that medication may help you, the HeadMeds website will provide you with more information about the medication they are recommending, how it works, how you should take it, how you might feel and what side effects it might cause. You should also be able to find answers to any other questions you might have about your medication but if you need any more information you should always discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist.
Common medications for this condition