National Schizophrenia Awareness Day on 25 July 2021 brings attention to this much misunderstood condition. But exactly what is it?
One of the most common misconceptions about schizophrenia is that it means having a split personality. But that is a completely different illness called dissociative identity disorder. People also mistakenly think schizophrenics are violent. But again this is not true, as schizophrenics are more likely to harm themselves than others.
Psychosis is an umbrella term for a number of conditions including schizophrenia. The word schizophrenia actually means split mind.
It is a long term medical condition where the main symptoms are:
- delusions (losing touch with reality),
- thought disorders (muddled thinking & speech)
- hallucinations (auditory, visual, taste, touch & smell)
The exact cause is unknown, but it could be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Stressful events can be psychological triggers such as bereavement, losing a job, the end of a relationship, physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Drug use is linked to schizophrenia and there is also some research to show that people who have had complications at birth may be more susceptible.
It is a debilitating condition affecting 1 in 100 people. Worldwide it is ranked as one of the highest causes of disability. It is one of the most expensive illnesses through physical co-morbidities (related illnesses), social impairment, inability to work and hospital admissions.
Can Schizophrenia Be Treated?
The main treatment includes anti-psychotic drugs and cognitive behavioural therapy. Eight out of ten areas in the UK have an Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) team whose aim is to get people in treatment within two weeks. Early intervention is vital, as treatment outcomes are good when this is caught early on.
One in five people with schizophrenia recover completely with treatment. But others may have times when symptoms return and it is important to learn to recognise the signs and have support in place.
Living with Schizophrenia
Here Antonio speaks about his experience of living with schizophrenia
Find out more about schizophrenia.
And if you are worried for yourself or someone you know, please speak to your GP.