What it feels like to have schizophrenia?
Living With: Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe mental disorder in which a person has a hard time telling the difference between what is real and not real. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 1 percent of the population suffers from this disorder. The disease can also affect families. Individuals with schizophrenia usually have difficulty keeping a job and caring for themselves. They must rely on family and friends for help. The disease is often misunderstood, but it is treatable, and in many cases, the individual can go on to lead a productive and normal life.
What Are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?
People diagnosed with schizophrenia may display a variety of symptoms. These symptoms will often come and go, and in some cases, the individual may learn how to deal with the symptoms, so they are not noticeable. There are three categories of symptoms: positive symptoms, negative symptoms and cognitive symptoms.
Positive symptoms include:
- Hallucinations: A person may see, hear, smell or feel things that are not there. Most individuals who have been diagnosed with this disorder will hear voices. The voices may warn the person about dangers or tell the person to do things. The individual may spend a good deal of time talking to the voices inside their head. There may be several voices talking at one time, and the voices may even talk to one another.
- Delusions: A person with schizophrenia will often have false beliefs about something. The person may think that neighbors are spying on them or someone is out to get them. The individual will spend a large amount of time worrying about what others are thinking and doing to them.
- Thought and movement disorders: An individual with schizophrenia may have a hard time organizing thoughts into anything meaningful. They may stop speaking abruptly or speak in a garbled way. Body movements may become agitated or the person may not move at all. Negative symptoms are often associated with a disruption of normal emotions and behaviors. Individuals will show a lack of interest and pleasure in everyday life. There may be a lack of ability to maintain planned activities, and a person will often not speak when spoken to. A person who shows negative symptoms often needs help with everyday activities, such as personal hygiene. Cognitive symptoms are only found with testing. These types of symptoms include the inability to understand information and trouble focusing and paying attention. A person may also have problems knowing how to use information once they have received it. Cognitive symptoms make it difficult for an individual to lead a normal life without a large amount of emotional distress.
How Is Schizophrenia Treated?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, because there is no exact known cause of schizophrenia, the best method of treatment is to try to eliminate the symptoms of the disease. This usually involves a variety of antipsychotic medications and psychosocial treatments. Medications can include:
Many individuals experience side effects when they first begin taking these medications regularly, which can include dizziness, blurred vision, rapid heartbeat, menstrual problems and skin rash. These symptoms usually go away after a few days, so it is important to continue taking the drugs. The symptoms of schizophrenia should also go away a few days after taking the medication. A person may have to try several different prescriptions before finding the one that is right. Medication is normally for the rest of your life. If you have schizophrenia and decide to stop taking your medications, you should see a physician to be weaned off slowly. You should never stop taking the medication suddenly.
Once a patient has been stabilized with medication, psychosocial treatments will begin. These treatments will help the person deal with everyday challenges, such as communicating, work, and relationships. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a patient who undergoes psychosocial treatments is more likely to continue taking their medications, and they are less likely to suffer from relapse or be hospitalized.
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How You Can Live with the Illness
If you have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, the best thing you can do is to take an active role in managing your illness. Learn the warning signs of a relapse, and have a plan of action to deal with those symptoms. The sooner you respond, the less time you will spend recovering. You can also learn coping skills to deal with the worst and most persistent symptoms.
Often drug abuse and schizophrenia go hand in hand. If you have been abusing drugs and alcohol, there are many places that will offer treatment for your drug addiction and the mental illness. You will get better results if you address the two problems together and find treatment for the two problems at the same time.
How Families Can Help
Usually an individual who has been released from treatment for schizophrenia will be released into the hands of family members. If you are caring for a family member with the illness, it is important to know how to handle the illness. A physician may ask family members to talk to a therapist, who will teach family members coping strategies. Family members may also learn how to make sure a loved one knows how to stay on the medication and continue with treatment. Families should have all contact numbers and know where to take the individual for outpatient services and family services.
Self-help groups are available for both individuals with schizophrenia and their families. Your physician can usually point you to the best self-help groups in your area. It often helps to know there are others who are going through the same or similar circumstance. Knowing there are others with the same illness can help make you feel less isolated. You can ask questions and learn what works best for them, and you can even learn new methods to cope with schizophrenia.
For more on the topic of Living with Schizophrenia, we’ve included the following expert consensus documents as reference materials:
- Guide for Patients and Families in pdf
- USA – An easy-to-read booklet on Schizophrenia
- WomensHealth – More information on schizophrenia
- BetterHealth – general information about Schizophrenia
- HealthInSite – references on Schizophrenia
- NIMH – rethinking Schizophrenia
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Designed to Help You Feel Better Daily
What would it be like to hear voices or see people or things that aren’t really there? How would you feel if people seemed out to harm you, and you weren’t sure who to trust? Would you recognize that something was wrong?
Unfortunately, most people with schizophrenia are unaware that their symptoms are warning signs of a mental disorder. Their lives may be unraveling, yet they may believe that their experiences are normal. Or they may feel that they’re blessed or cursed with special insights that others can’t see.
Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects about 1 in 100 people. It affects men and women equally in all ethnic groups. Symptoms often start between ages 16 and 30 but most often between 18 and 22. It’s unusual to develop schizophrenia after age 45.
A few decades ago, researchers thought that schizophrenia was caused by inappropriate parenting. Now scientists recognize that a combination of genes Stretches of DNA, a substance you inherit from your parents, that define characteristics such as how likely you are to get certain diseases. and the environment are to blame.
“We know from studies of identical twins that when one twin has schizophrenia, the other twin has a 50% chance of having the disease, indicating that genes may account for half of the mechanisms involved in schizophrenia,” says Dr. José A. Apud, clinical director of the schizophrenia research program at NIH.
But since these twins are genetically the same, other factors must also contribute to schizophrenia. Some scientists have identified environmental factors that may play a role. But researchers don’t yet fully agree on whether or how these factors trigger the disease.
Several genes have been linked to schizophrenia. But each seems to have only a small effect on the chances of getting the disorder. “If we could understand the genes and mechanisms, we might be able to develop drugs that better target the disease,” says Apud.
Although schizophrenia has no cure, 2 main types of treatment can help. “The first line of treatment is always medication, especially antipsychotics Drugs that prevent some symptoms of schizophrenia, including hallucinations and delusions. ,” says Apud. “Second, we use supportive types of psychotherapy and psychosocial treatments.” These can help with everyday living skills and possibly finding an appropriate job.
Patients often try different medications to see which work best. Some types of antipsychotics can cause weight gain, which can lead to diabetes or high cholesterol. Other types can cause a disorder where a person cannot control muscle movements. Despite these drawbacks, antipsychotics greatly improve the lives of most patients.
Problems arise when patients stop taking their medications, which is common. One NIH-funded study found that most patients stop taking antipsychotics within the first 18 months of treatment. “Because of problems with judgment and insight, they may not feel that they need treatment,” Apud says. “Side effects also play a major role in patients’ poor compliance with medications.”
People with schizophrenia often must rely on family or friends to get them into treatment. Caring for and supporting a family member with schizophrenia can be challenging. It may help to find a support group. Talking to others who care for people with schizophrenia may help your whole family.
Am I Schizophrenic? How Can You Tell?
Am I a schizophrenic? Am I developing schizophrenia? Being concerned about your mental health is a good thing. It can lead to your seeking information and taking action to live well. This concern, though, can become very frightening when you’re experiencing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that feel like they’re not “normal.” This fear can relate to the symptoms of schizophrenia.
What is Schizophrenia, Anyway?
Schizophrenia is a well-known term. Unfortunately, that’s about all that’s well-known. There is a great deal of misunderstanding and stigma around schizophrenia, and some of the confusion might be making you ask, “Am I schizophrenic?”
Society throws around the word “schizophrenic” when it makes no sense. Casual statements such as these might make you question whether you have schizophrenia when you’re unsure about what you’re experiencing:
- “She’s so psychotic.”
- “He’s out of his mind.”
- “You’re delusional.”
- “Look at him. He’s so schizophrenic.”
These statements can make you question your own sanity. An important thing to question is what these statements mean in relationship to schizophrenia. It’s helpful to know a little bit about schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is an illness of the brain that involves what is known as positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and cognitive symptoms (Difference Between Positive and Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia). Together, these include experiences such as:
- Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and/or smelling things that aren’t really there)
- Delusions (false beliefs that the person strongly believes are true)
- Disorganized speech, behavior
- Blunted emotions, lack of motivation, withdrawal
- Memory problems, difficulty with rational thoughts, problem-solving
So if someone accuses you of being psychotic (or “psycho”) for example, check with yourself to see if you are experiencing hallucinations and/or delusions. If you are, you can investigate further. If you’re not, dismiss the person as ignorant.
I Think I’ve Hallucinated. How Do I Know If I Am Becoming Schizophrenic?
This question is what makes this issue complex. If you are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia listed above, it’s okay to wonder about them. Early signs of schizophrenia include:
- Withdrawal or even complete isolation
- Mood changes, especially depression-like
- Mild hallucinations (catching movement in your field of vision or hearing something vague)
- Mild delusions (“odd” beliefs that others don’t buy into)
Typically with schizophrenia, the person isn’t aware that she is hallucinating or that her beliefs are delusional. Schizophrenia is so serious and all-encompassing because the person thinks he is fine.
Some people might tell you that if you are asking whether or not you have schizophrenia and wondering if you’ve had hallucinations and delusions, then you’re not becoming schizophrenic. That may be true, but it’s not that simple. People with schizophrenia can have what’s called insight. That means they know that what they think and sense might not be real. But they also think that these things might be real, and telling the difference can be difficult.
Common Questions People Ask Themselves When Considering Schizophrenia
As you work on answering your question, “Am I schizophrenic?” consider asking yourself these common questions:
- Do other people see the things that I’m seeing, hear what I hear, etc.? You can casually ask others to see what they say. That said, schizophrenia makes people withdraw from others, so if that’s happening, pay attention.
- Do I have an explanation for my hallucinations, and what is it? If your answer seems a bit odd to you, or if you share it with someone and they think it doesn’t make sense, this could be a sign of a delusion. For example, if you believe that you’ve been placed here on a special mission and you’re sensing special things because you’re being tested or trained, you are having a delusion.
- Is this just part of being a teenager (if you are, in fact, a teenager)? While the teen years bring challenges and are an intense stage of growth and development, it is not part of adolescence to have the symptoms of schizophrenia (What Are the Schizophrenia Symptoms in Children and Teens?).
If you notice any of the symptoms and signs of schizophrenia, there are things you can do:
- Take an online schizophrenia test. Some call it an “Am I Schizophrenic Test.” These tests ask you about your symptoms and experiences and, while they don’t diagnose you, they can recommend that you see a doctor, depending on your responses.
- If you are aware of your senses and beliefs (if you have insight) but aren’t sure if they’re “normal” or “odd,” pay attention to other people. What are their comments and reactions to your beliefs? You can even directly ask people with whom you are comfortable.
- See a doctor or a therapist. Seeking professional input and help is the best way to treat schizophrenia.
Know yourself, and when that’s hard, let others help. Professional treatment is essential because if you do have schizophrenia, the sooner you begin treatment, the better you’ll respond to it.
Peterson, T. (2021, December 28). Am I Schizophrenic? How Can You Tell?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, May 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/thought-disorders/schizophrenia-symptoms/am-i-schizophrenic-how-can-you-tell
Last Updated: March 25, 2022
Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD