Counselling For Schizophrenia

What is it?

  • Schizophrenia is a complex mental health problem, which can manifest itself in a number of ways. Each individual will experience a range of symptoms, not everyone will have them all.
  • Schizophrenia affects thinking, feeling and behaviour.
  • Schizophrenia and similar illnesses can affect people from all walks of life. The first symptoms often develop in early adulthood and vary from person to person but may remain undiagnosed. For some, the illness starts suddenly: the (usually) young person becomes unwell very quickly and quite severely. His or her thoughts may become muddled or he or she may experience hallucinations.
  • For others, the change is gradual and the person may show signs of withdrawal or neglecting themselves. These changes in behaviour can be very difficult to understand especially when no one has recognised that the person is ill.
  • No one really knows the causes of schizophrenia, but a combination of certain factors (such as stress, hereditary factors and drug abuse) have been shown to affect the risk of developing it.
  • Nearly 1 in 100 people will experience schizophrenia in the course of a lifetime.
  • After a first episode of schizophrenia, approximately 1 in 5 recover within five years, 65% will have fluctuating problems over decades and 10-15% experience severe long-term incapacity.
  • The majority of people that are affected by schizophrenia will have long periods of good functioning with occasional problems.

Although schizophrenia affects people in different ways, there are recognised signs and symptoms that people may experience, for example: One of the many causes of Schizophrenia maybe related to a traumatic event in early life. We all hear voices and talk to ourselves at some stage in life.

  • The person may experience hallucinations (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling or tasting something that does not exist, as if it were real). Hearing voices is the most common hallucination experienced with schizophrenia.
  • The person may hold false and often unusual beliefs with unshakeable conviction. For example, someone might fear that he or she is being watched or followed by another who wants to control or do them harm. These beliefs are called delusions.
  • The person appears to show little emotion or if he or she does express any it may appear out of context, for example crying at a joke. They may become withdrawn, avoiding the company of friends and family and staying in their room.
  • The person may say very little and rarely initiate a conversation. They may speak in a way that will seem muddled and illogical, conveying little meaning. They may think or act in a way that cannot easily be understood. He or she may become uncharacteristically hostile to members of the family.

Not everyone will experience all of these symptoms. It can be difficult to recognise these as signs of a mental health problem. It is easy to perceive the person as disinterested in life. It is important to remember that this behaviour is not deliberate.

Does Counselling Help Recovery?

In short – Yes. Generally, getting appropriate care and treatment for schizophrenia as soon as possible after symptoms appear, results in a greater chance of a good recovery. Often first port of call is the Doctor, Psychiatrist or Psychologist who will discuss possible treatments including medication. Talking therapy helps to normalise the schizophrenia, looking deeper at the voices and investigating where these voices may have come from. A traumatic event or a lower sense of self may create a unrealistic place to feel safe.

Recovery means different things to different people and no two individual journeys of recovery will be the same. Regardless of symptoms or past experiences, people with mental health problems should be given every opportunity to, and can, lead fulfilling and satisfying lives.

Medication aimed at reducing the symptoms of schizophrenia is commonly used. These medications have varying levels of benefit and side effects. It does effect counselling if the medication is high and make take a longer path. Counselling is not a quick fix process but a start to a new way of self-help and awareness.

Stigma & Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is one of the most widely misunderstood and stigmatised mental health problems. It was chosen as the diagnostic term to lead the first year campaign for see me because of that reason.

There is widespread misconception that people with schizophrenia are dangerous, unstable people. The media, which use terms like schizo to describe people who commit violent acts, often reinforce this impression. Many people with schizophrenia recover fully. Others continue to live with some degree of disability. Others are severely affected by symptoms throughout life.

The reality is that many people with schizophrenia live in fear in our communities, trying to put together a life in spite of the stigma that exists. Stigma prevents people coming forward for help. It has been suggested that good public information and reduced stigma encourages people to come forward early with symptoms. This in turn is associated with a much greater chance of recovery.

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