Cornwall

Living with Schizophrenia

Mental health season

Schizophrenia is a type of psychotic illness and is a longterm mental health condition.

On BBC Radio Cornwall's lunchtime phone in on Wednesday 1 June, Laurence Reed hosted a debate about schizophrenia and pyschosis, along with experts from Cornwall. The BBC iplayer will carry the programme for seven days after its broadcast.

The Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has provided the following information about schizophrenia and pyschosis:

Schizophrenia

It causes a range of different psychological symptoms which include:

• hallucinations - hearing or seeing things that do not exist

• delusions - unusual beliefs that are not based on reality and often contradict the evidence

• muddled thoughts based on the hallucinations or delusions

• changes in behaviour often at times of increased stress.

Schizophrenia is often poorly understood. Two of the most common misconceptions are:

• People with schizophrenia have a split or dual personality.

• People with schizophrenia are violent.

A person with psychosis will often experience the same symptoms as a person with schizophrenia, however these symptoms would be at the early stages and or be transient, often at times of increased stress.

A person who experiences psychosis is sometimes referred to as psychotic.

Having a psychotic illness is not the same as being a 'psychopath'. Psychosis is a more short-lived condition (compared with schizophrenia) which if effectively treated, can lead to a full recovery.

In contrast, a 'psychopath' is likely to be someone who has a long term antisocial personality disorder.

This means they have very different problems, which often lead to them behaving in an antisocial manner.

The major cause of psychosis is illicit drug use, however for others stress is the primary cause and perpetuating factor.

Who is affected?

Men and women are equally affected by schizophrenia which affects one in 100 people.

Psychosis is more common, affecting approximately one in every 20 people in the UK.

Why does it happen?

Research indicates that schizophrenia is caused by a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors some of which you may not be able to avoid. Most people will be affected before the age of 30.

If you are already vulnerable to the condition, stressful life events (eg bereavement, losing your job or home, a divorce or the end of a relationship, or physical, sexual, emotional or racial abuse) can trigger its development as can drug misuse.

Women can rarely be affected by psychosis after child birth. This is called Puerperal Psychosis.

Getting a diagnosis

If you think you may be experiencing psychosis or schizophrenia you should visit your GP as soon as possible.

The earlier treatment is sought, the more successful the outcome tends to be.

Your GP may refer you to a Community Mental Health Team (CMHT). These teams which are made up of mental health professionals will carry out a more detailed assessment of your symptoms.

If you are aged between 14 and 35 and this is the first time this has happened, or it has been happening for sometime but you have not seen anyone about it, you could call the Early Intervention Team (East Cornwall: 01208 251372, West Cornwall: 01209 881660) and discuss the possibility of an assessment.

This also applies if you are concerned about someone else.

Getting help for someone else

If you are concerned about someone else, you should encourage them to visit their GP. This may be difficult if they don't believe there is anything wrong.

If they have previously been seen by a mental health team, they will have a Care Co-ordinator.

Contact their Care Co-ordinator and express your concerns.

If you contact a healthcare professional about someone you know, they may be unable to share much information with you about that person without their consent due to confidentiality. However, this should not stop you from sharing important information about that person or the professional listening to this.

Treatment

Treatment will be co-ordinated by a team, made up of a variety of mental health professionals. If this is a first episode of psychosis, the patient may be referred to an Early Intervention Team.

The patient will receive a full assessment of symptoms and may also be prescribed anti-psychotic medication. They may also be offered psychological support (eg counselling or talking therapy) alongside social, occupational and educational interventions.

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