A lot of people have the wrong idea about schizophrenia. It is not the same as a ‘split personality’.
About 1 in 100 people will experience the symptoms of schizophrenia. There is much debate, even among doctors, about whether schizophrenia exists as an ‘illness’, or whether it is just a label for a group of symptoms. The word usually refers to unusual experiences and beliefs – as if the brain is struggling to make sense of what is going on around us.
When a psychiatrist assesses someone, they look for two types of symptoms: positive and negative.
Positive symptoms – these include hallucinations and delusions. If you experience something that has no obvious cause, then this might be a hallucination. For instance, you may see an object which nobody else can see. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination, and there is ongoing research into Deaf people’s experience of ‘hearing voices’. You may also experience illusions, where your sensory experiences are exaggerated. So, for example, colours may appear brighter. Delusions are ideas that are not shared by those around us. Common among these are paranoid delusions, where we are certain that, for instance, someone is trying to harm us. Other people will see no evidence of this, or interpret ‘reality’ differently.
Negative symptoms – these are far more subtle and normally involve a loss of some kind. For instance, you may feel you don’t want to go out, or sleep, or eat. There are many small ways in which negative symptoms can be displayed, but it is often hard to realise that they are symptoms.
Many people are beginning to doubt whether the term "schizophrenic" is useful - as it describes people who may have very different experiences. There is even a campaign to get rid of the term.
Do People recover from Schizophrenia?
About 25% of people who develop schizophrenia recover within five years.
About 65 % of people will continue to experience some symptoms over a long period of time.
About 10% will have severe symptoms that last for a long period.