What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a complex mental illness that causes someone to have an altered experience of reality. It causes psychosis, when people experience delusions and hallucinations. Schizophrenia also affects people’s thoughts, perceptions (what they experience through their sense organs) and behaviour, and interferes with their ability to function at work, school or relate to other people. It affects about 1 in 100 people, and the symptoms usually begin in late adolescence or early adulthood. It's generally a long-term illness and can cause serious disability when left untreated.

What are the myths about schizophrenia? 

People with schizophrenia often experience stigma in the community, which can be one of the biggest problems. This can lead to isolation and affects the ability for a person with schizophrenia to find meaningful work and build loving relationships. Most people find schizophrenia hard to understand and there are many myths about the illness. Contrary to popular belief, people with schizophrenia do not have a ‘split personality’. Only a very small number of people with schizophrenia become violent in fact they are much more likely to be the victim of violence and exploitation than the perpetrator. They also, tragically, have a higher rate of suicide than the general population.

How can people with schizophrenia seek help? 

People with schizophrenia can seek help in numerous ways. The most important thing to remember is to get help early, and to remain in treatment. The first point of call should be your GP. The important thing is to get help from an experienced clinician as soon as possible and speak to someone who will listen to you and support you towards getting the right help. Usually schizophrenia is managed by medication which in most cases is very effective at managing the symptoms. 

This website has excellent resources including information of charities and NGOs that provide support for people with, and loved ones of people with, schizophrenia: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/schizophrenia

Written by Dr Michael J Atherton
Psychiatrist and Addiction Specialist
at The Sydney Clinic
26 Murray Street
Bronte NSW 2024
P: 02 9387 3621

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