Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that can affect your behaviour, perceptions and thinking and your ability to recognise what is real. It’s quite common, but people can be very afraid of a diagnosis, because it’s often inaccurately shown in the media.
If you have schizophrenia, you do not have a split mind, and nor are you any more likely to be violent towards others than is anyone else.
Schizophrenia describes a collection of possible symptoms. You cannot be diagnosed with schizophrenia until you have experienced at least two and they have significantly affected you for at least six months.
The most common symptoms are false beliefs (where you believe things most others don’t), unclear or confused thinking, auditory hallucinations (hearing voices), feeling that you are being controlled by some outside influence, finding it hard to engage with other people or express your emotions, and feeling unmotivated. If you have schizophrenia, your mood is likely to be neutral rather than depressed or manic.
You are not defined by a label of schizophrenia – and indeed the labels clinicians use change as research into schizophrenia develops.
Your doctor may, after assessing you, decide that you are experiencing a particular type of schizophrenia. On the other hand, some doctors prefer not to diagnose different types within an overall diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Whatever approach your doctor takes, they will above all treat you as an individual, looking at the symptoms that you experience, and the way that they affect you and your life. This matters much more than a label.
In the UK schizophrenia is often divided into eight subtypes:
Paranoid schizophrenia: you experience delusions and paranoid ideas and sometimes hallucinations, with no insight that your thoughts and behaviour are disordered.
Hebephrenic schizophrenia (also called disorganised schizophrenia): your thoughts are disordered and you find it hard to express emotions. You may also experience auditory hallucinations and feel as if you are being made to do, feel or think things by someone else.
Catatonic schizophrenia: you may hardly move, or move in an agitated and purposeless way. This is a very rare type of schizophrenia.
Undifferentiated schizophrenia: you have psychotic symptoms but don’t meet the criteria for paranoid, hebephrenic, simple or catatonic schizophrenia.
Residual schizophrenia: you have what are called positive symptoms (such as hallucinations or delusions) at a low intensity. This is a chronic condition.
Post-schizophrenic depression: you experience depression after a schizophrenic illness and may still have some low-level schizophrenic symptoms.
Simple schizophrenia: you do not have psychotic episodes but do develop prominent negative symptoms (such as low energy, inability to concentrate).
Schizo-affective disorder: you have a mixture of schizophrenia symptoms and a mood disorder.
If you are diagnosed with one of these subtypes it can help you and your doctor to think about how you are affected by schizophrenia, and how you can best be treated.
Dr Winbow and Prof Hale have vast experience in treating patients with schizophrenia. If you, a friend or relative think they may be suffering from some of the symptoms of schizophrenia, please contact us to make an appointment.
The following organisation provide useful information on schizophrenia