What is Schizophrenia?

Describes schizophrenia, covering potential causes and symptoms.

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Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia involves many different signs and behaviours. These might appear all of a sudden, or they could slowly show up over time.

Each person’s experience with schizophrenia is unique. If you show some of these signs, a doctor might think you have schizophrenia:

  • Hearing voices or seeing things that others don’t
  • Having a hard time focusing
  • Not wanting to be around people
  • Feeling like you’re not connected to your feelings
  • Believing things strongly that others don’t believe, like feeling overly suspicious
  • Not taking care of yourself as you normally would.
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Speaking or thinking in a way that’s jumbled or doesn’t make sense

Additionally, you may discover you are:

  • Struggling to continue with daily tasks, such as going to work or looking after yourself
  • Resisting agreement with individuals who believe there’s a problem
  • Feeling distressed, bewildered, or distrustful towards others, including specific groups like unfamiliar people or those in positions of authority
  • Experiencing anxiety or fear about the idea of seeking assistance

Diagnosis and potential misdiagnosis

Diagnosing schizophrenia can be tricky because there isn’t a simple test for it. Also, how people understand schizophrenia has changed over time. Now, some believe it might be a mix of conditions that overlap, instead of just one.

If you’re noticing symptoms, a good first step is to talk to your doctor. They might send you to a mental health expert for an evaluation, which usually involves answering some questions. Schizophrenia is most commonly diagnosed in people aged 18 to 35, and it appears to affect men and women in equal numbers.

Common misunderstandings regarding Schizophrenia

Some people argue that because there isn’t a clear definition of schizophrenia, doctors shouldn’t use this term at all. Especially because this diagnosis can feel stigmatising.

Others think that the name of the condition doesn’t matter – what matters more is finding ways to help people with their individual symptoms and needs.
If you’ve been given this diagnosis, it might help to think of it as a tool for treating what you’re currently experiencing. Not as a definite condition or label that you will have to live with forever.

Other conditions

There are also various other conditions with symptoms similar to those of schizophrenia, such as:

  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Certain personality disorders, particularly schizotypal and schizoid personality disorder
  • Bipolar disorder

It’s possible to go through an episode of psychosis, which is a common symptom of schizophrenia, without being diagnosed with a specific condition.

This makes it challenging for doctors to pinpoint the exact diagnosis that matches your experiences. Sometimes, a person might receive more than one diagnosis simultaneously.

What to do if you disagree with your diagnosis

If you’re concerned that your diagnosis of schizophrenia doesn’t align with your feelings, it’s crucial to talk about this with your mental health team.
Should you be dissatisfied with the care you’re receiving, you have the right to raise concerns about health and social care services.

Additionally, if you believe there are inaccuracies in your medical records, there are measures you can take to address this.

For further guidance on how to seek assistance for a mental health issue and advocacy, check our information on ensuring your concerns are acknowledged and actions to take if you’re unhappy with your doctor or diagnosis.

Misconceptions about schizophrenia

Here’s the truth:

  • Schizophrenia doesn’t mean someone has a ‘split personality’. That’s a misunderstanding. Schizophrenia’s symptoms are more about what a person goes through, not their character.
  • Schizophrenia doesn’t make someone dangerous or violent. Most people with schizophrenia aren’t involved in violent crimes. While some studies suggest a slightly higher risk of violence in people with schizophrenia compared to those without, it’s not proven that schizophrenia is the reason. In fact, things like drug and alcohol abuse are much more significant factors in violence. People with schizophrenia are more often victims of crime or might hurt themselves rather than others.

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