Receiving a diagnosis of schizophrenia can be a worrying time
For some people, being diagnosed with schizophrenia can be scary; for others, it can be a relief to have their symptoms diagnosed and to know that someone understands what they are going through. Feeling nervous, apprehensive, or worried about how others will react is normal at a time like this, but there are a number of treatment options available for schizophrenia that can help you to manage your symptoms.
Below are some frequently asked questions, which you might also be asking.
Is schizophrenia the same as having multiple or split personalities?
No it is not, but this is one of the most common misconceptions about people living with schizophrenia.
If you are affected by schizophrenia you may view the world differently to those around you. You may hear, see, smell or feel things that are not experienced by others (hallucinations).
You may also find that you have confusing and frightening thoughts, such as believing that people are reading your mind, controlling your thoughts or planning to harm you. These thoughts may make you feel anxious and you may find that they become so disordered that they scare you, or those around you. But this is very different to multiple personality disorder which is a completely different illness.
Are all patients with schizophrenia violent and dangerous?
No, but unfortunately the cases appearing in the media encourages the myth that people living with schizophrenia are always violent and dangerous. Violence is rare, especially if you are taking your treatment as agreed with your doctor. Patients with untreated schizophrenia are often very scared and confused and this can make them volatile and their actions sometimes unpredictable.
Does schizophrenia impact my intelligence or ability to achieve my goals?
You may experience difficulties with certain things, such as memory or concentration, but that does not mean that you cannot achieve your goals especially with the right treatment. Some amazingly creative and intelligent people have lived with schizophrenia; for example John Nash was diagnosed with schizophrenia and he went on to win the Nobel Prize for Mathematics.
If I am living with schizophrenia does that mean my children will have it too?
The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. It is thought that something that contributes to the overall risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia is inherited from your parents but there are many, many other factors too. If you have schizophrenia there is just over a ten percent chance your children will also be affected by this condition. There is a much greater chance that they won't and and so you should try not to worry about it too much.
Will I ever recover from my schizophrenia?
Although it can sometimes seem as though you will never improve, persisting with your treatment is important and can help you feel much better. If treated properly about one quarter of people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia will recover completely and at least another half will experience significant improvements in their lives. The good news is that many people living with schizophrenia can lead full and productive lives.
Will I be able to get a job now that I have a diagnosis of schizophrenia?
Many people living with schizophrenia have jobs that help them live a pretty regular life. For example Syd Barrett, one of the founders of Pink Floyd, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and went on to become one of the most successful musicians in the world. You may find it a little harder to get a job than some people, but your healthcare team should be able to provide help and guidance around employment programmes that are available in your area.
How do I know that the doctors have diagnosed me correctly?
Schizophrenia is a thoroughly studied condition. Your doctor will only have made the decision that the illness you are living with is indeed schizophrenia if he or she is reasonably certain. The process of diagnosing schizophrenia involves a lot of tests and discussions with you about how you are feeling. Schizophrenia cannot be diagnosed in a single test, therefore your doctor will explore your symptoms and past medical history and may also want to talk to your family to see if they have noticed anything that may help them make a diagnosis. That is why it is important to have an open and honest discussion with your doctor. Only after this will your doctor be able to say whether or not you are diagnosed with schizophrenia. Over time your symptoms may change, which may result in the doctor reviewing your diagnosis.
Am I alone or are there lots of other people who are living with schizophrenia?
You are definitely not alone and you might be surprised to learn that schizophrenia affects up to one in one hundred people at some point in their lives. If we also think of the carers, friends and family supporting those living with schizophrenia we realise it touches the lives of many people. Your doctor may be able to advise you on local patient support groups that are available to help people living with schizophrenia and their carers.
Now I’ve been told that I have schizophrenia will I have to spend the rest of my life in hospital?
There may well be some times in your life when you are feeling particularly unwell and do need to spend some time in hospital. This will only happen if your doctors think that the best care for you would be provided in hospital. When you are feeling better you will probably spend most of your time living in the community as usual but your contact with a healthcare team on a regular basis will likely still be required and encouraged.
The next steps
Your healthcare team will explain to you and your family what a diagnosis of schizophrenia means, and help you to understand more about the condition and the treatments that are available.
Once you have received your diagnosis, together with your family and your healthcare team you will:10,18
- Identify achievable goals for your treatment and for moving on with your life
- Agree on the best kind of treatment to relieve your symptoms and prevent them from coming back
- Reach an understanding of how your illness and its treatment will be monitored and how regularly, and where you can turn to for additional information and support