Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia refers to a psychotic illness in which changes in behaviour or symptoms have been continuing for a period of at least six months. The symptoms and length of the illness vary from person to person. Contrary to previous beliefs, many people with schizophrenia lead happy and fulfilling lives, with many making a full recovery.

What are the symptoms and signs?

Schizophrenia can lead to changes in mood and thinking and to abnormal ideas, making it hard to understand how the schizophrenic person feels.  Symptoms include:

Confused thinking - Everyday thoughts become confused or don't join up properly. Sentences are unclear or don't make sense. A person may have difficulty concentrating, following a conversation or remembering things. Thoughts seem to speed up or slow down.

False beliefs - It is common for a person experiencing a psychotic episode to hold false beliefs, known as delusions. The person is so convinced of their delusion that the most logical argument cannot make them change their mind. For example, someone may be convinced from the way cars are parked outside their house that they are being watched by the police.

Hallucinations - In psychosis, the person sees, hears, feels, smells or tastes something that is not actually there. For example, they may hear voices that no one else can hear, or see things that aren't there. Things may taste or smell as if they are bad or even poisoned.

Changed feelings - Feelings or mood may change for no apparent reason. They may feel strange and cut off from the world with everything moving in slow motion. Mood swings are common and they may feel unusually excited or depressed. People's emotionsseem dampened . . . they feel less than they used to, or show less emotion to those around them.

Changed behaviour - People with schozophrenia behave differently from the way they usually do. They may be extremely active or lethargic, sitting around all day. They may laugh inappropriately or become angry or upset without apparent cause.

What are the causes?

Developmental, environmental and familial factors play a role in the illness.

How is schizophrenia treated?

Medication can be used to control symptoms of schizophrenia. Compliance with medication is an issue for some people suffering from schizophrenia. Once they recover from the symptoms, they may not feel as if they still have an illness. Counselling from a trained clinician can help the person idenfity reality from disturbed thinking. Education about the signs and symptoms of the illness is extremely important. Also, being in a supportive environment dramatically assists in recovery from schizophrenia.

Sources of information: ORYGEN Youth Health 

Schizophrenia fact sheet by SANE Australia

SANE conducts innovative programs and campaigns to improve the lives of people living with mental illness, their family and friends. SANE's fact sheet about schizophrenia includes information on symptoms, causes, prevalence rates, treatment and where to find out more information.

http://www.sane.org/information/factsheets-podcasts/187-schizophrenia

Fact sheet about psychosis (and schizophrenia) by Headspace

Headspace is a youth friendly, community based health service for young people aged 12 - 25 and their families. Their fact sheet regarding psychosis includes specific information about schizophrenia.

http://headspace.org.au/get-info/psychosis/

Schizophrenia fact sheet by Orygen Youth Health Clinical Program

Orygen Youth Health Clinical Program (OYHCP) is a world-leading youth mental health program based in Melbourne, Australia. OYHCP's fact sheet on psychosis includes information on schizophrenia and options for seeking help.

http://oyh.org.au/sites/oyh.org.au/files/factsheets/oyh_fs_psyc.pdf

Schizophrenia fact sheet in various languages by Mental Health in Multicultural Australia

MHMA provides national leadership in mental health and suicide prevention for Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. MHMA's fact sheet regarding schizophrenia has been translated into twenty-three different languages.

http://www.mhima.org.au/resources-and-information/Translated-information/translated-mental-health-information-resources

For people with a mental health problem, there may be periods of time when things are not manageable. Stress, traumatic events or changes in medication can trigger further symptoms of their illness. 

If you are concerned that your friend is not behaving as they normally would, then it is important to encourage them to talk to someone they trust like their doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist. If you think that your friend is likely to hurt themselves or someone else get help immediately even if your friend doesn't want you to.

When someone becomes extremely unwell, it can be distressing and confusing for others, as well as the person concerned. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Communicate clearly in an honest, understanding manner. Do not crowd, rush or unnecessarily touch the person.
  • Provide a calm, safe environment. Move to quieter, more open surroundings. If necessary, remove items with which the person might use to harm themselves or others.
  • Seek help from a doctor, Psychiatric Emergency Team or the police.
  • Try to behave in a quietly confident manner. Be firm but friendly and unthreatening. Reassure that help is on its way.

Fact sheet about helping someone with a mental illness by SANE Australia

SANE conducts innovative programs and campaigns to improve the lives of people living with mental illness, their family and friends.  SANE has a fact sheet about assisting someone with a mental illness.

Reference: Reach Out! website

Headspace

A community based service for people aged 12 - 25 and their families, Headspace provides help for issues including health, education, work, mental health and drug & alcohol use.

http://www.headspace.org.au

Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (MHMA)

MHMA provides national leadership in mental health and suicide prevention for Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

http://www.mhima.org.au/

Orygen Youth Health Clinical Program (OYHCP)

Orygen Youth Health Clinical Program (OYHCP) is a world-leading youth mental health program based in Melbourne, Australia. OYHCP sees young people aged 15 to 25, with a focus on early intervention and youth specific approaches.

http://oyh.org.au/

SANE Australia

SANE conducts innovative programs and campaigns to improve the lives of people living with mental illness, their family and friends. It also operates a busy telephone helpline and website.

http://www.sane.org

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