Schizophrenia is often described as violent, split-personality disorder. Many people believe that two or more people live inside the mind of a schizophrenic – a Jekyll and Hyde situation. This isn’t the case. Schizophrenia can cause hallucinations which makes the sufferer hear and see things that do not exist or have unusual beliefs that are not based on reality. This can lead to confused thoughts, because the sufferer can’t distinguish between what is real and what is a delusion. Other symptoms include losing interest in everyday activities, loss of interest in personal hygiene and not wanting to be around people. Imagine your brain mistaking your thoughts for real voices outside of your body. Imagine that sometimes they say nice things and sometimes they are rude or abusive. Imagine that they want you to hurt yourself, or they tell you that everyone is out to get you. Now imagine that no-one else can hear these voices, but you are sure they are real because they sound so real. Sounds pretty scary doesn’t it? Although schizophrenia is thought to run in families, there is no single gene that is thought to be responsible. A combination of physical, genetic, psychological and environmental factors seem to make someone more likely to develop the condition. The good news is that with the right diagnosis, medication and talk therapy, psychotic episodes can be kept to a minimum and the sufferer can lead a normal life. Support for dealing with schizophrenia normally comes from immediate family and medical professionals. Family is encouraged to take part in group therapy to learn more about the disorder, how to spot the signs of an oncoming episode and how to best provide support to their loved one. Schizophrenia, if well managed , does not have to be the terrifying experience it is made out to be.