One of the first, and possibly most confusing, experiences a person newly diagnosed with schizophrenia will have is that of being bombarded with the many various treatment options. While there are only two large components to schizophrenia treatment, there are many subcategories that need to be understood to fully take advantage.
This can be overwhelming and hard to comprehend all in one sitting. Hopefully this page can help you or your loved ones take your time while researching a little deeper into your various options. Take your time and return as often as needed.
Realistic Expectations in Schizophrenia Treatment
Any responsible doctor or knowledgeable physician should ensure that, before you embark on this treatment adventure, that you have realistic expectations surrounding recovery. Please know that there is currently no absolute cure for schizophrenia, however it is highly manageable, much like a condition such as high blood pressure. In general, most people who are diagnosed experience a continual progress, not a worsening of symptoms.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists of the United Kingdom has released a rounded set of statistics concerning the recovery of schizophrenics. These stats are very hopeful for anyone who has recently developed schizophrenia. According to these studies, 20% of people will experience a dramatic decrease, if not a full recovery, in symptoms over the first five years since their initial symptomatic episode. 60% will become much healthier but will still have some lingering symptoms that require continual medical management. At times their symptoms may flare up, requiring more intense treatment. The final 20% will, unfortunately, struggle with their schizophrenia for the long haul. Luckily, these people learn very individualized coping methods that help them live happily regardless.
A large component of the effectiveness of these schizophrenia treatment modalities is the compliance of the patient. If the person in need of these treatments does not cooperate, such as not taking their prescription medicines or not attending therapy sessions, they may experience a relapse into the most acute levels of their symptoms. So what are these treatment options?
Psychotherapy for Schizophrenia
The therapy sessions provided by psychologists are not, in themselves, a sufficient enough treatment for schizophrenia, however, when used in conjunction with medications, it can improve recovery chances drastically. What psychotherapy serves to do is provide insight for the sufferer, into their own illness, their own thought processes, their own behaviors, and the ways they can change these items to help accelerate their recovery.
Individual Therapy Sessions
The psychologist will encourage the schizophrenic in many ways. They will insist and remind the person why it is important for them to remain on their medication regimen. They will help them acquire social skills and continue to practice them. They will also help us set small and reasonable goals so that we can achieve them, and then review what made us successful or impeded our progress. Through all of these methods we will slowly gain more and more insight into our illness until we have gained a full mastery over it. These individual therapy sessions are great. But there is additional type of therapy session that can help as well.
Group Therapy Sessions
In addition to having solo therapy with their counselor, the schizophrenic should be attending group therapy sessions as well. These sessions often allow people who are ready for outpatient treatment to return home and function well enough to remain home. These types of therapy feature sympathetic sufferers who also understand the person’s plight, and also empathetic psychologists who can help guide the conversation and help everyone plan for real life situations. It can help, keeping people with schizophrenia from being socially isolated, saving time and effort by educating everyone in a group at once, and just generally creating a support system surrounding the individual.
Another type of group therapy is the family therapy session, in which the individual and the important figures in his or her social life come together to all gain an understanding of the situation. Family and friends learn how to support their loved one, which can greatly decrease the risk of relapsing into acute symptoms. Learning to keep a low-stress home life can increase recovery rates incredibly.
Medications for Schizophrenia Treatment
Schizophrenia is a very complex illness. It affects the thought processes, produces anxiety, and affects the emotions and mood of the individual. This is why, when prescribed medicines to help treat schizophrenia, you are given several types, and not just one medication. You will likely be given an antipsychotic, to help with hallucinations and delusions, an antidepressant, to help stabilize your mood and emotions, and an anti-anxiety medicine, to help anxiety and paranoia.
One of the biggest problems surrounding these medications is that, not only does it take time to find the right dosages, but in that time there will be side effects. Some of these side effects can be difficult to deal with in the midst of other schizophrenic symptoms. This complication tends to cause some people to abandon their medication in order to avoid the added problem of the side effects, which only leads to increased symptomatic problems. The National Institute of Mental Health performed a study in which 75% of patients quit taking their medication eventually to avoid side effects, regardless of which medication they were given.
It’s important for the schizophrenic patient to understand what and why they are taking the medications. Especially in paranoid schizophrenics, it can be the case that they believe they are being poisoned and that the side effects only validate these beliefs. Family members can help make sure their loved ones take their medications. But knowing why, and building trust, can help reduce this abandonment of meds. This is why psychotherapy is a great partner to medications as a way to treat schizophrenia.
The sole reason for taking medications for schizophrenia is to help balance neurochemical levels. These neurotransmitter levels, particularly dopamine, are out of balance. These antipsychotic medications block dopamine receptors, which keep more and more dopamine in the synapse, increasing the levels. This helps reduce delusions and hallucinations. Antianxiety and antidepressant medications perform the same function, but with serotonin.
Schizophrenia Treatment Self-Help Cautions
Self-help is definitely encouraged. If an individual has found healthy coping mechanisms, then that is great! However, any form of substance use or abuse is discouraged completely. Self-medicating can not only worsen symptoms of schizophrenia but can introduce more complications such as financial and social if the individual becomes addicted to substances that aren’t approved by the government. There are plenty of healthy self-help methods to be used. Art is a fantastic way to process the very intellectual ideas and feelings that arise in the mind. Music is fantastic. Painting and drawing is excellent. Writing a novel or journal is great. We should all be doing this and other types of art.
These are the two main modalities of treating schizophrenia: psychotherapy and medication. When taken together, they offer the best chances for the highest levels of recovery possible. Medications help keep symptoms at a minimum while therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy can help correct the negative thoughts and beliefs that increase stress and anxiety, which tend to increase the prevalence of symptoms. Finding a support group and therapy system while continuing to take the prescribed medications is the sure fire way for heading towards recovery.