Explains schizophrenia, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.
How can I help myself?
Many people who get a schizophrenia diagnosis are able to live happy and fulfilling lives, even if they continue to have symptoms. It can help to:
If you are becoming unwell, there might be signs you could spot early on. These will be different for everyone but could include:
- feeling anxious or stressed
- sleeping less well
- feeling suspicious or fearful
- hearing quiet voices
- finding it hard to concentrate
- avoiding other people.
Noticing when you are becoming unwell
You might find you can learn to recognise signs that you are feeling less well. It could help to:
- Pay attention to what triggers your symptoms. Some activities, situations or people might seem to have a particular effect.
- Ask other people to help. You could ask someone you trust to let you know if they notice changes in your moods or behaviour.
- Keep going to appointments. It's best to carry on going to any appointments for treatment, support or check-ups, even if you're feeling better.
- Try a mood diary. There are many online mood diaries which you may find helpful for tracking any changes in mood and warning signs. See our useful contacts page for more information.
You might want to share observations with your close family, friends or care team so they can help support you, whether it's listening to you when you're having a bad day, helping you keep on top of your commitments, or being aware of your triggers.
If you're feeling less well you might not be able to tell people what help you want, so it could be helpful to plan ahead.
It can also help to talk to someone you trust about how you would like to be helped if you are in a crisis.
See our page on planning for a crisis for more information.
- Try to get enough sleep. Sleeping well can make you feel calmer and more able to cope. If you feel tired, you are more likely to feel stressed or worried and find it difficult to manage your symptoms. See our advice on sleep problems.
- Try to eat a balanced diet. Following a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables can help your wellbeing. Eating regularly can also help avoid psychosis being brought on by changes to your blood sugar levels. See our advice on food and mood.
Smoking and antipsychotics
Smoking can change the effects of antipsychotic drugs. If you smoke and are prescribed antipsychotics, it's particularly recommended that you try to give up.
It's best to talk to a doctor first because:
- they can help you with giving up smoking
- they might need to adjust your prescription.
Alcohol and recreational drugs can also affect the way your medication works. See our information on recreational drugs and alcohol.
Too much stress can make the symptoms of schizophrenia worse and increase the chances of you becoming unwell. It could help to spend time outside in green space or try doing some exercise like walking, swimming or yoga.
You might need to cut down on the number of responsibilities you have – it could help to explore support services in your area.
For more suggestions, see our information on coping with stress.
It's important for mental health to keep doing things you enjoy, or if you struggle to know what you enjoy it helps to spend some time exploring different things to work this out.
Doing things you enjoy can boost your confidence and help you stay well, whether it's cooking, listening to music or doing DIY.
Some people find that doing something creative like drama, drawing or sewing helps them express themselves and deal with difficult emotions. See our information on arts and creative therapies for more ideas.
Focus on something practical like an allotment. It calms the mind.
Feeling connected to other people is an important part of staying well. It can help you to feel valued, confident and more able to face difficult times.
Feeling lonely or isolated could make your symptoms worse. If you don't feel you have strong connections with people or you'd like to make more, it could help to explore support services and peer support.
When you have schizophrenia it can sometimes feel like no one understands. You might find it very helpful to talk to other people who have the same diagnosis or a related one, such as schizoaffective disorder or psychosis.
A great way to do this can be peer support, which can help you:
- feel more positive about the future
- increase your self-esteem
- find friends
- recognise patterns in your experiences
- develop and discuss ways of coping
- identify early signs of crisis
- take active steps to manage your situation.
Various organisations run peer support. The Hearing Voices Network hosts groups across the UK for people who hear, see or sense things that others don't.
To find peer support you could:
- see our list of useful contacts
- use our peer support directory
- ask if your local Mind runs peer support
- try an online peer support community like Side by Side.
If you don't feel ready to try peer support but need to talk to someone, many national and local organisations run helplines that you can call in a crisis, such as Samaritans or SANEline. Talking to a trained listener could give you some support and help you make sense of what you're feeling and what's happening.
My recovery has been gradual and in stages… No matter how bad I feel, I can now manage my worst days until I get to a better place mentally.
This information was published in November 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
References and bibliography available on request.
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