A guide for young people Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a condition where your experience does not match up with reality as other people see it. Find out more about what it is and what to do if you think you're affected by it.

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a condition where your experience does not match up with reality as other people see it - a symptom called psychosis. In schizophrenia you may have developed 'psychotic' symptoms. 

For example, you might see, hear or believe things that for other people are not true. You can also feel muddled, low or withdrawn.

Schizophrenia is a serious illness, but it can be treated. It usually appears between the ages of 15 and 35. The cause is unknown, but you're more likely to experience it if a parent has it, or if you've had brain damage, drug and alcohol problems, or difficulties at home.

Having schizophrenia does not mean you have a 'split personality' or that you are violent.

If you think you might have schizophrenia, you are not alone. It can be scary, but help is available.

Your guide to support
Instagram artwork by @Crazyheadcomics. A person looking upwards towards a thought bubble of colours and patterns. Text reads' My mind is remarkable despite my mental illness'.

Artwork credit: @crazyheadcomics. A person with short black hair wears an orange top that has lots of patterned lines across it, the person is looking up and slightly smiling, above their head is a bunch of shapes, all different patterns and colours with some being plain and some with stripes across them. On either side of the person's head, it reads 'my mind is remarkable despite my mental illness'.

The symptoms of schizophrenia

Common symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • hallucinations where you see, feel, smell or hear things that aren't there
  • delusions, where you 'just know' things that seem unreal to other people, e.g. paranoid beliefs that there is a conspiracy against you
  • muddled thinking and difficulty concentrating
  • a feeling that you're being controlled by something outside yourself
  • not feeling up to normal activities like washing, dressing or seeing friends.

See also: symptoms of psychosis.

Other people might notice symptoms before you do, because the condition means you don't always know what's real.

Just because you experience one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you’re definitely affected by schizophrenia. It’s important to talk to your GP to get a full diagnosis.

Instagram artwork by @crazyheadcomics. Three different potted plants with text underneath 'Mental health looks different for everyone'.

Artwork credit: @crazyheadcomics. Three plant pots have all different types of plants in them, with one being a cactus, another being all leaves and the other having blue leaves and pink flowers. Under the pots, it reads 'mental health looks different for everyone'.

What to do about schizophrenia

Although it sounds scary, schizophrenia is the most common serious mental health condition and can be successfully treated.

If you think you are affected by schizophrenia, talk to someone straight away. Choose someone you like and trust, like a teacher, relative, counsellor or friend.

You should also see your GP. They may offer to refer you to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), an expert or a psychiatrist who can help you.

Reaching out for help

Treating schizophrenia

You will usually be offered antipsychotic or neuroleptic medication. These can reduce symptoms and stop them coming back in the future.

You might also be offered cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), other types of therapy or support through family intervention.

Find out more about medication
Life with schizophrenia can be quite difficult. I have phases when I don't want to have a bath because I feel as though people can see me. However, I am learning to manage and my life is almost on track now.

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Where to get help

If you're struggling right now, you don't have to go through this alone. Here are some places where you can get help and support.