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May 24 is Schizophrenia and Psychosis Awareness Day

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects the way you understand and interact with the world around you. One of the biggest myths around schizophrenia is that it isn’’t treatable. But with the right supports, this illness can be managed.

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects the way you understand and interact with the world around you.

At the beginning of an episode, people may feel that things around them seem different or strange. They may start to experience problems concentrating, thinking or communicating clearly, or taking part in their usual activities. At the height of the episode, people may experience breaks from reality called psychosis. These could be hallucinations (sensations, like voices, that are not real) and delusions (strong beliefs that are not true, like the belief that they have superpowers). Some people feel flat or numb. They may also experience changes in mood, motivation, and the ability to complete tasks. After an episode, signs can continue for some time. People may feel restless, withdraw from others, or have a hard time concentrating.

The exact course and impact of schizophrenia is unique for each person. Some people only experience one episode in their lifetime while others experience many episodes. Some people experience periods of wellness between episodes while others may experience episodes that last a long time. Some people experience a psychotic episode without warning while others experience many early warning signs. No matter how someone experiences schizophrenia, researchers agree that early treatment can help reduce the impact of episodes in the future.

Who does it affect?

Schizophrenia can affect anyone.

Doctors often diagnose schizophrenia when a person is between the ages of 16 and 30.

Early treatment is important to help you or a loved one have the best chance at success.

One of the first steps you can take is to visit a doctor when you start to develop signs of schizophrenia. A doctor can help connect you with a psychiatrist or other specialist to help you get the correct diagnosis and treatment.

What can I do about it?

While there is no cure for schizophrenia, people can and do recover. Recovery may mean learning to reduce the impact of problems, work around challenges, or maintain wellness. Most people use some combination of the following treatments and supports.

Some people need to spend time in hospital if they experience a severe episode of psychosis. This is a time to figure out the best treatment for you and begin your journey to health. Before you leave the hospital, care providers should help you map out the service providers (like doctors, counsellors, and social workers) who will be involved in your care and support your recovery.

How can I help a loved one?

Supporting a loved one can be hard. It can be difficult to understand what a loved one is experiencing, and their behaviour may be confusing at times. Many people worry about their loved one’s future. The good news is that schizophrenia is treatable and love and support can go a long way. Here are some tips for helping a loved one:


Sources: CAMH, CMHA

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