The features common to many cases of schizophrenia are:
Schizophrenia often starts suddenly and catastrophically (acute schizophrenia), and may go on to produce a chronic (ongoing) illness. Nearly 80% of those who have a first episode will recover, but 70% will have a second episode within five to seven years. Two important points:
There have been many theories to try to explain schizophrenia. The cause is not known, but certain things have been found to be different in people who develop schizophrenia: these include:
A psychiatrist will diagnose schizophrenia when there is evidence of a profound break in reality manifesting itself in one or more of the following symptoms for several months:
Most people with schizophrenia are prescribed drugs, which seek to reduce the positive symptoms. The drugs used for schizophrenia are antipsychotics or neuroleptics (major tranquillizers). The two major groups of antipsychotics are typical and atypical antipsychotics. Antipsychotic drugs can take between one and three months to take effect. The typical antipsychotics are taken as tablets or syrup. Some are available as longer-lasting depo injections. Antipsychotics can have a range of side effects. These can be unpleasant. The most severe include muscle spasms, unusual body movements and acute movement disorders. The side effects of atypical antipsychotics are milder than typical antipsychotics, but they are more expensive.
Talking therapies such as counselling and psychotherapy may be helpful for both people with schizophrenia and their families. These talking treatments are mostly used alongside drug treatment for people with schizophrenia. Support and self-help groups can also help. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been used successfully for the symptoms of schizophrenia such as delusions or hallucinations. There is some evidence that alternative therapies including exercise, art/music therapy changing diet/nutrition, homeopathy and herbal remedies have been found helpful in people with schizophrenia. Sometimes, people in an acute phase of the illness may need to be admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act for assessment and/or treatment without consent. This is called sectioning. In many cases the person with schizophrenia will admit themselves to hospital if necessary, however most people with schizophrenia live in the community and many only see their doctor when they need a prescription. Many people with schizophrenia now carry Crisis Cards or set up Advance Directives, which make their treatment wishes known if they have to be admitted to hospital.
The major complications are to quality of life:
The information shown here is Crown copyright and has been reproduced with the permission of NHS Direct. Last updated June 2007.