Schizophrenia is a serious, chronic, brain disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. It can result in a combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behaviour.

Symptoms of schizophrenia can some on suddenly, or gradually, so you may not initially realise that you are suffering from a condition. You may start to become upset or suspicious of people who don’t agree with your perceptions. You might be reluctant to convey your thoughts for fear of scaring others. You may feel extremely frightened and isolated if you hear voices, and struggle to distinguish between delusion and reality. You feel misunderstood, stigmatised, and feared by society, so your self-esteem plummets. You might not believe you need help. Or perhaps you avoid seeking professional help for fear of people finding out and the impact it could have on your job.

Schizophrenia is a serious condition. If left untreated it can result in severe emotional, cognitive, behavioural and health issues as well as legal and financial problems. Additionally, suicidal thoughts and behaviour are common among people with schizophrenia. It is imperative that help is sought. Schizophrenia is more common than people realise and, with the right treatment, many people continue to live normal lives with the condition.

Recognising schizophrenia: what are the symptoms?
The signs of schizophrenia will vary from person to person in both pattern and severity, and reflect an impaired ability to function. The following symptoms are characteristic of schizophrenia:
  • Hallucinations – Seeing or hearing things which don’t exist. Auditory hallucinations are the most common, with voices typically being critical, vulgar or abusive
  • Delusions – Illogical or bizarre ideas or fantasies such as delusions of being controlled, delusions of grandeur or beliefs that a major catastrophe is about to occur
  • Disorganised speech – This stems from fragmented thinking and may include strange use of rhyming, made up phrases or words, and answers to questions that are completely unrelated
  • Disorganised or abnormal behaviours such as lack of inhibition, or a complete lack of response, an inappropriate or bizarre posture, or child-like silliness
  • Negative symptoms (absence of normal behaviour) blank facial expressions, lack of self-care, and social withdrawal.
Treating schizophrenia: what are the options available?
With the right support systems and psychosocial techniques, the outpatient care of schizophrenia is possible and preferable. Approaches as medication management, insight orientated work, social skills training, behaviour modification and family therapy can be effectively used in the private sectors to foster treatment adherence and increase patients' ability to function in the community. Development of community coordination between the public and private sectors can enhance reduce rehospitalisation and improve vocational and social functioning.

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