Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a severe long-term mental health condition. It changes how a person thinks and behaves. If you're experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, see your GP as soon as possible. If you're concerned about someone you know, you could contact their GP.

Symptoms of schizophrenia 

Doctors often describe schizophrenia as a type of psychosis. This means the person may not always be able to distinguish their own thoughts and ideas from reality.

Symptoms of schizophrenia include: 

  • hallucinations – hearing or seeing things that don't exist
  • delusions – where a person has an unshakeable belief in something untrue
  • muddled thoughts that don’t appear to link or make sense
  • changes in behaviour

Some people think schizophrenia causes a ’split personality’. This is not true.

Some people think that all people who suffer schizophrenia are violent and dangerous. This is not true. The cause of any violent behaviour is usually drug or alcohol misuse.

When to see your GP 

If you're experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, see your GP as soon as possible. The earlier schizophrenia is treated, the better.

There's no single test for schizophrenia. It's usually diagnosed after an assessment by a mental health care professional, such as a psychiatrist.

Your GP will be able to answer any questions you have about being assessed.

Getting help for others 

If you're concerned about someone you know, you could contact their GP. If they're receiving support from a mental health service, you could contact their mental health worker.

If you think the person's symptoms are placing them at possible risk of harm, you can:

 

Causes of schizophrenia 

The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. Most experts believe the condition is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

It's thought that some people are more vulnerable to developing schizophrenia, and certain situations can trigger the condition.

Treating schizophrenia 

Schizophrenia is usually treated with a combination of medication and therapy tailored to each individual. In most cases, this will be antipsychotic medicines and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

People with schizophrenia usually receive help from a community mental health team, which offers day-to-day support and treatment.

Many people recover from schizophrenia, although they may have periods when symptoms return (relapses). Support and treatment can help reduce the impact the condition has on daily life.

Driving 

Having schizophrenia could affect your ability to drive.

If you've had or currently suffer from a medical condition or disability that may affect your driving you must tell the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA).

Living with schizophrenia 

If schizophrenia is well managed, it's possible to reduce the chance of severe relapses.

This can include:

  • recognising the signs of an acute episode
  • taking medication as prescribed
  • talking to others about the condition

With support and treatment, you may be able to manage your condition so it doesn't have a big impact on your life.

Caring for your own health can also make treating your condition easier and help reduce anxiety, depression and fatigue. It can help you have a better quality of life and be more active and independent.

Self care includes:

  • maintaining good physical and mental health
  • preventing illness or accidents
  • effectively dealing with minor ailments and long-term conditions

There are many charities and support groups offering help and advice on living with schizophrenia. Most people find it comforting talking to others with a similar condition.

 

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

This page was published December 2017

This page is due for review January 2020

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