What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects about 1 in every 100 people and often starts in young adulthood. There are a number of symptoms that people may experience; these are grouped into positive and negative symptoms.
Hallucinations – e.g. hearing or seeing things that are not there
Delusions – believing things that are not true. Other people may find it strange and can’t work out why you believe it.
Difficulty thinking/extreme confusion
Feeling controlled – as if your thoughts aren’t your own
Loss of interest, energy and feelings
Not wanting to leave the house or be around other people
Not being able to do your normal daily activities
Sometimes people have experiences such as hearing voices but manage to tolerate them. However, if they are upsetting and start to impact on your life it is important to seek help as soon as possible.
What causes Schizophrenia?
Despite lots of research it is not yet clear what causes Schizophrenia, but a number of factors have been related to its onset:
- Genetics – Schizophrenia can run in families
- Physical differences or damage in some parts of the brain
- Street drugs can act as a trigger to Schizophrenia
- It may also be triggered or made worse by experiencing stressful or traumatic life events
Examples of how it may affect you
BEHAVIOURS: Seeing things that aren’t there, Hearing voices when people aren’t there, Not doing much, Staying in bed, Avoiding going out, Poor personal hygiene
RELATIONSHIPS: Isolating yourself, Avoiding people, Get into arguments
FEELINGS: Sadness or low mood, Feeling numb, Feeling threatened, Anxious, Hopeless
THOUGHTS: Believing other, people can hear my thoughts, I’m going mad, Lack of concentration, Muddled thoughts
BODILY REACTION: Tiredness, Tension, Waking up early, Hard to concentrate, Loss of energy
BELIEFS: Suspicious of people, Beliefs that others consider to be strange,“I’m being controlled”, “I am a failure”
How is Schizophrenia treated?
- Schizophrenia usually responds very well to medication called anti-psychotics. They help to control your symptoms but as yet there is no cure.
- It is essential that you take your medication regularly as prescribed by your doctor, even if you feel you are better.
- If you suddenly stop taking your medication without a doctor’s advice, it is likely that you will have a relapse of your symptoms.
- People who seek treatment early are more likely to have a better recovery and less likely to need hospital treatment.
Other strategies that can be used in addition to taking medication include:
- Psychological therapies to help you cope with your experiences
- Psycho-education – learning more about the condition
- Learning to recognise early signs that you may be becoming unwell, so you can get help faster
Schizophrenia and Having a Baby
Having a baby can be a vulnerable time for people with Schizophrenia as there is a risk of relapse during and after pregnancy. Some symptoms may make it difficult for you to care for a new baby so you may need some extra advice and support.
You should meet with your doctor whilst planning a pregnancy so that you are fully informed of the risks and a thorough care plan can be put in place.
It is essential that you do not make any changes to your medication or treatment plan without speaking to a doctor or psychiatrist first.
- Your doctor will discuss with you what medication regime will be safest for you and your unborn baby whilst you are pregnant.
- Protecting yourself from a relapse is of the highest importance for both you and your baby. You should meet with your doctor regularly so they can monitor you for early signs of relapse.
- If you start to experience any symptoms report them to a professional as soon as possible so you can receive treatment and reduce any impact on you and your baby.
- The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommend that women with Schizophrenia should have specialist care from a psychiatrist and if possible a perinatal mental health service during and after pregnancy.
- It may not be possible to breastfeed whilst taking some
medications, you will need to discuss this with your doctor.