Schizophrenia - Symptoms 

Symptoms of schizophrenia 

Psychosis

A first acute episode of psychosis can be very difficult to cope with, both for the person who is ill and for their family and friends.

Drastic changes in behaviour may occur, and the person can become upset, anxious, confused, angry or suspicious of those around them. They may not think they need help, and it can be hard to persuade them to visit a doctor.

Read more about understanding psychotic experiences.

Changes in thinking and behaviour are the most obvious signs of schizophrenia, but people can experience symptoms in different ways.

The symptoms of schizophrenia are usually classified into one of two categories: positive or negative.

  • Positive symptoms represent a change in behaviour or thoughts, such as hallucinations or delusions.
  • Negative symptoms represent a withdrawal or lack of function which you would usually expect to see in a healthy person. For example, people with schizophrenia often appear emotionless, flat and apathetic.

The condition may develop slowly. The first signs of schizophrenia, such as becoming socially withdrawn and unresponsive or experiencing changes in sleeping patterns, can be hard to identify. This is because the first symptoms often develop during adolescence and changes can be mistaken for an adolescent 'phase'.

People often have episodes of schizophrenia, during which their symptoms are particularly severe, followed by periods where they experience few or no positive symptoms. This is known as acute schizophrenia.

If you are experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, see your GP as soon as possible. The earlier schizophrenia is treated, the more successful the outcome tends to be.

Read more information about how schizophrenia is diagnosed.

Positive symptoms of schizophrenia

Hallucinations

A hallucination is when a person experiences a sensation but there is nothing or nobody there to account for it. A hallucination can involve any of the senses, but the most common is hearing voices.

Hallucinations are very real to the person experiencing them, even though people around them cannot hear the voices or experience the sensations. Research using brain-scanning equipment shows changes in the speech area of the brain in people with schizophrenia when they hear voices. These studies show the experience of hearing voices as a real one, as if the brain mistakes thoughts for real voices.

Some people describe the voices they hear as friendly and pleasant, but more often they are rude, critical, abusive or annoying. The voices might describe activities taking place, discuss the hearer’s thoughts and behaviour, give instructions or talk directly to the person. Voices may come from different places or one place in particular, such as the television.

Delusions

A delusion is a belief held with complete conviction, even though it is based on a mistaken, strange or unrealistic view. It may affect the way people behave. Delusions can begin suddenly or may develop over weeks or months.

Some people develop a delusional idea to explain a hallucination they are having. For example, if they have heard voices describing their actions, they may have a delusion that someone is monitoring their actions. Someone experiencing a paranoid delusion may believe they are being harassed or persecuted. They may believe they are being chased, followed, watched, plotted against or poisoned, often by a family member or friend.

Some people who experience delusions find different meanings in everyday events or occurrences. They may believe people on TV or in newspaper articles are communicating messages to them alone, or that there are hidden messages in the colours of cars passing in the street.

Confused thoughts (thought disorder)

People experiencing psychosis often have trouble keeping track of their thoughts and conversations. Some people find it hard to concentrate and will drift from one idea to another. They may have trouble reading newspaper articles or watching a TV programme. People sometimes describe their thoughts as ‘misty’ or ‘hazy’ when this is happening to them. Thoughts and speech may become jumbled or confused, making conversation difficult and hard for other people to understand.

Changes in behaviour and thoughts

Behaviour may become more disorganised and unpredictable, and appearance or dress may seem unusual to others. People with schizophrenia may behave inappropriately or become extremely agitated and shout or swear for no reason.

Some people describe their thoughts as being controlled by someone else, their thoughts are not their own, or that thoughts have been planted in their mind by someone else. Another recognised feeling is that thoughts are disappearing, as though someone is removing them from their mind. Some people feel their body is being taken over and someone else is directing their movements and actions.

Negative symptoms of schizophrenia

The negative symptoms of schizophrenia can often appear several years before somebody experiences their first acute schizophrenic episode. These initial negative symptoms are often referred to as the prodromal period of schizophrenia.

Symptoms during the prodromal period usually appear gradually and slowly get worse. They include becoming more socially withdrawn and experiencing an increasing lack of care about your appearance and personal hygiene.

It can be difficult to tell whether the symptoms are part of the development of schizophrenia or caused by something else. Negative symptoms experienced by people living with schizophrenia include:

  • losing interest and motivation in life and activities, including relationships and sex 
  • lack of concentration, not wanting to leave the house and changes in sleeping patterns 
  • being less likely to initiate conversations and feeling uncomfortable with people, or feeling there is nothing to say

The negative symptoms of schizophrenia can often lead to relationship problems with friends and family because they can sometimes be mistaken for deliberate laziness or rudeness.

Page last reviewed: 17/09/2012

Next review due: 17/09/2014

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Comments

The 26 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Thyme2000 said on 10 October 2014

- sorry, I rambled so much in my previous message that I ran out of space. I wanted to add that my father is aware of my mother's behaviour and thinks it might be related to her cancer scare as this made her very stressed and perhaps made her aware of her own mortality, she is 72 and although she is a very 'young' 72 year old I think she may have started to think that now she is retired and living in a quiet village there is not much left to do with her life.
My father thinks she may be depressed and has tried to persuade her to see her gp but she's not keen. No other members of my family including me has spoken to her about any of this as it's quite a difficult subject to broach and she has never been one to talk about her feelings.
Personally I am worried it is more than depression as it really does appear like she's not aware of saying 'please help me' over and over. However it is a very distressing thing to hear your mother or any loved one say and it makes me worry that she is desperately unhappy or not well mentally and I really want to get her some help. Right now I am at a complete loss about what to do. I can't find much information in the internet and when I asked my own gp she said if she's still carrying out everyday tasks as normal then I shouldn't worry (at that point I didn't realise she was saying please help me, I just thought it was random muttering)
Any advice or comments would be gratefully received.
Many thanks :)

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Thyme2000 said on 10 October 2014

Can anyone offer their opinion/advice?
My mother has been acting a little strangely recently (according to my father it has been happening for around 6 months).
I recently moved home after graduating from my masters degree on a temporary basis. My parents are both retired and live in a quiet village on the coast. They have a comfortable life, although my father suffers from multiple sclerosis so my mother acts as his carer. Saying that he is very independent and doesn't need a lot of assistance and they house they live in is adapted to suit his needs. About 6 months ago my mother had a cancer scare. Much to my mother and father's, my two brothers' and my relief everything turned out to be ok.
Since I have moved home I have noticed my mother whispering and muttering to herself. I have now realised she is saying the words 'please help me' over and over again. It's getting to the point that the only time she isn't saying this phrase is when she is speaking directly to me or my father (or anyone else who she happens to be having a conversation with). I've heard her saying it when she's cooking or cleaning, or even just sat watching tv. The other day we drive to where my brother and sister in law live to look after my nephew for the afternoon and she was saying it in the playground at his nursery school whilst we waited to pick him up. The strange thing is, I don't think she knows she's saying it. For example, my father cooked a curry the other night and she was saying 'please help me' repeatedly whilst opening a bottle of wine but then very normally just said 'I haven't been to an Indian restaurant in ages' . Even when for example my dad is talking to both of us, I'll be distracted by the fact that she's saying theses words very quietly but quite obviously and therefore I won't follow what my dad is saying but I'll realise that my mum is giving my dad her full attention. This makes me think that she might have schizophrenia.

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the matrix said on 18 February 2014

I have had bad psychotic episodes the last one lasting most of 2012 & spending most of that year being sectioned 6 times..both episodes were triggered by the death of my parents !7 years apart . The things I saw it was like my mind opened up yep somewhat Matrix I still to this day cannot believe that these things i expereienced & saw arent real its like I died & was reborn again. I step outside my house & it was astho there had been some kind of war the sky & air was thick & yellow & there wasnt anyone to be seen I saw three red planets in the sky I knew what it was like to live in medieval times all my friends changed towards me & there faces looked different ..it was as tho id slipped into another dimension .people were hostile to me I funnily enough remember with great clarity how vile alot of the nurses & police were to me which sickens me now as alot of people with MHI die in police custody every year..what ive been threw Im suprised Im still alive.after this i decided to move 200km from where I used to live "fresh start" as people were i lived werent understanding I rrecieved awful hostility from the ignorant people I lived near.Having moved here I have had no support from any mental health teams it is very poor Im not even sure what ive been diagnosed with Ive seen a syc twice since ive lived here makes the mind boggle ive tried the complaint root but to no avail Im actually starting to wonder if we are *mentally ill* or some peoples minds for whatever reason open in ways that cant be explained so is supressed with medication ..ive seen the past present & future & its scared the hell out of me ive seen ghosts running thro my house such bizzare stuff I could write a badly spelt book...I mentioned the matrix to the syc he wasnt amused and seemed kinda angry. anyway off to follow the White Rabbit now there knocking at the door lol im not really that crazy but without proper care i just may get there again :(

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derek01 said on 23 November 2013

Hi i have been having treatment now for a year been given loads of meds, but I still don't trust any of them, what I need to know is, do I tell them about the voices that tell me to do things especially the one that tells me to stand in front of a train. Will they try and put me away, any body got any views on this. will be much appreciated thank you

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Blakester said on 20 November 2013

I have been diagnosed with schizophrenia numerous times since the age of 17. All of my symptoms have always been induced by stress. I have never been dangerous or violent but the voices challenge me to do really weird things that make no sense. Aside from all that over the past two years I have been tormented by what feels like bugs crawling on me. It drives me insane! Occasionally there might really be a bug or fly but way to often I feel invisible bugs crawling on me. Are there any other schizophrenics with this same problem? Why have I only noticed this two years ago?

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Dolphin87 said on 06 October 2013

My friend suffers from schizophrenia, and has come off his meds. He tells me that his doctor has okayed this, but I've never heard of someone being told they can stop taking the meds when they get to a managable level.... need some advice here, could he be telling the truth?

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KeMiBo said on 03 October 2013

Useful, in understanding, and dealing with, a family member with the condition.

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dillon888 said on 10 August 2013

howdy hope ya well.

thought i might share some thoughts, the guy who mentioned the matrix struck a chord. ive had bizarre overwhelming incomprehensible episodes in the past along the same lines as if i was tuning in to the 'matrix' or tuning in to the biology of the planet i thought i was having a spiritual or divine experience but it felt very natural and orderly, geometric. it was like this latice structure organised my thoughts in a specific way to show me all about my self and the life i was leading and possibly heading. it showed me my traits and achitype. i knew it was far bigger than me whatever it was, made me appreciate how vast the brain is because the thoughts that washed over me were far to advanced and intelligent to be my day to day thought process. the things i had thought werent nonsense they are relivent to me now and i think im in good control of my faculties either that or i am round the twist. i came to the conclusion that whether im ill or not the brain cannot be that advanced and it not mean anything in regards to a creator or what not. i think the universe is far more inexplicable than we can currently comprehend. i used to be a self righteous atheist now im not. still self righteous mind you.

sorry for the grammer im writing on a playstation. ha.

take care, peace and all that xx

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Johnk217 said on 01 August 2013

Hello everyone,

Am john and i havent been diagnosed with it, however i watched a programme on tv called Failed by the NHS and the guy said when he was younger he always thought he was in a tv show luke his life and instantly i turned around and though jesus so have i and a user on this website called ScottHd said he was in the matrix kinda thing,

My symptons are like i hardly ever shower recently i dont eat much and i have lost allot of weight, and i am fed up with people like humans in general becquse thereball two-faced and never reliable i dont socialise anymore and even when i wqs younger not now i had a mental.friend called steven and in real life i had an uncle called steven but these were two different people,

I'd never talj to steven much but when i was younger and id buy games i always used to say to myself Oh yeah stevens completed this game and such.

Nowdays i dont have steven around and he hasnt been mentioned mentally anytime recently but i have felt my who life it was a tv show i even had a name for it.the kelly family, but i have tried to stop like in year 9 id say to.myself right the shows ending, but then id pretend it again and still.now i do it,

I always thought i was bi-polar, because i was depressed all the time but to be honest scysopheniac is alot more similar.

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N5283 said on 07 July 2013

I have most of the positive and negative symptoms (apart from lack of basic hygiene). I haven't been to a doctor or anything but I seriously think I suffer from schizophrenia.
I often have hallucinations of a tall shadowy figure standing in my room or somethimes other places, I often have sensations of people either touching my back or putting their fingers into my ears, I hear voices of people I know saying my name but there is no one there. Most of the comments above about the whole 'matrix' and 'false reality' are very similar to my views on life. I can get very awkward around certain people and portray very little confidence but normally I have no trouble interacing with society
I'm leaving this comment to see if anyone is similar and to seek advice.
Thankyou.

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Saiao Smith said on 11 May 2013

hearing voices

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dh006 said on 27 October 2012

I have early-onset, Dissociative Schizophrenia, Complex PTSD, Agoraphobia, Social Phobias, Anxiety Disorder and Clinical Depression. Im also a mother of 4 (until recently I was a single mother) and my children are alive and healthy and live with me. I just want to reassure you, no-one will take your child if you seek medical help. They are more likely to be concerned if you try and hide it and trudge along alone...
All the best! xx

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bunnykins123 said on 09 October 2012

hey,
i have had both negative and possitve symptoms for a long time now, i agree Scott to think im in the matrix but im the only free one if tht makes sense.
i have lost touch of reality a few times i keep thinking that this is all fake and everyone i know are actors and there pretending to no me. ive had extreme paranoia, unpredictable mood swings, insomnia, herd voices sayin my name, warning me of some things, i also to think that something stands in the corner of my room at night watcin me and one time it threw me around my bed ( i think) everything just feels different everrything is still the same thou like im looking at things things throu a transparent window, ive completly isolated myself, i walk round in dirty clothes and dont realise, problem is i have a daughter now she is always cared for and loved but i fear if i go to the doctors theyll take her off me so i guess this is why im sayin this on here instead

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Terry101 said on 29 August 2012

I have suffered from all the above symptoms and definately am schizophrenic diagnosed. I spent many years trying to hide from the fact by using drugs, alcohol, recreation amongst other things which at the time made it seem to feel better. The real truth is that the more we try to push these ideas down the more they find new and more scary ways to fight to the surface.

The answer for me was and still is, is the bravery to look inside myself not for an answer but simply to be aware of the way I m feeling and stop trying to control it.

I am currently taking no medication for my condition and feel very contented with life and have been for some time now since I have learned to meditate properly for 10 minutes twice a day.

Please dont get the wrong idea I am by no means religious or really spiritual in any kind of way, in fact I am nontheist (a wall sitter) but I have read many books and studied numerous articles on meditation and mindfulness.

One book in particular struck me as life changing. This book is called Get Some Headspace by Andy Puddicombe. I spent a while longer than usual studying this book carefully.
This guy has changed my life, I hope anyone reading this finds it as useful as I did and would appreciate any comments you have about your experience should you choose to embark.

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ScottHD said on 30 June 2012

Hi,
I am currently undergoing testing for HF autism/asperg as have since my teens had a very unique way of seeing the world. Having read the handouts and consulted with numerous MH workers I am starting to wonder if infact I suffer from schizophrenia.

I see the world as if it was a tv show, having no comprehension of reality, myself or others.... very much feels like I'm in the matrix, if that makes sense. My sleeping pattern swings dramatically month to month and I can happily lock myself away for days at a time.

I am noticing that I'm more and more forgetting to eat and shower etc. and recently hear my name being called, enough to make me turn to total strangers and reply.

My thought process used to be sharp and I was measured as having a higher than average IQ, but these days I can't seem to concentrate and forget what i'm supposed to be thinking.

My biggest worry though is that my memory is fading fast.... really fast. most days I can't remember what I was doing an hour ago..... I know where I was as matter of fact but can't recall the event. i.e. I'll know I've gone to the post office in the morning but will suddenly find myself back home in a coat without the letters I meant to post....I now have no memory of anything over a few hours and rely heavily on my diary.

My emotions seem to have shutdown completely along with sexdrive and the need for social interaction.

There is a history of foetal problems (drugs & alcohol) also massive trauma days after birth.

Am I missing the obvious here ? ........

any comments would be helpful... (I hope I remember i did this.... grrr)

S.

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mb17 said on 27 June 2012

i have been suffering from these symptoms. i have bad days when i'm mostly ok but on my bad days i suffer from hallucinations and find it difficult to sleep because of this, as im laying in bed i feel as though there is someone in my room watching me, i've even felt the sensation of being touched, but there is never anyone there, on my bad days i see things crawling over me in the corner of my eye and even feel them crawling over my skin. i hear voices sometimes mostly they are pleasent but sometimes they can be abusive and violent. i rearly leave the house as i dont like interacting with people and only have one friend i speak to once a week but i never have anything to say and my words and thoughts are usally jumbled and confused. i have considered suicide many times but to date have never made any attempts.
i visited my doctor and told her all of the above but because i'm 17 i cannot be treated as and adult or a child so instead she recommended that i start walking and visit a self help website, i usually trust her as a doctor but i left her room feeling more helpless than i did when i went in. what should i do?

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onlyhuman said on 25 April 2012

I am very worried about my brother, who I can tell is struggling with very evident symptoms of schizophrenia and the sad part, is that both me and my mother have the illness as well. He wont be told as he does not believe in medicine. at the moment i am burying my head in the sand as its too much to handle

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kevaine said on 04 March 2012

It truly saddens me to read these comments. They prove we still live in a world full of prejudice and discrimination towards people with mental health problems.
At least two people write that they are frightened they have Schizophrenia, or have a family history of the illness. This clearly demonstrates the stress and anxiety caused not only by worrying about whether one has a particular illness; but also by knowing that if one does, and requires treatment for it, then this can lead to further problems such as loss of others' respect and support - stigmatization, in a word.
Worse still is reading the comment by the poor "mother in need" whose son has Schizophrenia, and who, despite being listed for receiving support from Mental Health Services, is being left pretty much to go it alone.
We've not really changed that much from the Asylum days! Despite our society superficially having all these laws in place, and rights for disabled people (including people with mental health problems), truth is, little has changed. Many people still hold outdated, prejudicial and downright awful beliefs. They still fear, hate and stigmatize mental illness.
My mother has mental health problems, so I grew up facing bullying and discrimination. It's like people think mum is a "freak" and her illness "rubs off" on the rest of the family. People treat you like dirt, like you deserve nothing in life. Mum was meant to get support, but it rarely materialises. On the few visits she gets from doctors, or a CPN, she is able to kid them she is well, and they go away. Our family copes pretty much alone. Nobody sees the toll it takes.
We need to accept reality. Statistically anyone can have mental health problems - that could be you, or I. Surely it's better to be educated about them, and to know how to cope? They don't make you less human - just a human in need of support.

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mother in need said on 04 October 2011

Hi , I am a mother with a son with Negative Schizophrenia, i am looking for advice , to be honest desperate for advice , as my son refuses to believe he has this illness and says he can manage on his own , i constantly have to repay his debts to landlord because he cant manage his finances , have just cleaned months of dirt from his home , where is living as he says he can manage and doesnt need the support he has been offered , what i cant understand is if he has been diagnosed with this illness of which he is displaying classic signs do the social workers just accept that he refuses help and leave him to it ...why cant they be more athouritive with him and make him accept help at home with his care and finances ..i know they say he has rights but what if he is not capable of recognising that he needs the help ....where does that leave us , constantly trying to repair the messes he leaves behind him , his own lack of self care , and unhealthy enviroment he is eating in ...i dont know where to turn for help as when he decides he doesnt want it , it stops regardless of the way he ends up ...
a desperate mother who needs help

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1411Gen said on 22 August 2011

It's probably bad to worry about this but I can't really help it. My family has a history of mental health problems and a couple of years ago a relative came to live with us and she had schizophrenia and after a couple of years killed herself. So it's not an unfounded worry.
I can be really moody and overeact to things, sometimes I find it really difficult to sleep, I can also be quite uncomfortable with people and making eye contact can make me anxious. But I don't have hallucinations or delusions and I still have control over myself, meaning I'm not powerless for anyone to notice.
I just don't know if this is within the spectrum of "normality" or not. It's easier to talk about through anonymous computers than with acquaintances because that may have repercussions. Thank you.

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couscous said on 25 June 2011

I started having panic attacks on my second year at uni. The doctor pt me an prozac which did not help Gradually other symptoms surfaced, Blaming my parents, mainly my dad for everything, socially withdrawn and eventually I was put on abilify which I took for six years. Recently Idecided to discontinue all medication as it was giving me very bad side-effects. I was ok for a while but now my paranoid feeling has come back with a vengence. I am still reluctant to go on mrdition. I will be seeing my doctor on monday and I need advice as to wich is the best anti-psychotic drug to take or will the phase go away.Please help

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RosieTalk said on 13 June 2011

AllisonTowers,


Hi Allison,

If you are not coping, there are lots of people you can talk to. Your GP can advise you about the next steps to take towards feeling better.

Try and find someone you trust to talk to, like a relative or friend that you feel comfortable with. There are people who understand, and who can help you deal with the problems you are experiencing. You can visit www.samaritans.org.uk for advice, email jo@samaritans.co.uk or call 08457 90 90 90.

You can also visit A&E if you are in despair. They will have a crisis team on hand to help you.

For more information about mental health, visit http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth.

Rosie, NHS Choices

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AllisonTowers said on 10 June 2011

...I think I might have schizophrenia, but I'm also aware that I'm most likely over-reacting.
I've been reading through the symptoms list on Wikipedia (which I know only makes things worse) and I have pretty much all of the negative symptoms and as for positive symptoms, I've noticed them getting more common. Over the past week I've heard my name shouted a lot when apparently nobody said it, plus the odd olfactory and gustatory hallucinations and delusions that the world is not real, nothing here exists and that the real world is somewhere else and that it's my life's purpose to find it.
It's been really worrying me for a while now...am I just being a hypochondriac?

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jaspan said on 11 May 2011

i dont normally use online diagnosis things. usually bull.
i kinda have felt weard for a while, i get these weard idea's that i have to think certain things, and i try to think normally, but usually i kinda let myself get carried away, 'cos their's no harm. but sometimes, like the other day when i was quite high (i smoke weed quite often) i had this idea that i was in a rush to get home. i wasn't really, but i had my skateboard, and i wanted to go fast, so i just went fast as i could, but after a while it started to stress me out and i didnt want to slow down. i'd been running/skating fast for about 2 miles, and hadn't stopped (im not un-fit, but i dont do much excersise, and 2 miles is a decent run for me) i was kind of scared of something, but i didnt know what. this sounds trippy :P but yeah, i was running and i started to get bare da ja vu that i'd done this run before, and i realized that i had, but i was following *exactly* the same route i'd taken, like i could kind of feel someone in front of me telling me to hurry up, and like, teaching me to go faster, but i kind of knew it was me, and it wasn't really in-front of me. but yeah, i just kind of carried on home like this, and tripped out on my sofa, i cant really remember what i was thinking, it took ages to remember this much. when im high i get this quite often (depending on who im with) i get this sort of trippy feelings when im sober, but they dont usually control what i do. i've been like this for a while, and reading through the article, i think get alot of the symptoms for a positive schizophrenic, but then again, that's not much to go on :P. i dont ever remember having any of the negative symptoms though. (ps, my mum told me when she found my weed that their have been mental health issues in my family.)(pps, sorry this is so weird, i didn't know how else to say it)

am i a hypochondriac or should i be worried?

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User549964 said on 22 April 2011

Hello, i know this sounds stupid but I think i have something wrong with me, in my house i think people can see me, people that i know like my ex, a teacher , and that they can hear my thoughts, they can see me thru the windows. Its like i am never alone. I dont ever see anyone or hear any voices, its just that they can see me.

Does anyone know what this is ??

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BassDan said on 22 March 2010

Alrite mate, ive had same problem as you and it doesnt always mean its schizophrenia, symptoms of that tend to appear later on in life. What i can suggest to you through experience is to try and not worry about what your feelings ( i know it can be hard) and get active more take up a sport maybe or socialize with friendsmore often . Smoking or taking any drug could or most likely will make it worse for you. Also try taking cod liver oil tablets it does seem to work. If you still feel like this in about 4 weeks i suggest going to your local G.p and seeing a psyciatrist sorry i cant spell lol. Also reading about your symptoms on the internet will also make you feel worse you will convince yourself of having schizophrenia,

Good luck.

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