Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it hard to:
- Tell the difference between what is real and not real
- Think clearly
- Have normal emotional responses
- Act normally in social situations
Getting a diagnosis of schizophrenia can be devastating. But it doesn’t mean you can’t live a full and meaningful life. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications and improve the chance of recovery, so if you’re worried about the possibility of schizophrenia, see a doctor right away.
With proper treatment and support, many people are able to reduce their symptoms, live and work independently, build satisfying relationships, and enjoy life.
Despite the widespread misconception that people with schizophrenia have no chance of recovery or improvement, the reality is much more hopeful.
Think of schizophrenia as similar to a chronic medical condition like diabetes: although currently there is no cure, it can be treated and managed with medication and supportive therapies.
Recovery from schizophrenia is a lifelong process. It doesn’t mean you won’t experience any more challenges from the illness or that you’ll always be symptom-free. What it does mean is that you are continuing to work toward your goals, learning to manage your symptoms, developing the support you need, and creating a satisfying, purpose-driven life.
Successful treatment for schizophrenia aims to relieve current symptoms, prevent future psychotic episodes, and restore your ability to function and enjoy a meaningful life. A treatment plan that combines medication with supportive services and therapy is the most effective approach.
Get involved in treatment
The first step to schizophrenia treatment is getting a correct diagnosis. This isn’t always easy, since the symptoms of schizophrenia can resemble those caused by other mental and physical health problems.
Furthermore, people with schizophrenia may believe nothing is wrong with them and resist going to the doctor.Because of these issues, it is best to see a psychiatrist with experience identifying and treating schizophrenia, rather than a family doctor.
If you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from schizophrenia, seek help right away. The earlier you catch schizophrenia and begin treating it, the better your chances of getting and staying well. An experienced mental health professional can make sure your symptoms are caused by schizophrenia and get you the treatment you need.
Successful treatment of schizophrenia depends on a combination of factors. Medication alone is not enough. In order to get the most out of treatment, it’s important to educate yourself about the illness, communicate with your doctors and therapists, have a strong support system, make healthy lifestyle choices, and stick to your treatment plan.
Treatment must be individualized to your needs, but no matter your situation, you’ll do best if you’re an active participant in your own treatment and recovery.
You should always have a voice in the treatment process and your needs and concerns should be respected. Treatment works best when you, your family, and your doctors and therapists are all working together.
Build a strong support system:
Support makes an immense difference in the outlook for schizophrenia especially the support of family and close friends. When you have people who care about you and are involved in your treatment, you’re more likely to achieve independence and avoid relapse. You can develop and strengthen your support system in many ways:
- Turn to trusted friends and family members. Your closest friends and family members can help you get the right treatment, keep your symptoms under control, and function well in your community. Tell your loved ones that you may need to call on them in times of need. Most people will be flattered by your request for their help and support.
- Find ways to stay involved with others. If you’re able to work, continue to do so. If you can’t find a job, consider volunteering. If you’d like to meet more people, consider joining a schizophrenia support group or getting involved with a local church, club, or other organization.
- Take advantage of support services in your area. Ask your doctor or therapist about services available in your area, contact hospitals and mental health clinics.
The importance of a supportive living environment
Treatment for schizophrenia cannot succeed if you don’t have a stable, supportive place to live. Studies show that people with schizophrenia often do best when they’re able to remain in the home, surrounded by supportive family members. However, any living environment where you’re safe and supported can be healing.
Living with family is a particularly good option when your family members understand the illness well, have a strong support system of their own, and are willing and able to provide whatever assistance is needed. But your own role is no less important. The living arrangement is more likely to be successful if you avoid using drugs or alcohol, follow your treatment plan, and take advantage of outside support services.
Put medication in its place:
If you’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia, you will almost certainly be offered antipsychotic medication. But it’s important to understand that medication is just one component of schizophrenia treatment.
- Medication is not a cure for schizophrenia. Rather it works by reducing the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia such as hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and disordered thinking.
- Medication only treats some of the symptoms of schizophrenia. Antipsychotic medication reduces psychotic symptoms, but is much less helpful for treating symptoms of schizophrenia such as social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and lack of emotional expressiveness.
- You should not have to put up with disabling side-effects. Schizophrenia medication can have very unpleasant even disabling side-effects such as drowsiness, lack of energy, uncontrollable movements, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction. Your quality of life is important, so talk to your doctor if you or your family member is bothered by side effects. Lowering your dose or switching medications may help.
- Never reduce or stop medication on your own. Sudden or unsupervised dosage changes are dangerous, and can trigger a schizophrenia relapse or other complications. If you’re having trouble with your medication or feel like you don’t need to take it, talk to your doctor or someone else that you trust.
Finding the right schizophrenia medication
Since many people with schizophrenia require medication for extended periods of time sometimes for life the goal is to find a medication regimen that keeps the symptoms of the illness under control with the fewest side effects.
As with all medications, the antipsychotics affect people differently. It’s impossible to know ahead of time how helpful a particular antipsychotic will be what dose will be most effective, and what side effects will occur.
Finding the right drug and dosage for schizophrenia treatment is a trial and error process. It also takes time for the antipsychotic medications to take full effect.
Some symptoms of schizophrenia may respond to medication within a few days, but others take weeks or months to improve. In general, most people see a significant improvement in their schizophrenia within six weeks of starting medication. If, after six weeks, an antipsychotic medication doesn’t seem to be working, your doctor may increase the dose or try another medication.
Make healthy lifestyle choices:
The symptoms and course of schizophrenia are different for everyone, and some people will have an easier time than others. But whatever your situation, you can make things better by taking care of yourself.
Not only will the following self-care strategies help you manage your symptoms, they will also empower you. The more you do to help yourself, the less hopeless and helpless you’ll feel.
- Manage stress. Stress can trigger psychosis and make the symptoms of schizophrenia worse, so keeping it under control is extremely important. Know your limits, both at home and at work or school. Don’t take on more than you can handle and take time to yourself if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
- Try to get plenty of sleep. When you’re on medication, you most likely need even more sleep than the standard eight hours. Many people with schizophrenia have trouble with sleep, but lifestyle changes (such as getting regular exercise and avoiding caffeine) can help.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. Some evidence indicates a link between drug use and schizophrenia. And it’s indisputable that substance abuse complicates schizophrenia treatment and worsens symptoms. If you have a substance abuse problem, seek help.
- Get regular exercise. Studies show that regular exercise may help reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia. That’s on top of all the emotional and physical health benefits! Aim for 30 minutes of activity on most days.
- Do things that make you feel good about yourself. If you can’t get a job, find other activities that give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Cultivate a passion or a hobby. Helping others is particularly fulfilling.
Explore options in your community:
In many countries, there are various government programs and community services that may be helpful as part of your schizophrenia treatment and recovery. To explore your options, make contact with local mental health facilities, social service agencies, support groups, and public housing authorities.
Job and social skills training
Vocational and social rehabilitation teaches basic life skills to people with schizophrenia so they can function in their families or communities. There are many different types of rehabilitation programs that can help you learn how to live more independently and make the most of your capabilities.
Vocational rehabilitation programs teach you job skills and help you find full or part-time employment. Other programs may include training in handling finances, using public transportation, communicating with others, and finding living arrangements.
The outlook with schizophrenia is hard to predict. Most of the time, symptoms improve with medication. But many people may have some trouble functioning. They are at risk of repeated episodes, especially during the early stages of the illness.
People with schizophrenia may need housing, job training, and other community support programs. People with the most severe forms of this disorder may not be able to live alone. They may need to live in group homes or other long-term, structured residences.
With the effective treatment for schizophrenia the illness can be managable, but the stigma is observed as the main factor in which people are not exploring the treatment opportunities at the right time. It is important for the person to keep him or her mentally fit and healthy, explore the opportunities to make your mind more beautiful.