Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness

Young man being counselled

Despite what many people think, it is not a split or multiple personality. Someone developing this illness may be anxious and withdrawn or begin to behave in an agitated or strange way.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. 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 is not 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.

There are three steps supporting recovery from or adjustment to schizophrenia

Step one: Overcome the initial crisis with help from 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, provide you with practical advice and explanations about the symptoms you experience, and 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 from this illness.

Step two: Learn about ‘Relapse Prevention’

As 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 prevention of ‘relapse’ into acute phases of the illness. More knowledge of triggers and warning signs will help to achieve longer periods without ‘acute symptoms’. Similar 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 with regards to 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 for more complex and challenging mental health problems. Speak to your GP, Pause staff or the Access Centre.
  • 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: Ensure 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, who may refer you to a specialist service or give you a prescription to help you feel less anxious and troubled at night time.
  • Support: A person developing schizophrenia becomes more fearful and withdrawn, therefore there is a reliance on parents, partners or friends to take them to get help.           

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