Schizophrenia is a form of psychosis. It is an illness that affects perceptions (how you view the situation), thinking, emotions, and behaviour. Around 1 per cent of the population suffers from schizophrenia, both men and women. Symptoms often first appear between the ages of 15 and 30 years. There can be an early period where people experience changes to emotion and behavior before they experience full illness.
What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia can appear different in different individuals. Some common signs and symptoms include:
- Delusions - Having unrealistic thoughts that are distressing and won’t go away, even when others say it isn’t true (i.e. constantly thinking that people are spying on you, or getting special messages just for you through the TV or radio).
- Hallucinations – Changes in perception including hearing sounds, seeing things, or feeling sensations that are not actually present. Hearing voices that are not present can be a common symptom of schizophrenia.
- Disorganized Behaviour/Speech – Speech may be too fast, too slow, or nonsensical. Behaviour may not make sense and people can appear confused.
- Negative Symptoms – This is a category of symptoms that includes changes to thinking, mood and socialization amongst other things. There can be difficulty with motivation, reduced emotional expression or inappropriate reactions to everyday life events. As well, reduced socialization and decreased enjoyment of activity can occur.
How is it treated?
Schizophrenia often responds best to a variety of different treatments including medication, talk therapy, family and community support, and self-care.
Anti-psychotic medications are the main forms of treatment and can help reduce or get rid of the symptoms of schizophrenia. In particular, medication can be helpful for delusions, hallucinations and disorganization.
Other treatments that can be helpful depending on specific symptoms include: connection and support from a mental health team, support groups, cognitive behavioural therapy, vocational therapy and counselling.
Self-care (e.g. eating a balanced diet, sleeping well at night, regular exercise, socialization and abstinence from alcohol and drugs, etc.) is also an important step in staying healthy. Support from family and friends can also be an important part of treatment.
What should I do to get help?
If you or a friend or/family member is suffering with symptoms of schizophrenia, it is important to see your family doctor or speak with a mental health professional available through the Mental Health and Substance Use Centre in your community. Early diagnosis and treatment in schizophrenia is very important, so seeking help as soon as symptoms arise is important.
For more information and other resources that may be of help please see below: