Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness

Young man being counselled

Despite what many people think,  people with schizophrenia don't have split or multiple personalities.

Someone developing this illness may be anxious and withdrawn or begin to behave in an agitated or strange way. Some may experience hearing one or multiple voices. Others may begin to feel unreal - not just about themselves, but also about people normally close to them, such as parents, siblings, other relatives or friends. They may perceive them as hostile towards them or become convinced that they are in danger.

The first symptoms of this illness usually appear between the ages of 13 and 25. The cause of schizophrenia is still unknown, but the vast majority of young people or adults with this illness are not violent and do not pose a danger to their family, friends or others.

Behaviours that are early warning signs of schizophrenia 

  • Hearing or seeing something which isn't there
  • A constant feeling of being watched
  • Increasing withdrawal from all social situations
  • Peculiar ways of speaking or writing
  • Strange body positioning
  • Irrational, angry or fearful response to loved ones
  • Inability to sleep or concentrate
  • Inappropriate or bizarre behaviour
  • Extreme preoccupation with religion or the occult
  • A change in personality

Three steps to recover from or adjust to having schizophrenia

Step one: Overcome the initial crisis with help from an Early Intervention Service

Get help as soon as possible and tackle the initial crisis with the support of people from the Early Intervention Service. They will listen to you and provide you with practical advice and explanations about the symptoms you've experienced.

The service will offer you medication and regular talking therapy. They will also offer your family or partner advice on how they can best help you with your recovery.

Step two: Learn about ‘Relapse Prevention’

Because many people suffering from schizophrenia will have on and off ‘symptoms of the illness’ over a long period of time, it is important to learn as much as possible about preventing a ‘relapse’ into acute phases of the illness.

Improving your knowledge of triggers and warning signs will help you to avoid 'acute symptoms' for longer periods. Similarly to step one, this should include advice and help for your family or partner.

Step three: Practical support

In addition to talking therapy and medication, it is important to receive practical support in situations such as returning to school or finding the right place for further study, training or work.

Top tips

  • Speak with a family member or friend: Find someone you trust, share your changed or confused experience of yourself and others around you, and ask them for support in finding help.
  • Professional help: You will need to be referred for an assessment by a psychiatrist who is part of an Early Intervention Service. Speak to your GP or Pause staff (if you're in the Birmingham area).
  • Stop drinking alcohol or using cannabis: This is likely to improve your changed mindset and behaviours, even if you previously found that alcohol or cannabis helped you to calm down, get to sleep or worry less.
  • Stay healthy: Make sure that you eat regularly, drink plenty of mineral water, go for walks with someone you trust and try to get enough sleep at night.
  • Get some sleep: If you have trouble sleeping, ask for help from your GP. They may refer you to a specialist service or prescribe you medication to lessen your anxiety and trouble at night time.
  • Support: A person developing schizophrenia becomes more fearful and withdrawn. They may need to rely on parents, partners or friends to take them to get help.

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