Schizophrenia: the facts, not the myths

Schizophrenia is one of the most common serious mental health conditions. In fact, it is thought about 1 in 100 people will experience schizophrenia as some point in their lifetime, which is much more common that many people think.

Key facts to know

  • Schizophrenia is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35, but can affect people of any age, both men and women.
  • No one knows exactly why it happens, but it is thought to be due to a mixture of genetic and environmental factors (family history and the world around us).
  • It is very important to diagnose schizophrenia as early as possible because individuals who start getting treatment earlier have better chances of recovery.
  • There is no specific test for schizophrenia. It is diagnosed usually by a psychiatrist, and based on a number of different features.
  • For some people, symptoms can start quite suddenly; for others, it may occur more gradually and build up over time. The person affected may become more confused, anxious and suspicious, and they may be unaware or reluctant to admit that they need help.

What are the schizophrenia symptoms?

They vary depending on the individual but may include:

  • A lack of interest in things or problems concentrating
  • Feeling disconnected from feelings
  • Wanting to avoid people or feeling suspicious
  • Hallucinations - hearing (auditory) or seeing things (visual) that do not exist
  • Delusions - unusual beliefs that are not based on reality
  • Muddled thinking, based on the delusions or hallucinations

Delusions and hallucinations (auditory and visual) are all types of something called psychosis. Often, the individual affected may not be aware that they are ill. This is called a loss of insight.

The impact of symptoms

The symptoms of schizophrenia can be disruptive and have an impact on the person affected, stopping them being able to carry out day-to-day tasks such as going to work, caring for themselves, or maintaining relationships.

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