Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board
North Wales Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a serious illness affecting thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It is a type of psychosis. Some people wrongly refer to schizophrenia as having a ‘split personality’ like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
How common is it?
It rarely occurs before puberty and usually begins in the late teenage years. About 1 in 100 people will suffer from schizophrenia over their lifetime.
How do I know if I have ‘schizophrenia’?
When a person suffers from schizophrenia, they may have the difficulties described below as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ symptoms. Some difficulties may seem to start suddenly, whereas others may creep in more gradually. You may have some or most of the following symptoms. Usually people have a few or most symptoms for sometime (at least months) before they are diagnosed with schizophrenia.
This does not mean they are ‘good’ symptoms. They mean unusual thoughts or experiences as described below. They may feel really distressing. They can feel totally real to you and it may seem to you that other people don’t understand or aren’t taking you seriously.
This does not mean they are ‘bad’ symptoms, just that they are about ‘not doing’ something. You may feel tired, not interested and wanting to do normal things like:
What causes schizophrenia?
This is still not fully understood. There are a number of reasons that can make a person more likely to develop schizophrenia or a similar psychotic illness.
What is the treatment for schizophrenia?
Medications called ‘antipsychotics’ are an important part of treatment and often need to be taken for a long time in order to stay well. As with medication of any kind, there may be side-effects. The doctor will be able to advise you on what they are and what can be done to help.
If you are taking drugs like cannabis, it is very important that you stop.
Other forms of treatment are also important. Both you and your family will need help to understand the condition, to cope successfully, and to prevent the illness coming back. Support is often needed to rebuild your confidence to continue with school, college or work.
You may be referred to a specialist ‘Early Intervention Service’ (EIS) if available locally. This is a team of specialists who help young people with psychosis. You also may at some point need treatment in hospital or in a specialist inpatient service.
Talking treatments can be helpful, but are usually offered in addition to medication.
What will happen in the future?
Schizophrenia is a chronic illness, which means even if you get better; it might come back later on. This can happen if you stop taking your medication too soon - so it’s really important to follow the advice given to you by your doctor.
Your Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) or EIS team will also help you and your family identify ways to help prevent the illness coming back (like following a healthy lifestyle and learning to cope with stress).
Most young people will recover from their illness with the right help and treatment. Earlier treatment leads to better recovery and increases the chances of finishing school or college, getting a job and getting on with life.
How do I get help?
CALL - Community Advice & Listening Line
Mental health helpline for Wales offering a confidential listening and support service.
Helpline: 0800 132 737 Open 24/7
Provides information and advice on child mental health issues
Provides practical help to improve quality of life for people affected by mental health
A national mental health charity for England and Wales