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SCHIZOPHRENIA

Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health disorder that affects how people 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 at some point during their life 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 causes by the misuse of alcohol or drugs. 

The specific cause of schizophrenia is unknown but evidence suggests it is a combination of factors which makes someone more susceptible to develop the condition. 

  • Genetics - someone is more likely to develop schizophrenia if 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 people with schizophrenia have slight differences in the structure of a brain. 

  • Neurotransmitters - an imbalance in the level of neurotransmitters (dopamine and serotonin) which carry messages between brain 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. 

 

Signs and symptoms of Schizophrenia

The symptoms of schizophrenia are usually classified into positive symptoms and negative symptoms.

 

Positive symptoms - any change in behaviour or thoughts.  

  • Hallucinations

  • Delusions

  • Confused thoughts

  • Behavioural changes

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

  • Social withdrawal and isolation

  • Loss of motivation and concentration

  • Changes in sleeping pattern

  • Not caring about hygiene or appearance. 

Treatments available for Schizophrenia

As with psychosis, when someone experiences symptoms of schizophrenia for the first time, they will be referred to an 'early intervention team' so they can make an assessment of their needs and work out the most appropriate treatment plan. People with complex needs will be entered into a 'care programme approach' which consists of four stages.  

  1. Assessment - the persons condition will be formally assessed

  2. Care Plan - a care plan is created based on the outcome of the assessment

  3. Key Worker - a professional will be appointed as the first point of contact

  4. Medication - antipsychotics are usually prescribed to reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia, but they do not cure the illness. 

 

  • Antipsychotics medication is normally prescribed to reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia, but they do not cure the illness. 

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy better known as CBT can help the person identify their thinking patterns that are causing the unwanted feelings and behaviours and helps them learn how to replace this thinking with more realistic and use thoughts.

  • Family therapy helps to reduce any problems in the family cause by the person's symptoms. Many people with schizophrenia have to rely on other people for are and support and this can often place a strain on relationships. 

  • Art therapy is a non-verbal treatment method which allows the person to express their feelings and experiences of schizophrenia creatively and has been shown to alleviate the symptoms.  

Aiding another 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 what other people may think about them.  

  • Share your concerns with them, listen to what they say without judgement and show that you are there to support them.

  • The person may do things out of character which you may find unusual - do not dismiss what they say or try and correct the person. 

  • You should ask them if they have felt this way before. If they are already receiving treatment, ask them what helps them in this situation (e.g contacting a family member) 

  • If they are experiencing a severe psychotic episode, the person should go to hospital. Call the emergency services for assistance.