When someone says schizophrenia what do you think?
Sadly, many people have little or no idea about what it's actually like living with schizophrenia. Instead their preconceptions about this illness come from movies and the media which, more often than not, can be inaccurate and sensationalised.
I think I should feel fortunate when it comes to hearing voices. While I have the ever-curdling mixture of psychosis in the background of my thoughts, the voices I hear are still my own.
It is still my own internal dialogue. It's just that most of the time, it's not there to help me.
Schizoaffective disorder is a psychiatric condition, combining the symptoms of schizophrenia and mood disorders (bipolar or depression). These symptoms – hallucinations, delusions, psychosis and episodes of mania or depression – can occur together or at different times.
'Schizophrenia, you have schizophrenia. Shit, schizophrenia, this sounds serious but what is it?'
At 23 I was still naive, and even though I had been a university student I had not encountered schizophrenia in friends or relatives. I sat bewildered in the psychiatrist's office, perplexed not only by my inner psychotic confusion but wondering what was to become of me.
Hearing voices can be an intrusive and distressing experience for people living with a psychotic illness.
Developing personalised interventions and strategies, preferably with health professionals, can help alleviate the impact.
This may be achieved by focusing on a specific problem, such as voices that wake you at night, or focusing on an element, like a particularly distressing voice.
Despite what many people think, schizophrenia is far from being a life sentence. Recovery, to a lesser or greater degree, is possible.
A 2010 national survey found that 54.8% of participants who had experienced multiple episodes of psychosis went on to achieve partial or good recovery between episodes.
The symptoms and effects of schizophrenia are as unique and varied as the people who experience the illness.
Likewise the way people manage their symptoms – including treatment methods, medication and self-care strategies – differ from person to person. The strategies implemented can also change throughout someone's life.
Sometimes the distress associated with psychosis can be less about hallucinations or delusions and more about loneliness, fear and loss of self. At the risk of sounding overly optimistic - something us care professionals are famous for - I'd like to share five steps that can help you help your loved one overcome fear and isolation.