What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition that affects the sufferer’s ability to think clearly and decipher fantasy from reality, which categorises it as a psychotic illness. Symptoms include:
- Hallucinations – hearing or seeing things that do not exist
- Delusions – unusual beliefs that are not based on reality and often contradict the evidence
- Muddled thoughts based on the hallucinations or delusions
- Changes in behaviour
There are different forms of schizophrenia, each with its own key characteristics. These are: paranoid schizophrenia (characterised by prominent delusions and/or hallucinations), catatonic schizophrenia (characterised by unusual movements, switching from stillness to over-activity suddenly), and hebephrenic schizophrenia (characterised by fleeting delusions and hallucinations, as well as disorganised thoughts and behaviour).
The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. However, most experts believe that the condition is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental and behavioural factors. Some people may be more at risk and can develop the illness as a result of a traumatic life event. This could include redundancy, being bullied, losing your home or the death of a loved one. While these kinds of events will not cause the disorder, the stressful experience can be a trigger.
Schizophrenia is one of the most common serious mental health conditions, affecting around 1 in 100 people. It affects men and women equally. In men, schizophrenia usually begins between the ages of 15 and 30. In women, schizophrenia usually occurs later, beginning between the ages of 25 and 30. However, the condition develops gradually, making it difficult for the individual or their loved ones to realise that anything is wrong.
Misconceptions about schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is often poorly understood, and many people have misconceptions about it, which can lead to discrimination. Two of the most common misconceptions about schizophrenia are: people with schizophrenia have a split or dual personality or people with schizophrenia are violent.
It is commonly thought that people with schizophrenia have a split personality, acting perfectly normally one minute and irrationally or bizarrely the next. However, this is not true. Although the term schizophrenia is a Greek word that means ‘split mind’, the term was first used long before the condition was properly understood. It would be more accurate to say that people with schizophrenia have a mind that can experience episodes of dysfunction and disorder.
Most studies confirm that there is a link between violence and schizophrenia. However, the media tend to exaggerate this, with acts of violence committed by people with schizophrenia getting a great deal of high-profile media coverage. This gives the impression that such acts happen frequently when they are in fact very rare. The reality is that violent crime is more likely to be linked to alcohol or other substance misuse than to schizophrenia. A person with schizophrenia is far more likely to be the victim of violent crime than the instigator.
Disclaimer: Counselling or Psychotherapy Treatments are not a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified doctor or other health care professional. Always check with your doctor if you have any concerns about your condition or treatment. Clients are responsible for assessing the outcome of their treatment and are advised to refer to NICE guidelines for further information.