Is a psychotic disorder and a diagnosis that you may be given if you experience some of the following symptoms:
- A lack of interest in things
- Feeling disconnected from your feelings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Wanting to avoid people
- Hearing voices
- Feeling like you need to be protected
For some people these experiences or beliefs can start happening quite suddenly, but for others they can occur more gradually. You may become upset, anxious, confused and suspicious of other people particularly anyone who doesn’t agree with your perceptions. You may be unaware or reluctant to believe that you need help.
Delusions, hearing voices and hallucinations are all types of psychosis. The symptoms of schizophrenia can be disruptive and have an impact on your ability to carry on with day-to-day tasks, such as going to work, maintaining relationships with other people, caring for yourself or for others.
Views on schizophrenia have changed over the years. Lots of people have questioned whether schizophrenia is actually one condition or if it might actually be a few different conditions that overlap.
Some people say that what the condition is called doesn’t matter and that it would be more helpful to focus on relieving specific symptoms and individual needs. Other people argue that because psychiatric experts can’t agree on the definition, causes or suitable treatments for schizophrenia, it shouldn’t be used as a diagnostic category at all.
The reality is that many people are still diagnosed with schizophrenia. If you are one of them, it might be helpful to think of a diagnosis more as a tool for treating what you’re currently experiencing, rather than a definite condition or label that you will have to live with forever.
Highly stressful or life-changing events may trigger schizophrenia. These include:
- Social isolation
- Being out of work
- Living in poverty
- Being homeless
- Losing someone close to you
- Being physically or verbally abused or harassed
Some people may develop symptoms of schizophrenia as a result of using cannabis or other street drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines.
If you already have schizophrenia, using street drugs can make the symptoms worse. Drinking alcohol and smoking may also limit how effectively medicines treat the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Some families seem to be prone to schizophrenia suggests a genetic link. Rather than there being a specific gene for schizophrenia however, it is thought that certain genes might make some people more vulnerable to the condition.
Research is happening all the time into what might cause schizophrenia. For example, there is evidence that physical differences in, or injury to the brain may be linked to schizophrenia and that some of this process might happen before someone is born.
Research into other possible causes including viruses, hormonal activity (particularly in women), diet, allergic reaction or infection is on-going.
About one in every hundred people is diagnosed with schizophrenia. It seems to affect roughly the same number of men and women. Most people diagnosed with schizophrenia are aged between 18 and 35 with men tending to be diagnosed at a slightly younger age than women. Some studies suggest that living in cities increases the risk of developing schizophrenia.
African-Caribbean men in the UK are much more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than their white counterparts. This is despite no evidence that they are biologically more vulnerable to it. Suggestions have been made that this is caused by difficult life events such as migration, racism, environment and cultural differences that affect mental health.
It may also be that psychiatrists with very different cultural, religious or social experiences to their patients mistakenly diagnose schizophrenia.
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