24 X 7 Helpline For Mental Health Emergencies
Schizophrenia Treatment Guidelines: An Essential Overview

Schizophrenia Treatment Guidelines: An Essential Overview



Robert was in his early 20s & had always been a bright student at school, great at academics and sports alike. However, inexplicably over time he started isolating himself from everyone, started living alone, started hearing voices in his head out of nowhere. This abrupt shift in his behavior and personality was evident to his parents and they were quite worried. 

On consulting a doctor, they realized he suffered from Schizophrenia – a mental illness that affects 1.1% of the world population. This story is not just of Robert, but of millions of Schizophrenia patients around the globe who are taken aback with the diagnosis. Schizophrenia can be diagnosed in anyone, but the fact is not every individual showcases the same set of symptoms as it varies with individuals and with time.

Before we move on, let us first understand ‘what is schizophrenia?, ‘what are its symptoms?’, and the factors that trigger the illness.

What is Schizophrenia – A Quick Overview

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that can affect an individual’s life functional life areas and disrupts their perception of reality. There is no known complete cure for schizophrenia, however, treatment options are available that help manages the symptoms and help a person lead a normal life.

This mental disorder is a serious condition that can affect the way a person thinks, feels, their relationships, and decision-making abilities as well.

The onset of illness not only affects the individual suffering from it but often disturbs the lives of their loved ones.

Despite the advancements in the medicine, schizophrenia continues to be a challenging condition for medical practitioners and researchers. There is no schizophrenia cure that is available for complete recovery of the patients, patients will have to seek therapy and medication for the long term to help manage symptoms and lead a normal life. 

Schizophrenia Treatment options

If you or your loved ones suffer from this illness, their treatment for schizophrenia majorly helps suppress their symptoms. However, they will need support and long term treatment to reintegrate into society. 

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

The symptoms of schizophrenia are easily recognizable as they clearly distinguish an individual from their usual behavior. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Delusions (believing in things that aren’t true)
  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
  • Incoherent speech i.e., speech that quickly switches topics with little continuity
  • Social isolation
  • Failing in expressing the emotions (emotional unresponsiveness)
  • Difficulty in paying attention
  • Lack of motivation
  • Change in sleeping patterns and body language

Causes & Diagnosis of Schizophrenia

Causes

  • Genetics
  • Imbalance of chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, etc.
  • Environmental factors like – birth trauma, viral infection, malnutrition, etc.
  • Intake of drugs and medications can also trigger schizophrenia

Diagnosis of Schizophrenia

The first step to schizophrenia treatment is receiving 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. Due to 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 diagnose schizophrenia and begin treating it, the better your chances of getting and staying well.

In most cases, the management of schizophrenia or diagnosis is taken care of by mental health specialists like psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. The diagnosis is initiated during early adulthood when the individual experiences episodes of hallucinations or delusions for the first time.

 How to Treat Schizophrenia?

Psychotherapy is one of the major talk therapies which forms part of the treatment plan for Schizophrenia; it helps professionals understand the patient’s behavior and manage their symptoms as well.

Understanding schizophrenia and its treatment allow families to make informed decisions on how best to address the illness and handle setbacks. Creating a supportive and structured environment at home is highly necessary to keep the patient relaxed and destressed. Families should be patient with the recovery pace and be careful that they aren’t intruding much to the point where the patient feels suffocated.

The successful treatment of schizophrenia depends on a combination of factors. Medication alone is not enough. 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 treatment and recovery.

You should always have a voice in the treatment process and your needs and concerns should be respected. Choose the treatment that works best, especially when you, your family, and your doctors and therapists are all working together.

Schizophrenia treatment options

Although the question of ‘how to cure schizophrenia?is yet to be answered by medical science, the management of symptoms helps patients lead normal lives.

Here are a few treatment options that are seen as effective in managing symptoms of schizophrenia:

Medications for Schizophrenia: Most doctors recommend antipsychotic drugs to minimize your symptoms of a schizophrenic episode. Their intake helps lower your feelings of anxiety within a few hours, while hallucinations or delusions can stop in a few days/weeks. Both atypical and typical antipsychotic drugs impact you differently, and hence you must understand their side effects before the intake.

 

Psychotherapy : Psychotherapy sessions are often considered as the best therapy for schizophrenia as it involves different variants of therapies depending on the symptoms of the individual. Some of the most common forms include:

 

Medications: Anti-psychotic drugs are effective in reducing symptoms, especially positive symptoms like hallucinations and delusions. There are two classes of anti-psychotic medications that are seen to be effective in schizophrenia, typical and atypical. Among them, the atypical class of medications is seen to have lesser side effects than typical. Particular medications may work for one individual while for another they might not work.

Individual Therapy: During various therapy sessions, a psychiatrist or therapist will teach the patient various ways of dealing with their thoughts and behaviors.

They will learn more about the illness and its effects on their daily routine. Once they understand the effects they will be able to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not.

Cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT: The main aim of the therapy is to try and change the individual’s way of thinking. In schizophrenia CBT helps an individual deal with symptoms like hallucinations; how to ignore them or how to function with their presence.

Group Therapy: When this gets combined with medication, it produces some of the best results. In group therapy, therapists involve the patients to discuss real-life plans, problems, relationship woes, and family disputes. In some cases, they also encourage the patients to indulge in recreational or work activity as a part of a group to minimize social isolation and focus on relationship building.

Cognitive enhancement Training: This is like brain training where the individual is taught to use and strengthen their mental abilities. They could be trained to increase their attention span, strengthen memory or organizing skills.

Family therapy and education: Family support plays an important role in helping an individual with schizophrenia. As they are in a condition where they are not able to take care of themselves the presence of family support is essential. Family members need to learn as much as possible about the disorder, its symptoms and effects to help the individual.

Social skill training: Social skill training is also seen to benefit the individual especially to enhance their interpersonal relationships. Here the individual is taught to identify and recognize social cues given by others and to appropriately respond to them.

Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT: In this therapy, a small amount of electric charges is given to the individual’s brain. In schizophrenia, when all the other treatment options fail to show any kind of improvement an ECT could be recommended.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy [ACT]: This therapy for treating schizophrenia is based on the concept of mindfulness. It doesn’t directly aim at the schizophrenia symptoms being faced by the individual rather enhances their ability to tolerate the symptoms. In this form of therapy, the individuals are asked to observe their psychotic symptoms like – hearing random voices by being open, and open-minded and not judging their own behavior rather focusing on living a meaningful life.

Vocational training: As schizophrenia can completely disrupt an individual’s life, they need to be taught to support themselves. Vocational training enables an individual to improve their existing skill and also to develop new ones. Utilization of these skills can boost the individual’s self-esteem giving them the confidence to function effectively.

Rehabilitation: Schizophrenia usually sets in completely during your early 20s. Which means it begins to affect you when you’re building your career. So, rehab can be quite important because it will include job counseling, problem-solving support, and lessons on financial management.

Rehabilitation for Schizophrenia doesn’t end in a psychiatric hospital or nursing home, or a rehabilitation center. It is a lifelong process towards managing the disability. Proper rehabilitation requires a good understanding of the problem from the family and the client’s side.

Self-help groups: If you have loved ones who are diagnosed with schizophrenia, then you have to encourage them to participate in self-help groups; this schizophrenia treatment plan is usually hosted by community centers or outreach programs.

Studies have also shown that people who have strong support systems usually respond to their treatments better than the patients who are not encouraged by friends and family.

Coordinated Specialty Care: This treatment is usually targeted at patients who are experiencing psychosis. The treatment includes a team that approaches you with a combination of education and psychological therapy.

The treatment tries to include the family as much as possible. Their main aim is to change the direction and try to catch the disease in the earliest stage before it gets worse. Studies have shown that patients who catch the disease in the early stage, can receive intensive treatments and witness long term results, as well.

Hospitalization: This treatment is suitable mostly during times of crisis or when the symptoms get severe. Hospitalization is important in these situations because they ensure proper nutrition, safety, adequate rest, and basic hygiene.

Tips for helping a family member with schizophrenia

Educate yourself: Learning about schizophrenia and its treatment will allow you to make informed decisions about how best to manage it, work towards the recovery, and handle setbacks.

Reduce stress: Stress can cause schizophrenia symptoms to flare up, so it’s important to create a structured and supportive environment for your family members. Avoid putting pressure on your loved one or criticizing perceived shortcomings.

Set realistic expectations: It’s important to be realistic about the challenges and limitations of schizophrenia. Help your loved one set and achieve manageable goals, and be patient with the pace of recovery and schizophrenia treatment plans.

Empower your loved one: Be careful that you’re not taking over and doing things for your family member that he/she is capable of doing. Try to support your loved one while still encouraging as much independence as possible.

How to look for signs of relapse?

Unfortunately, even if a person is taking medication as prescribed, relapse into an acute psychotic episode of schizophrenia can occur. But if you learn to recognize the early warning signs of relapse and take immediate steps to deal with them, you may be able to prevent a full-blown crisis. The warning signs of relapse are often similar to the symptoms and behaviors that led up to the person’s first psychotic episode.

Common warning signs of schizophrenia relapse:

  1. Insomnia
  2. Social withdrawal
  3. Deterioration of personal hygiene
  4. Increasing paranoia
  5. Hostility
  6. Confusing or nonsensical speech
  7. Strange disappearances
  8. Hallucinations

Schizophrenia treatment in India

Schizophrenia Treatment options

The effects of these treatment options may vary from individual to individual. It is more effective when the individual goes under both medications and psychotherapy. Though the effects of schizophrenia are devastating, there is still hope through the available therapies and family support.

To understand treatment options available for schizophrenia, call us now @ +91961194949.