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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 You can also feel muddled, low or withdrawn.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'.

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'.

Being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder was scary because I had never heard of it before and didn't know anybody else with it. But after researching it, everything made sense, and I wasn't as scared anymore. If you have a mental health diagnosis, it's important to remember that your diagnosis doesn't define you.
Emma, 24

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.

How to speak to your GP
Instagram artwork by @crazyheadcomics. Three different potted plants with text underneath 'Mental health looks different for everyone'.

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

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.
Shruti, 23

Getting help and support for 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
A girl in her winter coat is looking and smiling at her friend as they are talking while sitting on a park bench.
I still battle with a variety of hallucinations and delusions every day. But instead of hoping for a cure, it is better for me to see recovery as learning to live a life alongside my condition.

It helps hugely that I have a brilliant family and care team who have supported me throughout. I am gaining more independence, learning to drive, and learning to live with my lifelong condition.

I doubt I will ever recover but with Clozapine and support from my family, my mental health team, and my psychiatrist, I can learn to live and thrive with schizophrenia.
Jess, 23
Psychosis is scary and can take so much from your life, but it is important to know that you are not alone and that there are always people who want to support you.
Jess, 22

Get help now

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. 

  • Samaritans

    Whatever you're going through, you can contact the Samaritans for support. N.B. This is a listening service and does not offer advice or intervention.

    Opening times:
    24/7
  • Childline

    If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

    Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

    Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

    Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

    Opening times:
    24/7
  • The Mix

    Free, short-term online counselling for young people aged 25 or under. Their website also provides lots of information and advice about mental health and wellbeing. 

    Email support is available via their online contact form.

    They have a free 1-2-1 webchat service available during opening hours.

    Opening times:
    4pm - 11pm, Monday - Friday

Whether you love the page or think something is missing, we appreciate your feedback. It all helps us to support more young people with their mental health.

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This form is not a mental health support service. We cannot reply to this. If you are at risk of immediate harm, call 999 and ask for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E. If you are worried about your mental health, call: Childline (for under 19s) on 0800 11 11; or Samaritans on 116 123.

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