What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a condition where your experience does not match up with reality as other people see it, a symptom called psychosis. In schizophrenia you may have developed 'psychotic' symptoms.
For example, you might see, hear or believe things that for other people are not true. You can also feel muddled, low or withdrawn.
Schizophrenia is a serious illness, but it can be treated. It usually appears between the ages of 15 and 35. The cause is unknown, but you're more likely to experience it if a parent has it, or if you've had brain damage, drug and alcohol problems, or difficulties at home.
Having schizophrenia does not mean you have a 'split personality' or that you are violent.
The symptoms of schizophrenia
Other people might notice symptoms before you do, because the condition means you don't always know what's real. Symptoms include:
- hallucinations where you see, feel, smell or hear things that aren't there
- delusions, where you 'just know' things that seem unreal to other people, e.g. paranoid beliefs that there is a conspiracy against you
- muddled thinking and difficulty concentrating
- a feeling that you're being controlled by something outside yourself
- not feeling up to normal activities like washing, dressing or seeing friends.
Just because you experience one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you’re definitely affected by schizophrenia. It’s important to talk to your GP to get a full diagnosis.
What to do about schizophrenia
Although it sounds scary, schizophrenia is the most common serious mental health condition and can be successfully treated.
If you think you are affected by schizophrenia, talk to someone straight away. Choose someone you like and trust, like a teacher, relative, counsellor or friend.
You should also see your GP. They may offer to refer you to the child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS), an expert or a psychiatrist who can help you.
You will usually be offered antipsychotic or neuroleptic medication. These can reduce symptoms and stop them coming back in the future.
You might also be offered cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), other types of therapy or support through family intervention.
Helplines and services available
- If you're in distress and need support, you can ring Samaritans for free at any time of the day or night.
- Freephone (UK and Republic of Ireland): 116 123 (24 hours)
- Email: [email protected]
- If you're under 19 you can confidentially call, email, or chat online about any problem big or small
Freephone 24h helpline: 0800 1111
- Sign up for a childline account on the website to be able to message a counsellor anytime without using your email address
- Chat 1:1 with an online advisor
- If you're under 25 you can talk to The Mix for free on the phone, by email or on their webchat. You can also use their phone counselling service, or get more information on support services you might need.
- Freephone: 0808 808 4994 (13:00-23:00 daily)