Most people have a minimal understanding of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a complex mental health condition that affects 1 in 300 people worldwide. It can be disruptive and confusing for the individual concerned and their loved ones, but various treatment options can provide a path forward.
Schizophrenia is a severe brain disorder with signs and symptoms that begin in young adulthood and vary between individuals. Symptoms can subside and come back, and these periods are known as relapses and remissions.
The condition generally involves delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking, and strange motor behavior.
A person with schizophrenia will have false perceptions of reality. For example, they may be paranoid and view seemingly harmless people and objects as threats, or they might believe they have unusual illnesses. Schizophrenia also presents with delusions of grandeur.
It’s not uncommon for people with schizophrenia to hear one or more voices or see things that do not exist for others in the same room. For example, they may see dead relatives. These multisensory hallucinations feel real and tangible for the individual, and they often won’t realize that something is wrong.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, immediately call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Alternatively, text HELLO to 741741.
Schizophrenia can make it difficult to follow and participate in conversations. People with the disorder may appear spaced out or respond with ‘word salad’ that makes little to no sense.
You might notice repeated movements, odd posture, childlike resistance, pointless gestures and actions, and even catatonia or unnatural stillness.
In addition, the disorder can affect normal functioning, including regular facial expressions and voice modulation. Individuals may appear hyperactive, apathetic, withdrawn, unable to feel pleasure, and incapable of basic tasks like showering or complex ones like work. Some of these symptoms are striking for their similarity to clinical depression. And at its worst, schizophrenia can lead to suicidal ideation.
Before doctors reach a schizophrenia diagnosis, they must check that substance misuse isn’t to blame. They also have to look into medications or other medical conditions such as a brain tumor that may cause similar symptoms.
Healthcare professionals speak to family members to determine if there’s a family history of mental illness. They also enquire about how far back specific thinking patterns or behaviors go. If it’s been more than a month of bizarre behavior, various physical and psychiatric tests ultimately confirm a diagnosis.
Schizophrenia has no cure, but it is a treatable disease, and early treatment with rehabilitation and coordinated specialty care (CSC) is advisable to limit complications.
A combination of tailored antipsychotic medication and psychotherapy can help manage schizophrenia. These approaches don’t work overnight, but you can expect to see positive changes within a few weeks. If the condition is severe, hospitalization may be necessary.
Numerous oral antipsychotic drugs exist today, and they tend to work by balancing neurotransmitters in the brain. The drug clozapine is known to be effective when other antipsychotics fail. Doctors start patients off on low doses, and antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may round out the treatment.
Treatment can have side effects like involuntary eye blinking, dry mouth, muscle stiffness, or constipation, in which case care teams will tweak drug doses or combinations to find the best solution. Sometimes, patients are unwilling to take chronic medication, and less frequent injections can solve this issue. Instead of popping pills daily, patients can receive a shot fortnightly or every few months.
During individual therapy and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), psychiatrists teach patients to recognize triggers for psychosis and distinguish between what’s real and only in their minds. They also provide strategies for what to do in response to hearing voices or hallucinating. Individual therapy may focus on goal-setting and developing a more positive attitude towards recovery and living with mental illness.
Psychosocial therapy is all about becoming attuned to others and communicating effectively. Humans are social beings, and for the most part, well-being depends on relationships and productive interactions between members of a community.
Psychosocial therapy also hones a patient’s life skills, financial literacy, and knowledge about getting and keeping a job.
ACT isn’t group therapy—it’s customized support that addresses problems as they arise and promotes independence. A person with schizophrenia can receive help at a convenient location and at any time of the day.
Individuals with schizophrenia can join support groups and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) peer programs to find people facing similar obstacles. These sessions can be immensely informative and practical and reduce feelings of isolation.
Cognitive remediation therapy (CRT) aids with memory, attention, and social cues and often includes brain training on a computer.
The understanding and patience of friends and family members can assist individuals with schizophrenia to adapt and cope over the long term. Family education is a crucial piece of the recovery puzzle.
In cases of clozapine-resistant schizophrenia, ECT therapy may be a viable treatment option. Treatment comprises at least two sessions over a few weeks conducted under general anesthesia. Shock treatment is thus painless and can improve mood and cognition.
Schizophrenia treatment can significantly improve quality of life and long-term outcomes. First Light Recovery offers caring treatment in an intimate residential treatment in beautiful California.
Contact us in San Juan Capistrano for more information about our facility and programs.