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Supporting someone with schizophrenia
If you know someone with schizophrenia or experiencing psychosis and don’t ...
Schizophrenia causes ‘psychosis’, a group of symptoms which includes:
Disordered behaviour – strange actions or gestures, or showing inappropriate emotions in the wrong context, e.g. laughing at a funeral.
Disordered thoughts and speech – thoughts that struggle to form or come all at once, stopping mid-sentence, sentences that don’t make sense, etc.
Delusions – a belief that conflicts with reality. A person in a delusional state can’t let go of their belief, even when faced with evidence to the contrary or rational argument. For example, someone believing their body is made out of glass.
Catatonic behaviour – this is when there is a disconnect between your thoughts and movements. Some people might be unresponsive (frozen), agitated, copy/repeat others’ words or movements, or be unable to speak.
Hallucinations – perceiving something not there. A distorted reality that feels very real. For example, seeing, hearing or smelling things that aren’t there.
Schizophrenia is a progressive, long-term disorder, but it is also treatable. It can be managed, you can live a fulfilling life and many people with schizophrenia improve (and may even become symptom-free).
It’s essential to get properly diagnosed and create an ongoing treatment plan, which may involve medication.
See a GP or psychiatrist. Diagnosis and early treatment is really important, as schizophrenia can get worse with time if left untreated. A GP or psychiatrist will create a treatment plan with you and provide support.
Stick to the treatment plan, even if you’re feeling better. Relapses are common in schizophrenia. Sometimes they are caused by people changing doses or going off their medication without the support of their treating GP/psychiatrist, as a result of feeling better or experiencing unwanted side effects.
Accept your diagnosis and take it seriously. Keep communicating with your treating GP/psychiatrist and be honest about symptoms, self-help options, medication usage, side effects from medication, etc. You have a right to know about and understand all aspects of your diagnosis and treatment, so if you feel confused, don’t understand something or want more information, let your GP/psychiatrist know.
Discuss medication. Medication is a treatment for schizophrenia, but not a cure. Most medications focus on treating psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations.
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