Destigmatising: Schizophrenia


Here at Brain-Based we want to raise awareness of some mental health conditions, because it is only through learning and talking about these conditions that we break the stigma. This article is the first of a series in which we will be debunking the stigmas around common mental health conditions. 

Schizophrenia is a complicated mental health condition in which people perceive their environment differently than reality. Schizophrenia affects the way people think, act, feel, and behave. Schizophrenia typically occurs in late teens, or around early 20s. Schizophrenia can be very challenging to live with – people with schizophrenia often experience hallucinations or delusions which affect the way they view the world around them. Typically, they become isolated and withdrawn, and it becomes difficult to manage daily tasks. Dealing with schizophrenia  can therefore be confusing and distressing both for people with schizophrenia, but also for their families and loved ones. Schizophrenia affects millions of people around the world, with approximately 26 people per 100,000 living with the condition.

What are common symptoms people with Schizophrenia experience?

Symptoms of schizophrenia can be divided into positive and negative categories. 

Positive symptoms describe symptoms that are “added on” to the person’s life by the condition. For example, these include experiencing hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that others in their environment do not), delusions (experiencing usual ideas) or distorted thoughts and behaviours.

On the other hand, negative symptoms take away from a person’s life. These include reduced motivation, finding things less enjoyable, expressing feelings less often, reduced communication and socialising.

What causes schizophrenia?

It is not known what exactly causes schizophrenia. Research has shown that schizophrenia is caused by a combination of genetic, physical, environmental, and psychological factors, so some people could be more prone to schizophrenia, and it could be triggered by a traumatic life event. 

People with schizophrenia often have poorer health compared to the rest of the population. They may also suffer from a history of substance abuse or past traumatic events. Research has also shown that people with schizophrenia may have had complications during pregnancy or birth, experienced social isolation throughout their early years, or were involved in complex family environments, such as violent parents.  

How is schizophrenia diagnosed?

Schizophrenia is typically diagnosed following a psychological assessment performed by a mental health professional. The mental health professional would typically look for the following symptoms: 

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganised speech
  • Generally disorganised or unresponsive behaviour
  • Reduced emotional expression 

How is schizophrenia treated?

Schizophrenia requires a lifelong treatment involving a combination of medication and tailored programme of psychological therapy. Support from a team of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and mental health nurses can help people with schizophrenia to manage their condition. Medications can also help manage symptoms; the most commonly prescribed medications are antipsychotic drugs, which target neurotransmitters in the brain, and thereby reduce positive symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. Anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications may also be prescribed, although there are not many effective medications against negative symptoms. Additionally, research has also suggested that people with schizophrenia could benefit from keeping active, as it may help reduce their anxiety, depression and fatigue. 

Overall, schizophrenia is thought of as a serious and frightening mental illness, which induces much anxiety in the media and the general public. But in reality, schizophrenia is a complex chronic disorder with multiple symptoms that can be caused by various genetic, psychological and environmental conditions, and effective treatment options are available. 

You can learn more about schizophrenia here:

Edited by Cyrus Rohani-Shukla

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