How Families Can Help
Usually an individual who has been released from treatment for schizophrenia will be released into the hands of family members. If you are caring for a family member with the illness, it is important to know how to handle the illness. A physician may ask family members to talk to a therapist, who will teach family members coping strategies. Family members may also learn how to make sure a loved one knows how to stay on the medication and continue with treatment. Families should have all contact numbers and know where to take the individual for outpatient services and family services.Self-help groups are available for both individuals with schizophrenia and their families. Your physician can usually point you to the best self-help groups in your area. It often helps to know there are others who are going through the same or similar circumstance. Knowing there are others with the same illness can help make you feel less isolated. You can ask questions and learn what works best for them, and you can even learn new methods to cope with schizophrenia.
For more on the topic of Living with Schizophrenia, weâve included the following expert consensus documents as reference materials:
What Negative Schizophrenia Symptoms Are Like
While the positive symptoms may come to mind when you think of schizophrenia, the negative symptoms are often the most debilitating, leading people to drop out of work, school, and everything that matters to them in life, Weinstein points out.
âNegative symptoms are the absence of a certain oomph in life, the absence of normal interest and drive and motivations,â Margolis says. âAt its most extreme, that can be someone who barely talks, who just sits in home doing little or nothing.â
âWhen I looked at the world around me, it was like I was watching TV,â Dickson says. âIt feels like youâre totally cut off.â He remembers reading a description of the 2001 movie A Beautiful Mind, about the mathematician John Nash, who battled schizophrenia for decades: âIt said that Nash lived a âghostlike existence,â and I definitely can associate with that. You feel helpless, you lose your sense of self.â
For Collins, her inability to interact with the world was linked with her perception issues. âIf I tried to walk across the room, it would feel like my feet were falling through the floor,â she says. âThe boundaries keep shifting and dissolving so your ability to function physically, cognitively, and emotionally is totally gone. I couldnât even speak for years. It was like my voice got swallowed up deep down inside. I called it being in the black box: I wanted to get out, but I couldnât get out of the traffic jam that was in my head.â
When Should I See My Healthcare Provider
You should see your healthcare provider as recommended. You should also see them if you notice a change in your symptoms, such as symptoms getting worse even if youre taking your medication. You can also see them if side effects of your medication are causing disruptions in your life. Your healthcare provider can sometimes recommend alternative medications or treatments that might better treat your condition without causing those same effects.
When should I go to ER?
You should go to the ER or call 911 if you have thoughts about harming yourself, including thoughts of suicide, or about harming others. If you have thoughts like this, you can call any of the following:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline . To call this line, dial 1.800.273.TALK .
- Local crisis lines. Mental health organizations and centers in your area may offer resources and help through crisis lines.
- 911 : You should call 911 if you feel like youre in immediate danger of harming yourself. Operators and dispatchers for 911 lines can often help people in immediate danger because of a severe mental crisis and send first responders to assist.
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Is It Possible To Recover From Schizophrenia
Many people who live with schizophrenia have recovery journeys that lead them to live meaningful lives.
Recovery can be thought of in terms of:
- clinical recovery, and
- personal recovery.
What is clinical recovery?
Your doctor might have talked to you about recovery. Some doctors and health professionals think of recovery as:
- no longer having mental illness symptoms, or
- where your symptoms are controlled by treatment to such a degree that they are not significantly a problem.
Sometimes this is called clinical recovery.
Everyones experience of clinical recovery is different.
- Some people completely recover from schizophrenia and go on to be symptom free.
- Some who live with schizophrenia can improve a great deal with ongoing treatment.
- Some improve with treatment but need ongoing support from mental health and social services.
What is personal recovery?
Dealing with symptoms is important to a lot of people. But some people think that recovery is wider than this. We call this personal recovery.
Personal recovery means that you can live a meaningful life.
What you think of as being a meaningful life might be different to how other people see it. You can think about what you would like to do to live a meaningful life and work towards that goal.
Below are some ways you can think of recovery.
What can help me recover?
You may want to think about the following questions.
The following things can be important in recovery.
How You Can Live With The Illness
If you have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, the best thing you can do is to take an active role in managing your illness. Learn the warning signs of a relapse, and have a plan of action to deal with those symptoms. The sooner you respond, the less time you will spend recovering. You can also learn coping skills to deal with the worst and most persistent symptoms.Often drug abuse and schizophrenia go hand in hand. If you have been abusing drugs and alcohol, there are many places that will offer treatment for your drug addiction and the mental illness. You will get better results if you address the two problems together and find treatment for the two problems at the same time.
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Why Positive And Negative Symptoms
Symptoms of schizophrenia can be referred to as positive or negative, but they dont mean good and bad.
Disordered thinking, hallucinations and delusions are called positive symptoms because they are something added to the persons normal experience. Low motivation and decreased pleasure are called negative because they take something away from a person’s experience.
What’s It Like Living With Schizophrenia
Watch Miles talk about his experience of living with schizophrenia.
Positive and negative symptoms
Professionals sometimes talk about schizophrenia symptoms as being ‘positive’ and ‘negative’. But this doesn’t mean ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
- Positive symptoms are experiences or behaviours that the condition adds to your life. Like hearing or seeing things that others don’t, or having a belief that something is real or true when it isn’t.
- Negative symptoms are experiences or behaviours that the condition takes away from your life. Like finding things less interesting or enjoyable, moving your body less, or having less motivation.
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How Is It Treated And Is There A Cure
Schizophrenia isnt curable, but it is often treatable. In a small percentage of cases, people can recover from schizophrenia entirely. However, this isnt a cure because there isnt a way of knowing who will have a relapse of this condition and who wont. Because of that, experts consider those who recover from this condition in remission.
Treating schizophrenia usually involves a combination of medication, therapy and self-management techniques. While therapy alone is often effective for treating most mental health conditions, managing schizophrenia usually requires medication. Early diagnosis and treatment are important because they increase the chances of a better outcome.
Schizophrenia Can Be Treated
Untreated schizophrenia can lead to significant quality-of-life issues. However, symptoms can be managed with a well-rounded treatment plan.
Like other mental health conditions, treatment for schizophrenia may involve both prescription medications and therapy. However, not every persons experience of schizophrenia is the same, so what works for one person may not work for another.
It is important for anyone experiencing symptoms to immediately seek help from a trained medical professional. The earlier schizophrenia is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can start, which can make a world of difference in someones overall prognosis.
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Environment: Triggers And Influences
Research is continuing to reveal what influences a persons chances of developing schizophrenia. Some of those factors are:
- your biological mothers health during pregnancy or complications with your birth
- substance misuse
- difficult social circumstances and stressful life events
- trauma during childhood, such as abuse, neglect, parental death and bullying.
However, many people who experience these factors don’t develop schizophrenia. Were understanding more about the causes of schizophrenia all the time, but theres some way to go. What we do know is that there is no single cause.
What Can I Do If A Loved One Shows Signs Of Schizophrenia Or A Similar Condition
Because people with schizophrenia often cant recognize their symptoms or condition, they often dont believe they need medical care or treatment. That can be frustrating or frightening for both the person with the symptoms and those who care about them.
If you notice a loved one showing signs of schizophrenia or a related condition, you can try helping them by doing the following:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Schizophrenia can be a frightening condition for the people who have it and their loved ones. Despite stereotypes, this isnt a condition where any thought of recovery or living a happy, fulfilling life is impossible. If you think you have symptoms of schizophrenia, its important to talk to a healthcare provider as soon as you can. Their job is to help you, and healthcare providers especially those who specialize in mental health conditions like schizophrenia have the training to help you not feel judged, ashamed or embarrassed. If you notice a loved one struggling with symptoms of psychosis or schizophrenia, encourage them gently and supportively to get care. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference in helping people recover and manage this condition.
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Hope For The Patient And Family
A diagnosis of schizophrenia is life-changing for those affected and everyone who loves them. But, with hard work and dedication, you can help your loved one enjoy a meaningful life.
People with schizophrenia can finish college, work jobs, get married, have families and enjoy a reasonably healthy life, stresses Dr. Bowers.
But it requires a combination of good medication, supportive counseling and being connected to community resources.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers support groups for the mentally ill and their families. And organizations like Recovery International and Emotions Anonymous are excellent resources for patients, she says.
What Long Covid Is Like For These 14 People
Disability Justiceis a package exploring where the fight for disability rights and inclusion stands.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been filled with unexpected and difficult health challenges, many of which researchers are beginning to understand better. But among the challenges that still remain is long COVID a complex and often taxing illness that scientists can’t yet fully explain.
Long COVID is a group of symptoms that can form a complex chronic illness, triggered by a COVID-19 infection. Symptoms of long COVID are often multi-systemic, and can be disabling, including fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, neurological issues, gastro-intestinal symptoms, and post-exertional malaise symptoms worsening after mental, emotional, or physical exertion. Long COVID can persist for weeks, months, or years, and shares similarities with other chronic illnesses, like ME/CFS and dysautonomia, which are also sometimes triggered by a viral infection. Researchers estimate that long COVID may develop in as many as 30% of all COVID-19 cases , though other research suggests much lower numbers. Some cases may go uncounted, and long COVID is an umbrella term that includes a range of experiences. Current COVID-19 vaccines may not prevent long COVID, according to a 2022 study, but they may reduce the risk slightly overall.
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Understanding The Signs And Symptoms
For someone to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, they must experience psychotic symptoms such as abnormal thinking, odd behaviors, changes in vision, hearing, or smell. They often experience themselves, and the world, in a distorted way. For a diagnosis to be confirmed, symptoms must persist for at least six months.
In many cases, schizophrenia symptoms show up during early adulthood. It is likely that more subtle signs of schizophrenia are present earlier but may be missed. Some of the more overlooked early symptoms include poor school performance, reduced motivation, and issues with personal relationships.
Men usually develop symptoms during their late teen years and early thirties, while women usually developing symptoms during their twenties and early thirties.
Often, episodes of psychosis will decrease as people get older. However, using recreational drugs, drinking, and not taking prescribed medications can make symptoms worse.
People with schizophrenia have three categories of symptomspositive, disorganized, and negative.
How Does Schizophrenia Impact Everyday Life
For those living with the illness, life with schizophrenia is about managing symptoms when they flare up, maintaining medication needs and adjustments and staying aware of ones perceptions. People learning about this condition may wonder, how does schizophrenia affect social life? Those managing schizophrenia sometimes feel hesitant to engage socially and may restrict their connections to a few close, trusted friends and family. While this certainly isnt universally true, often people with schizophrenia are overwhelmed by too many people and prefer to keep stimulation to a minimum to avoid triggering symptoms.
Others with schizophrenia learn to mitigate symptoms and participate in social events with relative ease. Often ones ability to engage with family and friends depends on the severity of the disorder, the constellation of symptoms and ones ability to use available resources to manage them.
Working with schizophrenia can be managed when one has learned to identify the trends within their illness. Sometimes there are periods of relative calm when the symptoms are minimal and one can proceed with work and social plans uninterrupted. During difficult periods when symptoms are flaring up, people with schizophrenia can communicate their needs to an understanding employer who will work with them on taking time off and returning to work when they are able to.
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How Our Helpline Works
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For more information on AACâs commitment to ethical marketing and treatment practices, or to learn more about how to select a treatment provider, visit our About AAC page.
Helping A Loved One Cope With Schizophrenia
As with any mental health condition, it is important to show compassion and be supportive to people experiencing schizophrenia. If someone you know has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, you might wonder how you can help them successfully manage their illness.
First, learn everything you can using the many reliable resources that are available. Most importantly, you should learn about helping your loved one stick to their treatment plan. This may include ensuring that they have a reliable way of tracking their medication usage or that they have a reliable way to attend therapy sessions.
Schizophrenia can be severe, and hallucinations and delusions can be difficult to witness. It can be hard to understand what someone is going through. The most important thing is to make sure your loved one knows that you are there for them.
It is also incredibly important to help your loved one abstain from using certain substances. People with schizophrenia should stay away from alcohol and drug use. Tobacco, nicotine, alcohol, and recreational drugs make treatment difficult and can complicate symptoms. These substances also interact with antipsychotic medications, making side effects worse.
Help your loved one set long-term goals. Managing this condition is an ongoing processif people have goals, they will stay motivated to stick to their treatment plan.
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Positive And Negative Symptoms
What psychiatrists call the positive symptoms of schizophrenia are more obvious:
- Abnormal thinking and inappropriate emotions.
- Hallucinations, delusions and odd communication.
What they call the negative symptoms are more subtle and can last longer:
- Not talking much.
- Blunted feelings/little facial expression.
- Staying in bed to avoid people.
Whether their symptoms are positive or negative, people with schizophrenia dont seem to interact with the world in a healthy way, says Dr. Bowers.
Treatment And Support For Schizophrenia
The best place to start in getting a diagnosis is a GP. They can make an assessment and provide a referral to a psychiatrist for full diagnosis and treatment if needed.
Schizophrenia takes time to diagnose some people might receive a predicted diagnosis of schizophrenia quickly, but it can take six months or longer to be confirmed. A diagnosis may also change over time. For example, after new information or experiences are identified. This is normal.
Early intervention can be helpful. Although the process can be scary, it can be very useful to identify a risk of developing schizophrenia early to develop a care plan. This may include case management, support for families and carers, group programs, and minimising disruptions to school and work .
If someone develops schizophrenia, antipsychotic medications are usually a first line of treatment. Psychological therapies can also be beneficial, including cognitive behavioural therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and open dialogue . Community support programs are also available to help with social connection, physical health, accommodation, and work or school.
It is important that people experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia collaborate with their healthcare providers and are empowered to make their own treatment choices, wherever possible. Though not always easy, sticking with treatment and medication is important, especially for people experiencing paranoia.
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