Schizophrenia is a condition that involves disturbances of perception, behaviour, emotion and thought. Usually, it develops first among teenagers and young adults.

Signs of schizophrenia are:

Psychotic symptoms: Hallucinations and delusions (seeing and/or hearing things that no-one else can)

Disorganised thinking, difficulty with attention, planning and concentration

Anxiety and depression are common among individuals experiencing schizophrenia

The causes of schizophrenia are complex and are a combination of biological and environmental factors. Substance misuse, particularly cannabis, can be a trigger and can worsen symptoms.

What can be done?

Schizophrenia can be severe, and treatment is essential as well as support for the individual and their family. Individuals experiencing schizophrenia can improve, whether that is being symptom-free or living with managed symptoms. Treatment is provided through a range of medications. Linking into the hearing voices network and individual and family counselling may help.

The two main groups of medications used for the treatment of schizophrenia are the older or “typical” antipsychotic medications and the newer “atypical” antipsychotic medications. It’s important to understand that medication is just one component of schizophrenia treatment.

Medication is not a cure for schizophrenia and only treats some of the symptoms. Antipsychotic medication reduces psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and disordered thinking. But is much less helpful for treating symptoms of schizophrenia such as social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and lack of emotional expressiveness.

You should not have to put up with disabling side effects. Schizophrenia medication can have very unpleasant—even disabling—side effects such as drowsiness, lack of energy, uncontrollable movements, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction. Your quality of life is important, so talk to your doctor if you’re bothered by side effects.

What help is there?

Get involved in treatment and self-help. The earlier you catch schizophrenia and begin treatment with an experienced mental health professional, the better your chances of getting and staying well. So, if you suspect you or a loved one is exhibiting schizophrenia symptoms, seek help right away.

Get Active. Unless you’re experiencing a psychotic episode, getting physically active is something you can do right now to improve your focus, relieve stress, give you more energy, help you sleep, and make you feel calmer.

Seek support. Connecting face-to-face with others is the most effective way to calm your nervous system and relieve stress. Since stress can trigger psychosis and make the symptoms of schizophrenia worse, keeping it under control is extremely important. Find someone you can connect with face to face regularly—someone you can talk to for an uninterrupted period of time who will listen to you without judging, criticising, or continually becoming distracted.

Manage stress. High levels of stress increase the body’s production of the hormone cortisol, which may trigger psychotic episodes. Know your limits, both at home and at work or school. Don’t take on more than you can handle and take time for yourself if you feel overwhelmed. Use relaxation techniques to relieve stress. Techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation can put the brakes on stress and bring your mind and body back into a state of balance. Manage your emotions. Understanding and accepting emotions—especially those unpleasant ones most of us try to ignore—can make a huge difference in your ability to manage stress, balance your moods, and maintain control of your life.

Take Care of Yourself. Try to get plenty of sleep. When you’re on medication, you most likely need even more sleep than the standard 8 hours. Many people with schizophrenia have trouble with sleep, but getting regular exercise, reducing sugar in your diet, and avoiding caffeine can help. Avoid alcohol and drugs. It can be tempting to try to self-medicate the symptoms of schizophrenia with drugs and alcohol. But substance abuse complicates schizophrenia treatment and only worsens symptoms. Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Eating regular, nutritious meals can help avoid psychosis and other schizophrenia symptoms brought on by substantial changes in blood sugar levels. Minimise sugar and refined carbs, foods that quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy.

For further support & advice contact EAP Assist