This is a serious condition that is usually diagnosed in late adolescence or early adulthood. Schizophrenia affects how people think – meaning they have a different perception of reality. It’s complex and hard to treat, and because schizophrenic behaviour can be so outrageous is often mistaken for a curse or an effect of some evil force. Schizophrenia only affects about 1% of the population, but is nevertheless a very serious mental illness that requires constant specialised care.
Patients with schizophrenia lose touch with reality. They can hear voices or see things that those around them can’t. They are sometimes driven to act by voices in their heads or the perception that someone, possibly God, is telling them what to do. They often accuse those closest to them of collaborating with evil forces.
People with paranoid schizophrenia live in a state of fear that they are being followed, watched and targeted by outside forces. It is a misconception that people with schizophrenia have just a rich, imaginative life. They are distressed by their feelings and thoughts, and not knowing what is real and what not is extremely distressing.
So, remember, don’t start diagnosing your friends and family because you think they are outrageous or paranoid.
Schizophrenia must be diagnosed by a clinical psychologist, and a psychiatrist. It can be managed with medication, with different degrees of success. People often don’t want to stay on their medication because of the side effects, but with an illness this severe, treatment won’t be successful without medication.
As with all mental illnesses, the type and amount of medication that works is a process. Often a patient will have to try many different medications at doses before finding a treatment regime that works.