Many mental illnesses are ‘forbidden’ to be spoken about, misunderstood or seen as “every mental illness is depression” or whatever saying to make conversations less uncomfortable. But we need to change that. We need to make mental illness something that we can openly talk about. I’m so grateful it’s finally getting voice in this society so that’s why I’ll be talking about mental illnesses here too. So today, I will explain & try to summarize the mental illness schizophrenia in hope to inform you.
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a mental illness where people struggle to see reality for what it is and have abnormal social behavior. It is often accompanied with other mental disorders such as anxiety or depression, but this can vary and is not necessarily the case. It can be caused by genetic factor but the environment of a certain person living with schizophrenia is also a cause of the illness. If the parents have schizophrenia, the child has an expanded chance of developing it themselves, as they do with a lot of other mental illnesses as well. But if a child or young adult grows up with drug use, abuse in any way, loses someone important when being young or when he/she experiences something that causes a childhood trauma, they have a bigger chance of being diagnosed later on with schizophrenia. Around 0.3%/0.7% of people are affected with the mental illness while living. Males are more likely to be affected and they often have more severe symptoms, but females have a chance of developing it too.
What are the symptoms?
Here are the most severe symptoms, if you relate with a couple of them, you might want to consider talking to someone about this because it is important to get help for a mental illness.
- You are having false beliefs, meaning beliefs that don’t make sense or can’t be logical,
- You are hallucinating, meaning you are hearing or seeing hallucinations. I.e. hearing voices that others do not, seeing people that are not there etc.
- If you think you notice you are showing signs of social withdrawn,
- If you can’t sleep or sleep a lot (insomnia or oversleeping),
- If you are having delusions, there are 4 types of this form:
- persecution: ‘someone is out to get me’, this delusion can vary a lot, it can go as far as, for example, believing stories about aliens persecuting you. (which is okay, too. I don’t want you make you uncomfortable, every person struggling with these symptoms have different kinds of them)
- reference: thinking someone/something is sending especially you a message, i.e. a person you see on tv is saying something that is meant for you, only you.
- grandeur: believing you are a very important person/have unusual powers.
- control: believing someone/something outer space/not you is controlling your thoughts (for example aliens or the CIA)
- If you are experiencing disorganized speech, which can be described at the hand of 4 forms:
- loose associations: you are talking about one topic then move on to the next topic but they have no logical connection.
- neologisms: you are making up to new words.
- perseveration: constantly repeating the same words/sentence.
- clang: rhyming words without any logical explanation.
- If you are not behaving the way you usually do, for example not being able to concentrate well, having a different response to emotions as you usually have, not being able to continue a conversation or doing something without purpose and totally out of the blue,
- You show signs of negative symptoms, meaning you are dealing with lack of inspiration, lack of interest in the world (that associates with social withdrawn
What to do when you relate to these symptoms?
You’ve read read symptoms and maybe think to yourself: ‘hey I’m experiencing a few of these daily. I think I might have schizophrenia?’ or maybe you recognize these symptoms in someone else close to you. What should you do when you think you have/or someone else has schizophrenia? First of all, talk to a doctor or someone specialized in mental illnesses. Your doctor can also make an appointment for you, so if you can talk to your doctor, do it. Do it as soon as possible because the earlier you/someone else starts treatment, the more efficient it will be. But do not fear, schizophrenia is curable and with the right help you can live your life the way you want to.
What treatment will I/someone with schizophrenia face?
Treating schizophrenia will be done with several treatments, including medication, therapy, changing lifestyle and social support. Treatment varies for every person, depending on how severe the mental disorder is and if the person has other illnesses as well. The treatment that will be given to someone struggling with schizophrenia will be decided after the person is diagnosed.
How to help yourself?
If you are dealing with schizophrenia there are a few things you can do yourself. These tips are also vital to other people, as they are things you can do to improve your lifestyle and health. Here are the main tips:
- Keep seeking social support and stay involved in society. Continue your job if possible, or maybe continue your education. Join a schizophrenia group, volunteer somewhere where you feel comfortable or join a course where people have common interests as you. This can make you feel good about yourself, distract you and will keep you being socially connected,
- Try to manage your stress by meditating, doing yoga or something else that calms you. If you have a hobby that calms you down too, pick it up again if you haven’t done it in a while! Being stressed can increase the chance of having schizophrenic episodes so it is the best to lower your stress level if possible,
- Get exercise, if possible every day. Exercising is healthy for your body, makes you feel calm and helps to reduce schizophrenic symptoms,
- Eat healthy. This one speaks for itself, I guess, but eating nutritious meals regularly is very healthy for your blood sugar levels and so much more,
- Avoid drugs or anything that is associated to it. Even smoking can decrease the effectiveness of your medication.
How to help someone with schizophrenia?
- If someone is in serious danger, hallucinating, is suicidal, hurting themselves or talking about things that don’t make sense, go to the hospital. The person can be seriously lost and it’s important to get help.
- If you think someone has the mental illness, talk to them about it. If they refuse help and are adult, they officially are allowed to refuse treatment to the point where they are not in immediate danger. If they are, the “authorities” have the right to apply treatment. If they are not in danger, try to talk (reasonable) to them, but don’t force treatment on them, that’s not the way to help them. It will only freak them out and make them feel stressed, with which you can worsen their illness.
- See the good in them. Tell them you are proud of them and that you love them. They are still human beings and deserve to be happy and you can help with that.
- Keep them involved in daily life and the community. It is important to let them know they still belong to society and in the family/in your friend group perhaps.
- Explain to them how important it is to have someone they can fully trust. That can be you, but maybe the person trusts someone else already and that is vital to the process of getting help. Having someone who will support them will make them feel less alone.
- If they have been hospitalized recently, don’t let them be alone the next couple of weeks. It can be emotionally very hard to come back in society/their home and they will need reassurance and help.
I sincerely hope I have informed you more and that you know more about schizophrenia. If you have any questions, notes or if you want to say something else, don’t be afraid to comment or e-mail me because I want to help if you need it. And remember, talking is not weakness, it’s strength. You matter and you deserve to be happy.