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Schizophrenia

Understanding Mental Health

What is Mental Illness

Schizophrenia

What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a severe disturbance in the brain’s functioning that
affects a person’s interpretation of reality. Delusions of grandeur, disordered thinking and voices in the head are all hallmarks of schizophrenia. As a result, persons with schizophrenia often display unusual behaviour, thoughts or emotions.

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Anyone can develop schizophrenia. Symptoms usually first appear during late adolescence or early adulthood. It is not known what the specific causes of schizophrenia are. But researchers believe that genetics, brain chemistry and a stressful environment all have a role to play.

As a chronic condition, schizophrenia requires lifelong care and treatment. With appropriate treatment, a person can continue to engage in productive work, leisure activities, interpersonal relationships and self-care. It is possible to lead a fulfilling life with schizophrenia.

Common Misconceptions

Persons with schizophrenia are often discriminated against due to widely held misconceptions. This can be detrimental towards their chances of recovery and reintegration.

Myth:

Schizophrenia means having a split personality or multiple personalities.

Fact:

Persons with schizophrenia do not have split personalities. Rather, they just find it difficult to tell apart what is real and what is not. Having a split personality is called Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder). It is different from schizophrenia and certainly much less common.

Myth:

Schizophrenia is a rare condition.

Fact:

Schizophrenia is not rare; around 1 in 100 persons worldwide has schizophrenia.

Myth:

Persons with schizophrenia are dangerous.

Fact:

Delusions and hallucinations may sometimes lead to defensive behaviour in persons with schizophrenia. But most persons with schizophrenia are neither violent nor dangerous to others.

Myth:

Persons with schizophrenia cannot be helped.

Fact:

While schizophrenia requires lifelong treatment, the outlook is hopeful. With early and proper treatment, persons with schizophrenia can live well. They can also resume meaningful roles in their families and communities.

Persons with schizophrenia often encounter the following symptoms:

  • Hallucinations
    Things that a person sees, hears, smells, or feels, but no one else does
  • Delusions
    • False beliefs that are firmly held regardless of evidence, but are not shared by others
    • For instance, a belief that others are reading their minds or conspiring to harm them
  • Disorganised thoughts and behaviours
    Muddled thoughts, disjointed or incoherent speech, and strange or extreme mannerisms
  • Negative symptoms
    • Disruptions to normal emotions and behaviours
    • For instance, a lack of desire to engage in activity, or a lack of expression and emotion

There is no cure for schizophrenia. Lifelong treatment is required. Persons with schizophrenia can live a meaningful and satisfying life of their choice, in spite of the limitations of the illness.

  • Medication
    The use of antipsychotic medications to treat and manage symptoms
  • Psycho-social rehabilitation
    • Includes counselling, and social and vocational training
    • Focuses on empowering persons with schizophrenia with the skills and mindset to achieve their goals in life
The Recovery Process

Learn to recognise each phase of schizophrenia from onset to recovery:

  • Onset of schizophrenia (prodromal phase)
    • Loss of interest in usual activities and withdrawal from social contact
    • Intense preoccupation with certain topics
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Neglecting of grooming and hygiene
  • Full-blown schizophrenia (active phase*)
    • Intense manifestations of hallucinations, delusions and other psychotic symptoms
    • Significant distress and dysfunction
  • Recovery from schizophrenia (residual phase)
    • Diminishing of symptoms as treatment takes effect
    • Symptoms in this phase are similar to those outlined in the prodromal phase

*This phase is often the most frightening to the person with schizophrenia and to others. Inpatient treatment will often be necessary if the symptoms reach a crisis point.

How Can You Help a Person with Schizophrenia

  • Learn about schizophrenia and its recovery process
  • Be respectful, encouraging and supportive
  • Keep communication honest and straightforward
  • Encourage the person to seek and sustain professional treatment
  • Revise expectations and set realistic goals
  • Practise good self-care

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