Schizophrenia is a condition that affects about 1% to 2% of the population, although the experience of the condition varies a great deal. An episode may resolve completely and never recur, or there may be on-going symptoms that require adaptation by patients, families and friends.

Symptoms

There are many different ways of looking at the symptoms of schizophrenia. Perhaps the most common is to consider two groups:

  • Positive
  • Negative

Another popular model consists of five groups:

  • Positive
  • Negative
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Mania
  • Depression

1) Positive symptoms are perhaps those most commonly thought of when people think or talk about serious mental illness. They are:

  • Delusional beliefs. These are held very strongly and out of proportion to the context in which a person is living. Paranoia is typical, for instance fearing being followed or spied on.
  • Hallucinations. Experiencing perceptions that others cannot, such as hearing voices.
  • Thought disorder. This is difficult to explain but is the experience of being unable to get across meaning or thinking processes through speech.

2) Negative symptoms are less well recognised but in many ways are more problematic as they are harder to treat and more disabling in the long run. They are:

  • Loss of motivation
  • Reduced range of emotions
  • Loss of social skills
  • Social withdrawal

3) Cognitive deficits are similar to negative symptoms and often grouped with them, but it is increasingly recognised that those who experience schizophrenia for longer periods of time may develop a range of cognitive (or ‘intellectual’) problems such as:

  • Subtle difficulties with memory
  • Difficulty with organisation
  • Problems interpreting complex information

Manic symptoms are more commonly associated with bipolar disorder (which used to be called manic depression) but can occur in schizophrenia. They are:

  • Elated affect (emotional state)
  • Reduced sleep
  • Increased activity
  • Racing thoughts and speech

Depressive symptoms in schizophrenia can be difficult to distinguish from negative symptoms or the general despondency that can develop when anyone experiences a long-term illness. The symptoms are the same as in any other depression.

Best Evidence-Based Treatments

Medication is considered a key component of the treatment of schizophrenia and the National Institute of Health Care and Excellence (NICE) recommends specific psychological therapies. It is also important to realise that good relationships with family, friends and carers plays a significant part in helping patients to manage their symptoms.

Recommended psychological treatments are:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT):
Cognitive behavioural Therapy focuses on the relationship between thoughts, feelings, behaviours and physiological sensations. The cognitive facet assumes that the meaning one gives to an event is important and if you can change the interpretation or perception you can change the feeling (affect) associated with it. The behavioural facet assumes changing what you do is often a powerful way of changing other things in your life, which can improve affect and improve symptoms.

Although developed for depression and anxiety, CBT has more recently been adapted to schizophrenia and is particularly helpful for persistent delusions and hallucinations.

Family Therapy:
Family therapy involves working with the patient and their family (and other significant people if appropriate) to help with understanding the condition, enabling mutual support and resolving difficulties that may have arisen due to the challenging nature of the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Pharmacological:
Anti-psychotics are recommended for people who have schizophrenia. The combination of an anti-psychotic and one of the psychological therapies mentioned above can be an effective intervention.

Elite Psychology comprises of an expert team, specialising in the range of best evidence-based treatments for schizophrenia. Our highly qualified associates are accredited in all of the most successful therapies, complemented by Psychiatrists who can prescribe anti-depressants on private prescriptions. We can assess you and provide the most efficacious therapy tailored to your difficulties. We know the importance of being understood, and endeavour to deliver the highest standard of psychological interventions to meet your needs.

Call us on 020 3815 7935 for further information or to book an assessment. Alternatively you can complete the online contact form.