Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health condition. It changes the way in which a person feels, thinks and behaves in a range of ways. It is thought of as a type of ‘psychosis’, which means that a person with schizophrenia can lose touch with reality.
Those with the condition can suffer hallucinations. This is when someone experiences sensations – such as sights, sounds or tastes – that are not caused by anything in the outside world, even though they seem like they are real to the person who is hallucinating. Often, people hear voices, which often say aggressive or unpleasant things.
Delusions are another symptom – these are beliefs that are held with strong conviction but are not based on things in the outside world. Confused thoughts can also be a part of schizophrenia.
Other symptoms include low motivation, poor concentration, feeling uncomfortable with others and feeling that there is nothing to say, and a loss of interest in activities like work, fun, relationships and sex. These symptoms are called ‘negative symptoms’ because they relate to the absence of something in someone’s life rather than the presence of something. Sometimes, these negative symptoms will occur years before the first episodes of hallucinations or delusions. A person can often mistakenly be thought to be lazy or rude at this point.
Schizophrenia can be diagnosed by a mental health specialist. It can usually be diagnosed if a person has suffered from symptoms of schizophrenia for most of the time over a period of a month, and the specialist is sure that the symptoms are not the result of another cause such as drug use.
Psychological therapies and medicine are both relevant to treating schizophrenia. Antipsychotic medicines are often used to tackle anxiety, hallucinations and delusions. Psychological therapies include cognitive behaviour therapy, arts therapy and family therapy.