Schizophrenia

Explains schizophrenia, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

Your stories

Schizophrenia, my brother and me

Imogen blogs about her brother's experience of schizophrenia and how it affects her family.

Imogen
Posted on 01/02/2017

People call me crazy - my film about schizophrenia

Juno blogs about why he decided to make a film about his experience of schizophrenia.

Juno
Posted on 14/11/2014

My experience of schizophrenia and faith

Nick
Posted on 23/09/2013

What treatments can help?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the organisation that produces guidelines on best practice in health care – recommends treating schizophrenia and psychosis with a combination of talking treatments and antipsychotic medication while you are unwell.

You can read the full guidelines on the NICE website, including a list of questions you might want to ask about your diagnosis and treatment.

A lot of people want help with understanding why they are experiencing their symptoms and want help to live their lives without distress. The goal isn’t always to eradicate symptoms but to understand them, tolerate distress and address any deeper problems.

What treatments can help with schizophrenia?

Treatments that are recommended for schizophrenia include:

What the treatment is called

How it might help

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
A type of talking treatment that helps with patterns of thinking or behaviour that may be causing you difficulties.

CBT for schizophrenia can help you to:

  • cope with symptoms of psychosis such as delusions or hearing voices

  • ease stress so your symptoms don't get worse

  • manage any side effects from medication

  • cope with other problems like social anxiety and depression, which people with schizophrenia may also experience

Talking treatment for schizophrenia should focus on helping you cope with your symptoms, rather than trying to convince you that your beliefs or experiences are wrong.

See our section on CBT for more information.

Medication
Doctors usually prescribe antipsychotic drugs (also known as neuroleptic drugs or major tranquilisers) to help with schizophrenia.

Medication for schizophrenia:

  • could help with symptoms of psychosis

  • affects different people in different ways

  • is helpful for some people but not others

  • can have side effects – it's best to tell your doctor about these

  • can involve trying more than one type of medication before you find what works for you

  • should be something you have a say in – your doctor should explain the risks and benefits of any medication

  • might be something you take for a short time, or you might need to stay on it long-term

See our section on antipsychotics for more information.

Family intervention
A type of talking treatment for relatives or carers of people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Family intervention for schizophrenia can:

  • help relatives or carers work out how best to support you

  • help family members find ways of coping and solving problems together

  • involve you if possible, depending on how you feel and what you would prefer

  • be with other families or just yours, depending on what's available and what you and your family prefer

Arts therapies
A way of using creative arts – music, painting, dance, voice or drama – to express yourself in a therapeutic environment with a trained therapist.

Arts therapies for schizophrenia:

I am on mood stabilisers as I also get hyper and very depressed. Also angry sometimes.

Can I recover from schizophrenia?

There isn't currently a cure for schizophrenia, but many of the symptoms can get better with treatment. Some people find their symptoms stop altogether, or stop for long periods of time.

However, for many people schizophrenia is something that they live with long-term.

If you want to stop taking medication

Some people find antipsychotics unhelpful or want to stop taking medication because they feel better. It's important not to stop suddenly as this can cause withdrawal symptoms.

It's best to speak to your doctor or care team if you want to stop taking medication, even if you don't think you need it any more. See our section on coming off psychiatric drugs for more information about coming off medication.

It's also a good idea to talk to your care team about any over-the-counter medicines or complementary therapies you want to try, in case they are likely to interfere with your medication.

I have had one major and three minor episodes of the illness but am able to lead a pretty normal life. I have made some good friends through my experience but am more distant with others. I would say to others that you can get through the worse times and [to] always have hope.


This information was published in February 2017. We will revise it in 2020.


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