How Is Schizophrenia Treated
There are different types of treatment available. Medical professionals should work with you to find the right treatment for you. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that you should be offered a combination of medication and talking therapies.
People who live with schizophrenia can respond to treatment differently.
For many treatment helps to reduce symptoms to help make daily life easier. You may find that you need to continue with treatment to keep well. For every 5 people with schizophrenia:
- 1 will get better within 5 years of their first obvious symptoms.
- 3 will get better but will have times when they get worse again.
- 1 will have troublesome symptoms for long periods of time.
What medication should I be offered?
Your doctor may offer you medication known as an antipsychotic. These reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia, but dont cure the illness. Your healthcare professionals should work with you to help choose a medication. If you want, your carer can also help you make the decision. Doctors should explain the benefits and side effects of each drug.
In the past, some antipsychotics had negative side effects. Some people find that the side effects of newer antipsychotic drugs are easier to manage.
Your medication should be reviewed at least once a year.
What type of psychosocial treatment will I be offered?
Family intervention is where you and your family work with mental health professionals to help to manage relationships.
What If I Am Not Happy With My Treatment
If you are not happy with your treatment you can:
- talk to your doctor about your treatment options,
- ask for a second opinion,
- get an advocate to help you speak to your doctor,
- contact Patient Advice and Liaison Service and see whether they can help, or
- make a complaint.
There is more information about these options below.
You should first speak to your doctor about your treatment. Explain why you are not happy with it. You could ask what other treatments you could try.
Tell your doctor if there is a type of treatment that you would like to try. Doctors should listen to your preference. If you are not given this treatment, ask your doctor to explain why it is not suitable for you.
A second opinion means that you would like a different doctor to give their opinion about what treatment you should have. You can also ask for a second opinion if you disagree with your diagnosis.
You dont have a right to a second opinion. But your doctor should listen to your reason for wanting a second opinion.
An advocate is independent from the mental health service. They are free to use. They can be useful if you find it difficult to get your views heard.
There are different types of advocates available. Community advocates can support you to get a health professional to listen to your concerns. And help you to get the treatment that you would like.
The Patient Advice and Liaison Service
You can find out more about:
What Are The 4 Main Types Of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia looks different from one person to the next. But there are four main categories into which patients fall:
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Could I Have Schizophrenia
While schizophrenia looks different from person to person, it always causes changes in your abilities and personality. Because it is so different in each person, you may experience some or all of the symptoms below.
I’m hearing voices other people tell me they can’t hear
I’m seeing things that other people tell me they can’t see
My thoughts take a long time to form, come too fast together, or don’t form at all
I’m convinced I’m being followed
I feel immune to any kind of danger; I believe I can save the world
I sometimes feel like I’m not actually in my body, that I’m floating
I used to like being around other people, but now I’d rather just be by myself
I want to end my life or harm myself
I’m having trouble remembering things, concentrating and making decisions
I’m getting confused easily
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it’s important to talk to your doctor. People who experience schizophrenia often experience symptoms of anxiety and depression, too.
A look at the terms
Below are the definitions of a few words that you might hear associated with schizophrenia.
How Common Is Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is more common than most people think. About 1 in 200 of the people in the United States will develop schizophrenia over the course of their lives. It’s also important to know that schizophrenia has many different symptoms and can show up in many different ways.
Schizophrenia is not the same as a “split personality.” A split personality is another type of mental illness. Split personality is much less common than schizophrenia.
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What Kind Of Symptoms Might People With Schizophrenia Have
People with schizophrenia may have a number of psychotic symptoms. These symptoms can come and go in phases, or they can happen only once or twice in a lifetime. When the illness begins, psychotic symptoms are usually sudden and severe.
During psychotic phases, the person may still understand parts of reality. He or she may lead a somewhat normal life, doing basic activities such as eating, working and getting around. In other cases, the person may be unable to function. Symptoms during psychotic phases include:
- Seeing, hearing, feeling or smelling things that are not real .
- Having strange beliefs that are not based on facts . For example, the person may believe that people can hear his or her thoughts, that he or she is God or the devil, or that people are putting thoughts into his or her head.
- Thinking in a confused way, being unable to make order out of the world, shifting quickly from one thought to the next.
- Having emotions, thoughts and moods that do not fit with events.
People with schizophrenia also may:
- Have a lot of energy or be overly active, or become “catatonic,” a state in which the body becomes rigid and cannot be moved.
- Talk in sentences that do not make sense.
- Not wash or groom.
- Cut themselves off from family, friends and the outside world.
- Be unable to function in school, work, or other activities.
- Lose interest in life.
- Be very sad or have mood swings.
- Have dulled emotions.
Other Causes Of Schizophrenia
Along with genetics, other potential causes of schizophrenia include:
- The environment. Being exposed to viruses or toxins, or experiencing malnutrition before birth, can increase the risk of schizophrenia.
- Brain chemistry. Issues with brain chemicals, such as the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate, may contribute to schizophrenia.
- Substance use. Teen and young adult use of mind-altering drugs may increase the risk of schizophrenia.
- Immune system activation. Schizophrenia can also be connected to autoimmune diseases or inflammation.
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Signs And Causes Of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is thought to be the result of a culmination of biological and environmental factors. While there is no known cause of schizophrenia, there are genetic, psychological, and social factors thought to play a role in the development of this chronic disorder.1
If Your Loved One Has Schizophrenia
It may be hard to form strong bonds with someone who has schizophrenia. But there are steps you can take:
Learn. The best way to build your relationship is to first learn about the persons illness, says Sandy Dimiterchik, director of community engagement at the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America, who herself has schizophrenia. Learning about the condition can help you understand what it means for someone to live with it and the type of symptoms they may have.
Listen. It can help for people with schizophrenia to share their problems and frustrations, which can lead them to the right kind of treatment. Listen to them when they have symptoms. Be compassionate and help them in any way you can, Baylerian says.
Give support. Dunn says that building relationships can be as simple as showing compassion, empathy, and acting upon it.
Make yourself available in any way you can. Emotional support and encouragement may help people be open to treatment options and make progress with their condition.
Support where theyre at, and ask questions that they can answer, Dimiterchik says. I have a close relationship with my sister and brother because we do things as a family. They are always available to talk and proud of me for the steps I have taken to improve my life.
She encourages families to strike up a conversation about whatever they want to talk about. This can help to build social skills.
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The Phases And Recovery Of Schizophrenia
Recovery from psychotic episodes is not something that can be predicted. Some people may only experience one psychotic episode that is full-blown. Others have several different episodes. Some people may recover completely, however it is recommended that patients continue with lifelong treatment and support so as to avoid relapsing.
What If I Am A Carer Friend Or Relative
It can be distressing if you are a carer, friend or relative of someone who has schizophrenia. You can get support.
How can I get support for myself?
You can do the following.
- Speak to your GP about medication and talking therapies for yourself.
- Speak to your relatives care team about family intervention. For more information about family intervention see the further up this page.
- Speak to your relatives care team about a carers assessment.
- Ask for a carers assessment.
- Join a carers service. They are free and available in most areas.
- Join a carers support group for emotional and practical support. Or set up your own.
What is a carers assessment?NICE guidelines state that you should be given your own assessment through the community mental health team to work out what effect your caring role is having on your health. And what support you need. Such as practical support and emergency support.
The CMHT should tell you about your right to have a carers assessment through your local authority. To get a carers assessment you need to contact your local authority.
How do I get support from my peers?You can get peer support through carer support services or carers groups. You can search for local groups in your area by using a search engine such as Google. Or you can call our advice service on 0808 801 0525. They will search for you.
How can I support the person I care for?
You can do the following.
There is no definition for what high risk means. It could include:
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Dealing With Stigma And Isolation
Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that happens when theres chemical imbalance in your brain. It can make it hard for you to express and effectively convey your emotions and thoughts. Symptoms may also include hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized speech.
The stigma or negative labels sometimes attached to people with schizophrenia, like lazy or unmotivated, can act as a barrier, says Krista Baker, clinical manager of schizophrenia outpatient programs at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
Claghorn knows what thats like. My family never liked me. They never accepted my schizophrenia. To them, I was just acting out or trying to get attention, she says.
Isolation can also be an issue. Baker says schizophrenia may make you speak less and desire less social contact. This can add to the struggle to form connections.
The first step to breaking down the barriers, Baker says: Its important not to blame the person for their illness.
Instead, families or support systems can help people with schizophrenia stay stable by assisting them in building social skills and getting the necessary treatment.
How Do Doctors Test For Schizophrenia
There are no laboratory tests to diagnose schizophrenia. Instead, a doctor will perform a physical evaluation, review your medical history, and may use various diagnostic tests, such as a blood test, MRI, or CT scan to rule out any other conditions. If there are no physical reasons for the symptoms, the individual is referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist, for further assessment. A diagnosis is made based on the symptoms the person is experienced and the psychiatrists observation of their behavior.
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When A Loved One Has Schizophrenia
The love and support of family and friends plays an important role in schizophrenia treatment and recovery. If you have a loved one with schizophrenia, you may be struggling with any number of difficult emotions, including fear, guilt, anger, and frustration. You may feel helpless in the face of your loved ones symptoms, worried about the stigma of schizophrenia, or confused and embarrassed by their strange behaviors. You may even be tempted to hide your loved ones illness from others.
But its important to remember that a diagnosis of schizophrenia is not a life-sentence. Recovery is possible, especially with your love and support. To help someone with schizophrenia, its crucial you:
- Accept the illness and its difficulties.
- Not buy into the myth that someone with schizophrenia cant get better or live a full and meaningful life.
- Do your best to help your loved one feel better and enjoy life.
- Pay attention to your own needs.
- Maintain your sense of humor and remain hopeful.
While dealing with a loved ones schizophrenia can be challenging, the following strategies can help you guide your loved one on the road to recovery without losing sight of your own hopes and dreams.
Tips for helping a loved one with schizophrenia
Tip : Build Your Support Network
To better support and care for someone with schizophrenia, you need to find help, encouragement, and understanding from others. The more support you have, the better it will be for both you and your loved one.
Recognize your own limits. Be realistic about the level of support and care you can provide. You cant do it all, and you wont be much help to a loved one if youre exhausted, so seek help where you can.
Join a support group. Meeting others who know first-hand what youre going through can help reduce feelings of isolation and fear. Support groups provide an invaluable venue for the relatives of people with schizophrenia to share experiences, advice, and information.
Turn to trusted friends and family members. Ask loved ones if you can call on them for support. Most people will be flattered by your request.
Seek out new friends. If you dont feel that you have anyone to turn to, its never too late to build new friendships and improve your support network.
Take advantage of support services. Ask your loved ones doctor or therapist about respite services and other support available in your area, or contact local hospitals and mental health clinics.
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Its Easy To Live In Denial
Even though your loved one isnt functioning well, isnt meeting their own expectations in life, and is using alcohol or drugs to cope, they may not see theres a problem.
Because of the natural urge to protect those you love, families can stay in denial, as well.
Its often the college that sends a young adult to the hospital for the first time because of erratic behavior or an overdose.;The parents get involved only because the college requests their child be evaluated by a psychiatrist.
Families often dont seek help on their own, says Dr. Bowers.
They may continue to struggle try to understand their loved ones symptoms. Or ignore those symptoms until they escalate, sometimes into violent behavior.
But early, continuous treatment is critical, she stresses. Without help, a young adults problems will continue especially if they use drugs or alcohol.
If you find them up all hours of the night, or painting their room black, or too irritable without their meds, or scaring their little sister, call the doctor, she says. And encourage them to keep their appointments.
Addiction And Schizophrenia Treatment
When treated independently, treatment for schizophrenia and addiction both typically involve a combination of medications, psychotherapy, rehabilitation education and self-help groups.
Dual diagnosis programs work by treating both schizophrenia and drug addiction simultaneously, instead of as two separate conditions.
Generally, detoxthe process of removing drugs from the users systemis the first step in dual diagnosis treatment. Once the users body is free of the substance, a clinical team can better assess the patients schizophrenia symptoms and determine the best course of treatment.
Antipsychotic medications are usually prescribed to help alleviate symptoms of schizophrenia caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Sometimes, several drugs may be tested before finding the right medication to treat a patients specific chemical imbalance.
While taking medication to manage their symptoms, dual diagnosis patients also attend various therapies to address the underlying causes of their disorders. One of the most common forms of therapy used in dual diagnosis is family therapy. Many individuals suffering from schizophrenia are part of high-stress families. Family therapy can help to reduce the amount and severity of stressors that can act as a trigger for both schizophrenia and substance abuse.
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.