What is schizophrenia?

Recognising the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition that affects how someone’s brain distinguishes the difference between thoughts, ideas and reality.

Many thoughts, perceptions and beliefs can seem very real or frightening to someone with a schizophrenia diagnosis. These symptoms of the condition can markedly affect how someone reacts or behaves in response. But they do not cause people diagnosed with the disorder to be violent or have a ‘split personality.’

Medical words that begin with ‘psych’ come from the ancient Greek word for mind, or life-force. ‘Osis’ simply means a disorder or illness. There are other mental health disorders that also have psychotic symptoms in common with schizophrenia.

What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is associated with a variety of positive and negative symptoms. These symptoms are sometimes known as a psychosis, or as psychotic episodes. This may sound alarming, but a diagnosis is a treatment tool, and not a label.

Positive symptoms in schizophrenia include muddled thoughts and hearing voices – inside or outside your head – that no-one else can hear. These voices seem very real – because in schizophrenia, the part of the brain that processes the spoken word can mistake inner-thoughts for something that has been said out loud.

Hallucinations can also be another positive symptom of schizophrenia, causing someone to see, smell, feel or taste something that isn’t there.

Someone living with schizophrenia can also experience delusions – a growing belief that something is true, or has happened, which they are convinced everyone else is mistaken about. Paranoid delusions compound this belief with the fear that someone is out to get you, or harm you in some way.

Negative symptoms of schizophrenia include finding it difficult to concentrate or interact with other people, self-neglect, a loss of your usual thoughts and feelings, or of your interest in life. Many people with schizophrenia also become depressed.

The causes of schizophrenia are not yet fully understood, but may be a combination of the genes you inherit or the brain’s response to an injury, and factors such as street drugs, alcohol, severe stress or life-changing emotional trauma.

Help and support with schizophrenia

If you are struggling with symptoms of schizophrenia, seek advice from your GP. People can be treated and live a full life following a schizophrenia diagnosis.

A long-term course of medication and talking treatments can help manage the symptoms of schizophrenia, as well as address underlying issues and anxieties that may trigger a psychosis. Talking treatments include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and psychotherapy.

If you’re living with schizophrenia or feel alone, you can turn to us, talk and feel safe with other people that value your mental wellbeing.

You don’t need a diagnosis, referral or appointment to access mental wellbeing support and friendship at Make a Difference.

Moodgym at Trident House

Make a Difference offers free access to Moodgym, an interactive CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) coaching programme to help people manage some of the symptoms of schizophrenia, as well as depression and anxiety.

Drop into Trident House to find out more about Moodgym and for a free token to begin the programme online.