- 8 Ways to Help Someone Live Well With Schizophrenia
- 1. Encourage them to schedule regular doctor appointments.
- 2. Remind them to keep taking their medications.
- 3. Take steps to help them avoid alcohol and illicit drugs.
- 4. Help them to be less stressed.
- 5. Help them maintain a healthy weight.
- 6. Try to limit power struggles.
- 7. Help them maintain their social skills.
- 8. Know that you may have to intervene, if necessary.
- Getting a Diagnosis of Schizophrenia
- What to Expect from Your First Therapy Session
- Accepting That You Need Help for Schizophrenia
- How to Tell Others About Your Diagnosis
- Handling the Stigma of Mental Illness
- Concerns You May Have About Medication
- How to Help Yourself Outside of the Therapist’s Office
- Accommodations for Schizophrenia at School and Work
- Schizophrenia Treatment and Self-Help
- Schizophrenia recovery is possible. These treatment and self-help tips can help you to manage symptoms, live and work independently, build satisfying relationships, and enjoy a rewarding life.
- Tip 1: Get involved in treatment and self-help
- Tip 2: Get active
- Tip 3: Seek face-to-face support
- Tip 4: Manage stress
- Tip 5: Take care of yourself
- Tip 6: Understand the role of medication
- Questions and Answers
- Educate yourself
- Use empathy, not arguments.
- Don’t take it personally
- Take care of yourself, too
- Maintain your social network
- Encourage your loved one to keep up with their treatment and recovery plan
- Take action if you think you or your loved one is in danger
- Helpful Hints about Schizophrenia for Family Members & Others
- How To Live With a Schizophrenic: Make Your Life Easier
- Be active against schizophrenia
- How to react during a psychotic episode
- Subtypes of Schizophrenia
- How to Live Independently with Schizophrenia
- Risks of Living Independently with Schizophrenia
- Alternatives to Independent Living
- Success Stories
- John Forbes Nash
- Tom Harrell
- Meera Popkin
- Understanding Schizophrenia
- Identifying the Signs of Schizophrenia
- Caring for a Schizophrenic Person
- Finding Treatment for Schizophrenia
8 Ways to Help Someone Live Well With Schizophrenia
People with schizophrenia may need a considerable amount of support from family members and other loved ones to finish school, find work, maintain relationships, and achieve other goals they’ve set for themselves. Although it may be challenging at times, says Krista Baker, the program supervisor of outpatient schizophrenia services at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, it’s possible for people with schizophrenia to achieve independence and improve their quality of life if they adopt some healthy lifestyle habits. Here are eight ways you can help your loved one.
1. Encourage them to schedule regular doctor appointments.
People with schizophrenia may not believe that they have an illness or need medical help. Despite these beliefs, keeping doctor appointments is critical. The sooner the person is treated, she says, the better the outcome. Arguing with people with schizophrenia or attempting to convince them that the voices they hear don’t exist isn’t an effective way to get them to seek treatment. Instead, Baker recommends reminding people with schizophrenia how treatment can help them reach whatever goals they may have for their lives. “There needs to be a sense of motivation on the person’s part,” she says.
2. Remind them to keep taking their medications.
People with schizophrenia may not notice that their medication is improving their mental health or thought processes, but they can notice the side effects. These can include tiredness, dizziness, muscle cramps, and weight gain, and may cause people to stop taking their medications. Working with a doctor to find the medication that keeps schizophrenia symptoms under control with the fewest side effects can help your loved one stick to his or her treatment plan. Medication calendars and weekly pillboxes can be used to help a person with schizophrenia remember to take medications regularly.
3. Take steps to help them avoid alcohol and illicit drugs.
When some people with schizophrenia experience symptoms, such as hearing voices, they may seek relief by using alcohol and drugs, which work quickly to help them feel different. Caregivers can help prevent substance abuse by clearing the house of drugs and alcohol and by talking to their loved one about how abstaining from drugs and alcohol can help them maintain their overall health and achieve their goals.
4. Help them to be less stressed.
Stress can make it hard for a person with schizophrenia to function and may trigger a relapse. When someone is living with schizophrenia, a loud, chaotic household and other sources of stress might intensify delusions, hallucinations, and other symptoms. “Everyone wants to be treated respectfully,” says Baker, “and we all do better in calm, inviting environments.”
However, keeping quiet to avoid upsetting the person can add to the stress of other family members. Use quiet but firm voices and create a calm and safe home environment.
5. Help them maintain a healthy weight.
Medications to treat schizophrenia can cause weight gain, which can increase the risk of obesity-related health conditions. Eating a nutritious diet is the best way to maintain a healthy weight, but not everyone can plan their meals in advance.
Baker says that caregivers can help by accompanying the person with schizophrenia to the grocery store and talking to him or her about healthy foods. A nutritionist can also help teach your loved one about making nutritious choices and educate them about meal planning. Regular exercise is also an important part of managing weight, so encourage your loved one to stay physically active.
6. Try to limit power struggles.
Schizophrenia usually sets in during late adolescence, a time when young people are craving independence and freedom. But whatever the age of your loved one, people with schizophrenia don’t want to be micromanaged and hounded about everything from taking medications to cleaning their rooms, Baker says.
Rather than using words like, “You need to go out and get a job,” she advises caregivers to focus on the person’s own goals and what needs to be done to achieve them. “We want to think about individuals moving down the same path they would have chosen if they had never been diagnosed,” she says. Family therapists can often help families avoid power struggles and work on dialogue that benefits a person with schizophrenia.
People with schizophrenia tend to reverse the sleep cycle, staying awake late into the night and then waking up in the afternoon, Baker says. Sleeping in late can disrupt routines and encourage isolation. Other symptoms of schizophrenia, such as social withdrawal and poor interpersonal skills, can also contribute to this isolation.
Caregivers can help their loved one maintain social skills by adhering to routines, including planned social activities and outings. Take an active role by getting the person into a community program, taking him or her to the park every week, or initiating contact with friends, Baker suggests.
8. Know that you may have to intervene, if necessary.
People with schizophrenia who refuse treatment or help of any sort may need to be hospitalized. In some cases, families may need to call the police for help if their loved ones become a danger to themselves or others. Once treatment starts and symptoms subside, families can redirect their loved ones back toward their life goals.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, each step toward these goals should be small, and they should be taken one at a time. “Treatment works, but it doesn’t work overnight,” says Baker. “It’s a process.”
One percent of Americans have schizophrenia, and a majority of them will receive a diagnosis before the age of 30.1 Schizophrenia can be a scary word to hear when you’re experiencing a mental health challenge. But advances in medication and treatment for schizophrenia have made living with schizophrenia easier and more manageable. With the right support, an individual with schizophrenia can live a full and healthy life, finding both meaningful work and relationships.
Getting a Diagnosis of Schizophrenia
If you report your symptoms to a doctor or another healthcare professional, they will likely refer you to a psychiatrist who can give you a diagnostic evaluation. The psychiatrist will review your medical record, ask you questions about current and past symptoms, and observe your functioning. They may also ask you about your family’s history of mental illness.
To receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia, you have to have experienced symptoms for more than a month. Symptoms can include:2
- delusional thinking
- disorganized speech or behaviors
- poor hygiene
- lack of interest in activities
- lack of facial expressions
Your psychiatrist will also rule out other possible diagnoses, such as schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder, and make sure that the symptoms are not caused by drugs or other medical conditions.
When you receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia, your psychiatrist is likely to also prescribe you medication to begin treating symptoms. They will also refer you to a therapist or counselor for psychotherapy, or assign you to a treatment team who will oversee your care.
What to Expect from Your First Therapy Session
During your first therapy session after your diagnosis, you’ll likely have to answer questions about your symptoms and personal history. Part of a therapist’s job is to assess risk and make sure that you are safe and healthy as you engage in treatment.
Your first therapy session is also an opportunity for you to ask questions about your treatment and about the therapist. Your therapist should tell you what theory or techniques they use to work with their patients and inform you about their experience working with people living with schizophrenia. If you don’t feel a connection with your therapist, don’t hesitate to inquire about other therapists who might be a better fit for you.
During your first therapy session, you and your therapist should also outline a few goals that you’ll have for generally the first 3-6 months of treatment. Goals can include areas such as mental health, physical health, work, relationships, and other parts of life you’d like to improve. Share what progress or changes you’d like to see, and consider how you’d like to measure these goals along the way.
Accepting That You Need Help for Schizophrenia
Getting a diagnosis of schizophrenia can feel overwhelming for anyone. If you’ve managed your mental health on your own until now, it can be difficult to accept that you need a treatment team and medication to feel better. The sooner you get help for schizophrenia, the less likely you are to experience more serious symptoms and a steep decline in your mental and physical health.
If you’re experiencing symptoms, such as paranoia or other delusions, you might find that you feel suspicious of giving anyone personal information or taking medication that is unfamiliar to you. It’s your treatment team’s job to help you feel safe and heard, so never hesitate to express your concerns. Sometimes bringing along a loved one with you to appointments is helpful. That way you can ask questions and give your focus to the therapist. Have your family member or friend assist by taking notes you can review later if necessary.
It’s also important to keep taking medication when you feel better. Symptoms will return and likely worsen if you stop medication or do not take it as prescribed. Stopping medication also puts you at risk for self-medicating with drugs or alcohol which can make your symptoms much worse.
How to Tell Others About Your Diagnosis
After you receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia, you may have fears or concerns about how others will react. The odds are that if your symptoms have gone untreated for some time, friends, family, and coworkers may already know that you are struggling with a mental health challenge.
While your health information—and conversations between you and your therapist—are private, having a solid support system can be an important part of treating schizophrenia successfully. For instance, friends and family who are made aware of the signs that your mental health is declining may be able to intervene in a way that can make it less likely for you to experience a severe relapse of symptoms. Your therapist can help you create a plan for communicating your diagnosis with loved ones and help you think about what information you’ll need to give your employer.
Handling the Stigma of Mental Illness
Though the public is becoming more educated in general about mental illness, stigma still exists when it comes to schizophrenia. Some believe that all people with schizophrenia are likely to be violent, or that they cannot hold steady employment. Or, they may believe that the behavior of a person with schizophrenia could change suddenly and unexpectedly. None of these myths are true, and educating yourself about the diagnosis can help you answer the questions of loved ones.
Joining a peer support group at your local community center or through your health care provider can also give you a space to share your frustrations about stigma and gain encouragement from others facing similar challenges. Never hesitate to share with your therapist your concerns about dealing with stigma.
Concerns You May Have About Medication
Medication is an important component of treating schizophrenia, but it’s common to have reservations or questions about taking psychiatric medications. It’s your psychiatrist’s job to help you find the best medication that works for you and also has the fewest side effects.
Atypical antipsychotics are the most commonly prescribed medications for schizophrenia, and they have a much lower risk of serious side effects than previous generations of antipsychotic medications.3
Your treatment team can also help you manage your medication and is available to listen to the feedback you have about side effects. Don’t be discouraged if it takes several tries before you find the right combination of medications to effectively treat symptoms as it can be different for everyone living with schizophrenia.
How to Help Yourself Outside of the Therapist’s Office
People with schizophrenia are at increased risk for premature death, and one of the reasons is that they tend to have poor lifestyle habits. They are less likely to exercise and eat healthfully and they are more likely to smoke and abuse substances. Weight gain can also be a side effect of certain medications.4
Talk to your doctor about how a healthy diet and exercise routine can improve your overall mood and decrease the possibility of a relapse of symptoms. Your therapist can also help you generate a list of healthy coping strategies which can boost energy level and mood. These might include:
- Relaxation exercises (i.e. mindfulness techniques, yoga)
- Engaging hobbies and interests
- Spending time with friends and family
- Attending a support group
Accommodations for Schizophrenia at School and Work
Once you receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia, you may be eligible for certain accommodations at your school or work.
For grades K-12, students with a mental illness may be eligible for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 plan that will provide accommodations to help them succeed.5
College, graduate school, or technical school students can apply through the organization’s version of the office of disability services to receive academic, residential, or other accommodations. People with schizophrenia may also qualify to receive mental health services on campus.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to make accommodations within reason for you to be able to perform your job. If you’re searching for employment, you may qualify to receive vocational rehabilitation services from your state agency.6
If you think you might have schizophrenia and are unsure of what to do, reach out to your doctor or a friend or family member and share your thinking with them. Together you can create a plan to get you the best support and treatment for you.
Article Sources Last Updated: May 24, 2019
Knowing what to do for the symptoms of psychosis can be very difficult because you may not know what to say or do. This can be a very stressful and confusing time for everyone, so just know that there isn’t really a “right” thing to say or a “correct” way to behave or react. There are some things that you can keep in mind that may be helpful. Try and understand what the person may be experiencing, like hallucinations or delusions, which will seem very real to them. Try not to take anything that they may say personally, keeping in mind that they aren’t behaving and talking as they normally would. Avoid long debates in which you try to convince them that their delusions or hallucinations aren’t real, because this will make them feel like they can’t talk to you about what they’re going through. Try to find things to talk about that are neutral, instead of concentrating on their mistaken beliefs; this will most likely not upset them or get you frustrated. As tempting as it may be, don’t go along with their delusions or hallucinations, just listen and sympathize with what the person is experiencing. You might want to say something like, although you’re finding it difficult to understand what they are going through, you do realize that they must be very scared, frustrated, or angry. If it’s at all possible, try and minimize the stress and stimulation around the home during these times. Also, when someone is experiencing or recovering from a psychosis, they can almost seem child-like, and may need your help in making decisions. Show your concern and care for the person by avoiding confrontations, and not criticizing or blaming them.
Another very important risk-factor to be aware of is that a person who is experiencing, or who has experienced, a psychotic episode has an increased potential for depression and suicidal thoughts. Any threats or gestures of self-harm must be taken very seriously. Seek medical and/or mental healthcare assistance immediately if you think that your loved one might harm themselves. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about how they’re feeling, asking them if they feel safe, or if they’ve been thinking about hurting themselves. To talk about suicide does not make it happen, but can, in fact, make it possible to take action in preventing it from happening. Another issue to this risk-factor is that of confidentiality. Often when dealing with someone who is mentally ill, you be placed in an ethical quandary on what to do when the person shares “secret” thoughts or information with you, especially regarding suicide or possible harm towards others. This can put a huge emotional strain on you, deciding between maintaining their confidence or looking after their best interest. Although everyone’s experience is different, one thing that every caregiver must do is to make sure and pass along any information received suggesting that a person is at risk of harming themselves or somebody else, to a doctor or other healthcare professional, and get that person to a health professional as soon as possible. Even if a loved one seems to be angry or feels betrayed, you have a clear duty of care that overrides any suicidal or homicidal pacts or plans.
Just make sure that you don’t make them any promises that can’t be kept, but remain supportive, compassionate, and firm as to where actual confidentiality must end. Things that you might want to say when finding out about such plans include: “I would like to help you”; “I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but I am ready to listen”; “I care about you and I think it might be a good idea to talk things over with your doctor”; “I would like to help you, however, you need to tell me how I can best go about this”; “I can’t keep your suicide plan to myself. I would like to arrange for us to go and see a doctor together”. Be sure to not say things like: “You need to pull yourself together and snap out of it”; “Let me tell you about my problems, which I’m sure will help you to forget about yours”. These remarks aren’t supportive, helpful, or compassionate, and may be dangerous.
With medication, therapy and time, your loved one may show signs of being able to handle more responsibility, once the psychotic episodes subside and no longer pose a constant threat. Talk to them about how they feel when it comes to doing more things, and a good place to begin is with self-care tasks like personal hygiene, getting dressed, and eating scheduled meals. Start assigning simple household chores, and observe whether they want to work alone or with others. For example, they may like to clean the living room, but they may not like someone else dusting in there at the same time.
Try to encourage them gently, never forcefully, to be a part of social gatherings when appropriate. Keep gatherings small and intimate, with one or two relatives or friends over for dinner instead of an all-day affair with the entire clan, like a wedding or family picnic; this may cause frustration and stress, helping to set the stage for another episode. Always discuss your plans with them, and suggest going on an outing once a week, like a drive or a walk in the country; go somewhere peaceful and quite, not hectic and noisy like a city. If you want to take them out to eat, find a nice, small restaurant and go during the least busy part of the day. Don’t ask too many questions, like, “What are you thinking about?” or “Why are you doing that?” Talk about outside events that aren’t too emotional, perhaps discussing a movie or Television program, instead of world affairs and politics. Know too, that it may be difficult for them to talk about anything, but that they still enjoy your company. In this case, consider watching television, listening to music, playing cards, or even reading to them. Begin to encourage them to take some responsibility, such as leaving them instructions about starting dinner in case you’re going to be late getting home that night. Help them learn how to deal with the stress of being out among society by suggesting that they accompany you to a washroom if they begin to feel panicky in a public place, until the feeling passes.
Remember that family caregivers are often times the only friends a loved one has, so try to be a friend as well, by inviting them to come with you when you do different things, but never force them to have to go. Last, but not least, always respect your loved one’s concerns about their illness. If they ask you not to share the nature of their disease with other family members or friends, then don’t, even if you feel you have a lot of experience that may help other caregivers going through the same thing. Respect, patience, compassion and gentleness will go a long way to help you both take control of the disease, and begin living life to its fullest again.
Schizophrenia Treatment and Self-Help
Schizophrenia recovery is possible. These treatment and self-help tips can help you to manage symptoms, live and work independently, build satisfying relationships, and enjoy a rewarding life.
Getting a diagnosis of schizophrenia can be devastating. You may be struggling to think clearly, manage your emotions, relate to other people, or even function normally. But having schizophrenia doesn’t mean you can’t live a full and meaningful life. Despite the widespread misconception that people with schizophrenia have no chance of recovery or improvement, the reality is much more hopeful. Although currently there is no cure for schizophrenia, you can treat and manage it with medication, self-help strategies, and supportive therapies.
Since schizophrenia is often episodic, periods of remission from the severest symptoms often provide a good opportunity to start employing self-help strategies that may help to limit the length and frequency of future episodes. A diagnosis of schizophrenia is not a life-sentence of ever-worsening symptoms and hospitalizations. In fact, you have more control over your recovery than you probably realize.
The majority of people with schizophrenia get better over time, not worse. For every five people who develop schizophrenia:
- One will get better within five years of experiencing their first symptoms.
- Three will get better, but will still have times when their symptoms get worse.
- One will continue to have troublesome symptoms.
What does schizophrenia recovery mean?
Coping with schizophrenia is a lifelong process. Recovery doesn’t mean you won’t experience any more challenges from the illness or that you’ll always be symptom-free. What it does mean is that you are learning to manage your symptoms, developing the support you need, and creating a satisfying, purpose-driven life.
A schizophrenia treatment plan that combines medication with self-help, supportive services, and therapy is the most effective approach.
Encouraging facts about schizophrenia
- Schizophrenia is treatable. Currently, there is no cure for schizophrenia, but the illness can be successfully treated and managed. The key is to have a strong support system in place and get the right treatment and self-help for your needs.
- You can enjoy a fulfilling, meaningful life. With the right treatment, most people with schizophrenia are able to have satisfying relationships, work or pursue other meaningful activities, be part of their community, and enjoy life.
- Just because you have schizophrenia doesn’t mean you’ll have to be hospitalized. If you’re getting the right treatment and sticking to it, you are much less likely to experience a crisis situation that requires hospitalization.
- Most people with schizophrenia improve. Many people with schizophrenia regain normal functioning and even become symptom-free. No matter what challenges you presently face, there is always hope.
Tip 1: Get involved in treatment and self-help
The earlier you catch schizophrenia and begin treatment with an experienced mental health professional, the better your chances of getting and staying well. So, if you suspect you or a loved one is exhibiting schizophrenia symptoms, seek help right away.
Successful schizophrenia treatment depends on a combination of factors. Medication alone is not enough. It’s important to also educate yourself about the illness, communicate with your doctors and therapists, build a strong support system, take self-help measures, and stick to your treatment plan. Pursuing self-help strategies such as changing your diet, relieving stress, and seeking social support may not seem like effective tools to manage such a challenging disorder as schizophrenia, but they can have a profound effect on the frequency and severity of symptoms, improve the way you feel, and increase your self-esteem. And the more you help yourself, the less hopeless and helpless you’ll feel, and the more likely your doctor will be able to reduce your medication.
While schizophrenia treatment should be individualized to your specific needs, you should always have a voice in the treatment process and your needs and concerns should be respected. Treatment works best when you, your family, and your medical team all work together.
Your attitude towards schizophrenia treatment matters
Accept your diagnosis. As upsetting as a diagnosis of schizophrenia can be, resolving to take a proactive role in treatment and self-help is crucial to your recovery. That means making healthy lifestyle changes, taking prescribed medications, and attending medical and therapy appointments.
Don’t buy into the stigma of schizophrenia. Many fears about schizophrenia are not based on reality. Take your illness seriously but don’t buy into the myth that you can’t improve. Associate with people who see beyond your diagnosis, to the person you really are.
Communicate with your doctor. Help your doctor ensure you’re getting the right type and dose of medication. Be honest and upfront about side effects, concerns, and other treatment issues.
Pursue self-help and therapy that helps you manage symptoms. Don’t rely on medication alone. Self-help strategies can help you to manage symptoms and regain a sense of control over your health and well-being. Supportive therapy can teach you how to challenge delusional beliefs, ignore voices in your head, protect against relapse, and motivate yourself to persevere with treatment and self-help.
Set and work toward life goals. Having schizophrenia doesn’t mean you can’t work, have relationships, or experience a fulfilling life. Set meaningful life goals for yourself beyond your illness.
Getting a diagnosis
The first step to schizophrenia treatment is getting 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 and resist going to the doctor.
Because of these issues, it is best to see a psychiatrist with experience identifying and treating schizophrenia, rather than a family doctor.
Tip 2: Get active
As well as providing all the emotional and physical benefits, regular exercise can even help to manage symptoms of schizophrenia. Unless you’re experiencing a psychotic episode, getting physically active is something you can do right now to improve your focus, relieve stress, give you more energy, help you sleep, and make you feel calmer.
You don’t have to become a fitness fanatic or join a gym, but rather, find a physical activity you enjoy and aim for 30 minutes of movement on most days. If it’s easier, three 10-minute sessions can be just as effective. Rhythmic exercise that engages both your arms and legs, such as walking, running, swimming, or dancing, can be especially effective at calming your nervous system. Instead of focusing on your thoughts, try to focus on how your body feels as you move—how your feet hit the ground, for example, the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of the wind on your skin.
Tip 3: Seek face-to-face support
Connecting face-to-face with others is the most effective way to calm your nervous system and relieve stress. Since stress can trigger psychosis and make the symptoms of schizophrenia worse, keeping it under control is extremely important. Find someone you can connect with face to face on a regular basis—someone you can talk to for an uninterrupted period of time who will listen to you without judging, criticizing, or continually becoming distracted.
As well as helping to relieve stress, having the support of others can make a huge difference in the outlook for schizophrenia. When people who care about you are involved in your treatment, you’re more likely to achieve independence and avoid relapse.
Ways to find support
Turn to trusted friends and family members. Your loved ones can help you get the right treatment, keep your symptoms under control, and function well in your community. Ask loved ones if you can call on them in times of need. Most people will be flattered by your request for support.
Stay involved with others. If you’re able to continue work or education, do so. Otherwise, pursue a passion, cultivate a new hobby, or volunteer to help other people, animals, or causes important to you. As well as keeping you connected, helping others can give you a sense of purpose and boost your self-esteem.
Meet new people. Joining a schizophrenia support group can help you meet other people dealing with the same challenges and learn important coping tips. Or get involved with a local church, club, or other organization.
Find a supportive living environment. People with schizophrenia often function best when they’re able to remain at home, surrounded by supportive family members. If that’s not a viable option for you, many communities offer residential and treatment facilities. Look for a living environment that is stable, makes you feel safe, and will enable you to follow your treatment and self-help plans.
Take advantage of support services in your area. Ask your doctor or therapist about services available in your area or contact hospitals and mental health clinics, or see the hotlines and support section below for links to support services.
Tip 4: Manage stress
The day-to-day stress of living with a challenging emotional disorder such as schizophrenia can be draining. High levels of stress also increase the body’s production of the hormone cortisol, which may trigger psychotic episodes. As well as exercising and staying socially connected, there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce your stress levels:
Know your limits, both at home and at work or school. Don’t take on more than you can handle and take time for yourself if you feel overwhelmed.
Use relaxation techniques to relieve stress. Techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation can put the brakes on stress and bring your mind and body back into a state of balance.
Manage your emotions. Understanding and accepting emotions—especially those unpleasant ones most of us try to ignore—can make a huge difference in your ability to manage stress, balance your moods, and maintain control of your life. See HelpGuide’s Emotional Intelligence Toolkit.
Tip 5: Take care of yourself
Making simple lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on the way you feel as well as your symptoms.
Try to get plenty of sleep. When you’re on medication, you most likely need even more sleep than the standard 8 hours. Many people with schizophrenia have trouble with sleep, but getting regular exercise, reducing sugar in your diet, and avoiding caffeine can help.
Avoid alcohol and drugs. It can be tempting to try to self-medicate the symptoms of schizophrenia with drugs and alcohol. But substance abuse complicates schizophrenia treatment and only worsens symptoms. If you have a substance abuse problem, seek help.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Eating regular, nutritious meals can help avoid psychosis and other schizophrenia symptoms brought on by substantial changes in blood sugar levels. Minimize sugar and refined carbs, foods that quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy. Boost your intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish, fish oil, walnuts, and flaxseeds to help improve focus, banish fatigue, and balance your moods.
Tip 6: Understand the role of medication
If you’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia, you will almost certainly be offered antipsychotic medication. The two main groups of medications used for the treatment of schizophrenia are the older or “typical” antipsychotic medications and the newer “atypical” antipsychotic medications. It’s important to understand that medication is just one component of schizophrenia treatment.
Medication is not a cure for schizophrenia and only treats some of the symptoms. Antipsychotic medication reduces psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and disordered thinking. But is much less helpful for treating symptoms of schizophrenia such as social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and lack of emotional expressiveness.
You should not have to put up with disabling side effects. Schizophrenia medication can have very unpleasant—even disabling—side effects such as drowsiness, lack of energy, uncontrollable movements, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction. Your quality of life is important, so talk to your doctor if you’re bothered by side effects.
Never reduce or stop medication on your own.
Sudden or unsupervised dosage changes are dangerous, and can trigger a schizophrenia relapse or other complications. If you’re having trouble with your medication or feel like you don’t need to take it, talk to your doctor or someone else that you trust.
Questions and Answers
Author: Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division
We naturally want to help a loved one who isn’t feeling well. How we can or should help may seem fairly obvious when a loved one experiences a physical health problem, but many people say they’re not sure how to best help when a loved one experiences a mental illness like schizophrenia. Here are some tips:
You don’t have to be an expert in schizophrenia, but learning more can help you understand what’s going on. There are a lot of myths about schizophrenia, so it’s a good idea to find some trustworthy resources. Our Schizophrenia info sheet is a great place to start. You can also find a lot of information from the BC Schizophrenia Society.
Sometimes talking about problems or concerns can really help. It’s important to understand that talking about something difficult like experiences of schizophrenia can be very hard for your loved one—and the symptoms of schizophrenia can also make conversations difficult. If a loved one opens up to you, listen actively—that is, without distractions like your phone or the TV. Really pay attention to what they have to say. Give them time to finish their thoughts, even if it takes a bit longer than usual. Listen with empathy and without judgement. Even if you don’t understand the problem or you see the problem in a different way, your main concern is the distress or difficult feelings your loved one is experiencing. You can find in-depth tips on listening and communicating well in Module Three of the Family Toolkit. Some people are not ready to talk about everything at once, or at all. That’s okay! Respect your loved one’s boundaries and let them tell you when they’re ready to talk.
Use empathy, not arguments.
Symptoms of schizophrenia like hallucinations (sensations that aren’t real, like hearing voices) or delusions (beliefs that can’t be true, like believing that you are being followed by a spy) can take some time to stop even when people are receiving treatment and following their treatment plan. As a group, these very distressing symptoms are called psychosis. Many people have a hard time responding to a loved one’s hallucinations or delusions. It’s best to avoid arguing about these experiences. Remember that delusion are symptoms of schizophrenia—they are not thoughts that you can talk someone out of. Telling someone that their experiences aren’t real or aren’t true doesn’t help when the experiences feel very real to that person! A better approach is to empathize with the feelings that hallucinations or delusions bring up—without confirming or denying the hallucination or delusion. For example, if a loved one is frustrated or upset when they hear voices, it isn’t helpful to say something like, “You’re okay! It isn’t real. I don’t hear anything.” Instead, you might say, “I can only image how upsetting that voice must be. I can see the voice makes you feel scared.” Know that with good treatment and support, symptoms like hallucinations and delusions become much easier for people to manage and lose importance.
Ask how you can help. When people experience a serious mental illness like schizophrenia, they may want to plan how they can take action if they start to feel unwell again, especially if they have dependent children. These plans, such as advanced directives or Ulysses Agreements, are made when a person feels well and are meant to communicate their wishes to loved ones and their care team. Ask your loved one if they have a plan in place so you know what they need if they need help. If you’d like to learn more about planning for care, see the BC Schizophrenia Society.
If a loved one is experiencing an episode of psychosis or is recovering for an episode of psychosis, they might need extra help. For example, people who are actively experiencing hallucinations or delusions might need a lot of personal space and feel uncomfortable being around a lot of people or even making eye contact. When people are recovering from an episode of psychosis, they may need a quiet space and a lot of rest. Sometimes people can get back into their usual routines fairly quickly, while other times it may take a lot of time (and effort) to get back into routines. Keep in mind that too much help can be a bit counterproductive. It may well be faster and easier for you to take care of your loved one’s tasks or chores yourself, but rebuilding activity and confidence are a big part of recovery. Encourage and support your loved one as they take on daily responsibilities, and let them tell you when they need extra help.
Don’t take it personally
Schizophrenia can be a difficult illness—for everyone. During episodes of psychosis, your loved one may experience frightening sensations that you can’t understand. They may act in ways that you don’t understand. Other symptoms of schizophrenia can make it hard for people to express emotions or feelings, communicate clearly, or seem interested in others. It’s important to know that these are symptoms of an illness. They are no one’s fault, but they can still be hard to cope with. Consider reaching out to a family and friends support group for your own support. The BC Schizophrenia Society has a directory of groups around BC at www.bcss.org/monthly-meetings-calendar/.
Take care of yourself, too
As a family member, it’s important to take care of yourself. Try to maintain your regular schedule and activities, such as your exercise routine and hobbies. Ask another family member or good friend to provide help with caregiving, especially in the early days of your loved one’s illness. If you need help balancing time for self-care with caregiving duties, check out the BC Schizophrenia Society’s Family Respite Program.
Try to maintain your friendships or the network of people that you have in your life. These will later become important supports as your loved one recovers. Educate them and update them on your loved one’s recovery. People are sometimes afraid to ask questions about schizophrenia and this will put them at ease.
Encourage your loved one to keep up with their treatment and recovery plan
This is very important! You are not responsible for your loved one’s treatment (unless your loved one is your child under 19), but you can support them. Schizophrenia can make it difficult for people to make and go to appointments and follow their treatment plan. With your loved one’s permission, you may choose to help by reminding them of appointments, taking them to appointments, or whatever helps in your situation. If your loved one isn’t happy with their treatment or would like to try a new approach, you can encourage them to talk with their care team, like their doctor or mental health team—it can be dangerous to stop or change a treatment without a doctor’s support.
Treatment can be a difficult area for loved ones. It’s hard to see someone you love in pain. You might be scared of the things your loved one is experiencing. You want to help. But in order for any treatment to work, your loved one needs to be active in their care. Forcing or threatening treatment generally doesn’t work (or if it does, in the case of an emergency, only for a short time) and can often hurt everyone involved. In most cases, anyone 19 years of age and older and not at risk of harm is free to make their own choices. And their choices may include refusing treatment or choosing a treatment that you disagree with. It helps everyone if you can be respectful and keep honest communication open between you. You can learn more about dealing with this situation in Q&A: An adult in my life seems ill and won’t find help. What can I do?.
Take action if you think you or your loved one is in danger
If you think your loved one is at risk of harming themselves or others and they refuse help, it is possible to have them evaluated by a psychiatrist under the Mental Health Act. This process may involve police and other first responders, and it can be a difficult and stressful process for everyone. But it can also be a necessary step if someone is in danger. You can learn more about the Mental Health Act in the info sheet Families Coping with a Crisis and you can find the Guide to the Mental Health Act at . For a more in-depth discussion of the Mental Health Act, see a video with lawyer and health law consultation Gerrit Clements.
If your loved one says that they have thoughts of ending their life, it’s important to take action. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) at any time or message online at www.crisiscentrechat.ca between noon and 1am. If you think your loved one is in immediate danger, you can always call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room.
Where can I learn more?
- Dealing with Psychosis: A Toolkit for Moving Forward with Your Life is aimed at people experiencing schizophrenia, but it has good information on symptoms and strategies for managing the illness. There is also a chapter for support people
- Helping a Friend You’re Worried About info sheet
- Supporting a Friend or Family Member with a Mental Illness info sheet
- The Family Toolkit workbook—it has good information for anyone who is supporting someone they care about
- Family Self-Care and Recovery from Mental Illness workbook
- Preventing Relapse of a Mental Illness info sheet
The Canadian Mental Health Association promotes the mental health of all and supports the resilience and recovery of people experiencing a mental illness through public education, community-based research, advocacy, and direct services. Visit www.cmha.bc.ca.
Q&A is for readers who want to take charge of their well-being, support a friend or loved one, find good help, or just learn more about mental health and substance use. Here, the information and resource experts at HeretoHelp will answer the questions that we’re asked most often. We’ll offer tips and information, and we’ll connect you with help in BC, Canada. If you have a question you’d like to ask, email us at , tweet @heretohelpbc, or log in to HeretoHelp and post a comment on this page.
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Helpful Hints about Schizophrenia for Family Members & Others
Family and friends of a person with schizophrenia often do their best to support their loved one initially, but over time, may find themselves frustrated by the what seems like a lack of progress while the person is in treatment or even their inability to even continue treatment. A family’s emotional support may wane, and some families will feel the need to terminate communication with their schizophrenic loved one.
It may be difficult to maintain a friendship with a schizophrenic person, as well, due to friends feeling helpless and unable to really understand the situation. The friendship may drift apart when the schizophrenic person experiences delusions or hallucinations; the friend may feel ill-equipped to handle it. The schizophrenic person may also drop out of treatment, which can also leave a friend unsure as to what to do. While friends and family want the best for their loved one, the most common challenge for them is not really knowing how to help – or offer sustained support – to their loved one who suffers from schizophrenia. With continuous, long-term support a person with schizophrenia may be less inclined to become homeless or unemployed.
Support options can be varied. Not only can family and friends be potential sources for encouragement for a schizophrenic person, but also shelter operators, roommates, case managers, residential or day program providers, and churches. While many patients reside with their families, it is not always the case that families are the primary support system for those with schizophrenia.
There are a number of instances in which people with schizophrenia may need help from people in their family or community. Often, a person with schizophrenia will refuse to go to treatment, believing they do not require psychiatric help and their that delusions or hallucinations are real. At times, family or friends may need to take an active role in having them evaluated by a professional.
Civil rights may be an obstacle for those trying to get help for their loved one with schizophrenia. Strict laws protecting patients from involuntary commitment may prevent families from getting a severely mentally ill loved one the help they need, which can be frustrating for all involved in seeking treatment. These laws vary from state to state; generally, when people are dangerous to themselves or others due to a mental disorder, the police can assist in getting them an emergency psychiatric evaluation and even hospitalization, if needed. In some situations, staff from a local community mental health center can evaluate an individual’s illness at home if he or she will not voluntarily go in for treatment.
6 Tips to Help Family Members and Friends of a Schizophrenic Person
1. Stick by and advocate for the person with schizophrenia.
Encourage the schizophrenic person to choose a person (e.g., their partner, a friend, or another family member) who will continue to support them for as long as they need it. Having someone they trust that will stick by them in difficult times is very important. When a person with schizophrenia is unwell, they may turn against people with whom they are normally close. Family members or friends can also validate any behaviors that the schizophrenic person may not address during an examination. It is important that family and friends can relay their observations to the person evaluating the patient so all relevant information can be considered.
2. Ensure treatment is being followed, particularly following release from inpatient care.
It’s important to stay connected and follow up with a person who continues treatment after hospitalization. If the patient stops taking their medications or neglects to continue follow-up treatment, psychotic symptoms may return.
3. Be there for emotional support as treatment continues.
Encouraging the person to continue treatment and supporting them through treatment can help them stay on the right track, with greater chance for recovery. Some people with schizophrenia become so psychotic and disorganized when they are not getting treatment, that they cannot care for their basic needs, such as food, clothing and shelter. It is common for people with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia to find themselves on the streets or in jails, where the necessary treatment is not available.
4. Respond accordingly to bizarre statements or beliefs.
It can be challenging to navigate a conversation with a schizophrenic person who is making statements that are strange or false. Someone with schizophrenia truly believes their bizarre thoughts or hallucinations – they appear to be real to the person, not just “imagined fantasies.” Rather than agreeing with the person’s delusions, family members or friends can convey to the person that they do not agree with what they are seeing and saying, but they can still acknowledge that the patient has his or her point of view, rather than challenge the person’s beliefs or delusions. It would be futile to try to change the person’s mind or convince them otherwise, since these delusions are very real to the person who experiences them. It is more appropriate to gently direct conversation to areas or topics that can be agreed upon by both parties.
5. Log symptoms.
Keeping a record of symptoms that have appeared, as well as medication usage (including dosage), and the effects various treatments have had on the person can be very helpful. Understanding what symptoms were present previously, family members may have a better understanding as to what to look for in the future. Families may even be able to identify some “early warning signs” of potential relapses. As a result, if psychosis returns, it may be detected early and immediate treatment may help to prevent a full-blown relapse. Also, by chronicling which medications helped and which did not in the past, the most suitable treatment options may be discovered quicker.
6. Assist the person set attainable goals in his or her life.
Family and friends can support the person with schizophrenia in regaining his or her abilities. In addressing goals for the person, it is important to be mindful in keeping the goals within reach; a patient who feels pressure or is criticized will more than likely feel stress, which could lead to a worsening of symptoms. Like anyone else, people with schizophrenia need to know when they are doing things right. A positive approach may be more effective in the long run over criticism. This advice applies to everyone who interacts with the person.
” Back to the beginning of the Series:
Introduction to Schizophrenia
Based upon material from the National Institute of Mental Health.
Helpful Hints about Schizophrenia for Family Members & Others
How To Live With a Schizophrenic: Make Your Life Easier
Living with someone who has schizophrenia might be hard sometimes. Even though you can’t see it, these people need you. In this article, we’ll talk about how to live with someone a schizophrenic and make your life easier.
How to live with a schizophrenic
Be active against schizophrenia
You have to be alert so you can notice the signs of a possible relapse. If the person starts having psychotic behavior, treating it in time may be the key their recovery.
The clinical psychologist Salvador Perona Garcelan says “it’s true, the information collected from research in the last few years, both abroad and in Spain, shows that the sooner we are able to intervene during a psychotic episode, the better the recovery and the better they will respond to psycho-social treatments. We’ve also learned that detecting someone at high risk of having a psychotic disorder before the first signs appear may help avoid or delay the onset of a psychotic disorder.”
There are usually little behavioral changes before a relapse. Things like changes in appetite or problems sleeping, depression, loss of interest, and mood swings.
If you detect any of these symptoms early on and are able to get the person into a hospital for treatment, it’s important that you make sure they continue with their treatment once they get home. Schizophrenia patients that stop their treatment can help up losing their basic functions like eating and sleeping. Make sure that your loved one takes their medication.
You also have to make sure that they’re living a healthy life. People with schizophrenia are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol and have a higher probability of suffering from obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. You will have to motivate your loved one to follow a diet and keep active.
How to react during a psychotic episode
If your loved one is suffering from hallucinations, you have to be ready for possible violence. Schizophrenics aren’t usually violent, but they believe that the voiced they’re hearing are real, which may cause them to react aggressively and be a danger to those around them.
Salvador Perona talks to us about a new therapy that changes the relationship between the schizophrenic and the voices that they hear. He has that it is a new type of therapy that changes the schizophrenic’s relationship between themselves and their environment and the voices they hear. There are currently only a few studies about this type of therapy and the results are mostly positive, but a new controlled study is being conducted and we are awaiting the results.
When the schizophrenic is going through this, try to avoid convincing them that they’re wrong. For schizophrenics, hallucinations aren’t simply products of their imagination, they’re real and trying to say otherwise could aggravate them. Calmly explain to them that you see the world differently from them, and remind them that their disorder keeps them from perceiving the world correctly. Try to avoid arguments at all cost, and be compassionate and understanding.
Get help when you need it. People with schizophrenia aren’t usually aggressive, but hallucinations can cause people to react aggressively. In these cases, you can call the police to do an emergency psychiatric evaluation. The schizophrenic may need to be hospitalized to get back under control. Just remember that what you have to do is for their own good, and when they get back home they will understand why you did what you had to.
Molly is a writer specialized in health and psychology. She is passionate about neuroscience and how the brain works, and is constantly looking for new content from interesting sources. Molly is happy to give or take advice, and is always working to educate and inspire.
This post is also available in: Spanish
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder currently affecting a little more than 1% of the worldwide population. Those who suffer from it often have difficulty discerning between reality and fantasy. They often hallucinate and withdraw themselves from social interactions. Their thoughts are frequently disordered and illogical. Those who live with the disorder face the risk of experiencing schizophrenic episodes which may cause them to harm themselves or others. Schizophrenics are much more likely to attempt suicide than those in the general population. Despite popular belief, schizophrenics are not often violent against others. Most often, they are withdrawn and prefer solitude. There currently is no cure for any of the varying types of schizophrenic disorders. However, many schizophrenics are able to live fairly independent lives depending upon the severity of their symptoms. With medication, most schizophrenics are able to have some control over the disorder.
It is estimated that approximately 28% of schizophrenics live independently, 20% live in group homes, and about 25% live with family members. Sadly, the remaining 27% percent are either homeless, living in jails or prisons, or living in hospitals or nursing homes. Many researchers believe that half of all persons with severe psychiatric illnesses, including schizophrenic disorders, are left untreated. Reasons for this may include the general public’s ignorance about where to seek help and the high cost of treatment. Also, some mentally ill people believe that they can solve the problem on their own without seeking medical treatment. One thing to remember about schizophrenia is that there is no cure for the disorder. Those affected by it must endure a life-long battle. Living independently with the disease does not mean living in complete isolation and control over one’s well-being. Schizophrenics must be surrounded by a community that they can trust.
Subtypes of Schizophrenia
There are varying forms and levels associated with schizophrenia. Regardless of the type and level, if left untreated, the person suffering from any form of schizophrenia greatly reduces their chance to cope with the disorder and live independently within society.
One of the most well-known types of schizophrenia is paranoid schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenics often hallucinate and have deluded thoughts. They can quickly become hostile if they feel they are being threatened or conspired against.
Disorganized schizophrenics have significant trouble performing daily activities. They may neglect themselves physically by not bathing or getting dressed. They also may be incomprehensible in their speech patterns.
Catatonic schizophrenics often display disturbed movements. They sometimes repetitively perform the same futile movements. Repetitive movement is also seen frequently in those with obsessive compulsive disorder. Catatonic schizophrenics may sometimes make unusual facial movements or expressions and unusual movement of their limbs, which can be mistaken for dyskinesia. Sometimes catatonic schizophrenics mimic body movements of others or obsessively repeat what others say. These behaviors are also seen in Tourettes syndrome.
Patients are said to display the residual subtype of schizophrenia when symptoms are no longer prominent. The patient may still show some signs of the illness, but the symptoms have declined in comparison to the severest forms of schizophrenia.
Undifferentiated schizophrenics show symptoms that are not easily categorized. The patient may exhibit symptoms of all of the other sub-types of schizophrenia with no discernible pattern. For example, the undifferentiated variety may sometimes show signs of paranoia, but at other times they may show stronger signs of being catatonic.
How to Live Independently with Schizophrenia
Regular visits to mental health professionals, taking prescribed medications on time, every time, and joining a support group are the three most important things a schizophrenic should do to help control their disorder. Psychiatrists are able to prescribe new meds that may combat symptoms more effectively. Psychologists and counselors can evaluate how well patients are adapting to their environment and make recommendations for non-medicinal treatment. Joining a group therapy session or support group provides a community for schizophrenics to lean on and learn from. Interacting with a community of schizophrenics will provide a network of people that understand symptoms and are able to provide suggestions if and when the disorder spirals out of control. Family members of schizophrenics should also stay involved in the lives of their mentally ill loved ones. Family members are familiar with the patient and are able to tell when something is wrong.
Risks of Living Independently with Schizophrenia
Schizophrenics sometimes stop taking their medication because of the medication’s side effects. Side effects often include loss of sex drive, restlessness, muscle spasms, blurred vision, fatigue and weight gain. When a schizophrenic stops taking their meds, symptoms return. Many people have been known to commit suicide, become excessively paranoid, and hurt themselves and others, especially when they are off of their medication. Schizophrenics should contact a doctor if feeling depressed, helpless, suicidal, delusional, or if they are having hallucinations. However, schizophrenics cannot tell when they are hallucinating or delusional. To a schizophrenic, their hallucinations and deluded thoughts are real.
Alternatives to Independent Living
There are many state funded group homes for people with schizophrenia. Local community resource centers and mental health centers can provide more information on where to seek help. For those diagnosed with the disorder, contact a psychiatrist or health care professional before making the decision to live independently. Ask a health care professional to give advice about which type of living arrangement is recommended. Each case is unique, and each patient is different. The severity of the disorder often varies as well. For example, a severely disorganized schizophrenic may not be able to live alone. They may have trouble performing basic tasks, such as bathing and personal grooming.
Most schizophrenics are diagnosed in late childhood and early adulthood. It is very rare for people to begin showing symptoms after the age of forty. With the use of anti-psychotic meds, most patients are able to reduce the number of their psychotic episodes and increase their chances of living independently.
John Forbes Nash
John Nash, renowned mathematician and 1994 winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, battled paranoid schizophrenia for over 30 years. After extensive hospital stays, taking the prescribed medications, and even undergoing shock therapy, John claimed that he began to think and behave much more rationally and that he was able to have more control over the sickness. The book and movie “A Beautiful Mind” is based upon John’s life.
One of the most astounding jazz players and musical composers of the past 3 decades, Tom Harrell has struggled with paranoid schizophrenia since young adulthood. Harrell is able to overcome this devastating disorder with a combination of medicine and his music, which serves as an extraordinary therapy for him. In addition, the support of his wife, Angela, is a constant factor to his ability to live independently with schizophrenia.
High achiever and renowned Broadway star Meera Popkin was diagnosed with mild schizophrenia during her performance as Miss Saigon in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s award winning musical “Cats.” After a 10 year struggle with the disorder, Meera is now married and enjoying watching her baby girl grow up. While still taking low doses of medication, her schizophrenia is no longer discernible.
The Villa Orlando and Pasadena Villa’s Smoky Mountain Lodge are adult intensive psychiatric residential treatment centers for clients with serious mental illnesses. We also provide other individualized therapy programs, step-down residential programs, and less intensive mental health services, such as Community Residential Homes, Supportive Housing, Day Treatment Programs and Life Skills training. Pasadena Villa’s Outpatient Center in Raleigh, North Carolina offers partial hospitalization (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program (PHP). If you or someone you know may need mental health services, please complete our contact form or call us at 877-845-5235 for more information.
If you think that you or a loved one may be struggling with a mental health disorder, Pasadena Villa can help. We are here to answer questions and connect to care. Pasadena Villa currently offers treatment at two residential locations in both Orlando, Florida and Knoxville, Tennessee, and outpatient services in Cary, North Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina. To learn more about our program, call us at
Complete Our Contact Form
By Matt Gonzales Editor Thomas Christiansen Updated on09/19/19
The United States is experiencing a mental health awakening. Many Americans deal with an anxiety disorder or depression, but schizophrenia is also prevalent nationwide.
Having a friend or loved one dealing with schizophrenia might cause you to feel distressed. You may not believe that you can help that person. However, you do not need to be a doctor to offer assistance to a friend with schizophrenia.
Understanding schizophrenia can help someone better recognize the disorder and assist a person with controlling their symptoms. Schizophrenia is a debilitating psychological disorder that affects many aspects of life. The condition changes a person’s thoughts, perceptions and social interactions.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia comprises symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and abnormal thinking patterns. People in their late teens or early 30s are most commonly diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The National Institute of Mental Health also states that schizophrenia is one of the 15 leading causes of disability worldwide. Living with this condition increases a person’s likelihood of premature death.
Identifying the Signs of Schizophrenia
The signs and symptoms of schizophrenia can be difficult to recognize. For example, a teen who lives with the disorder may experience angry outbursts and academic problems that parents might consider to be common adolescent behavior.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, common signs of schizophrenia include:
- Sleep problems
- Seeing and hearing things that do not exist
- Trouble completing tasks at home, school or work
- Violent behaviors
A person living with schizophrenia may consistently seem paranoid. They may accuse other people or the government of spying on them, seem easily distracted or believe that they possess superhuman abilities.
Caring for a Schizophrenic Person
People with schizophrenia are not inherently dangerous. However, their condition can cause them to experience delusions or hallucinations that contribute to volatile behaviors. Before approaching someone who has schizophrenia, ensure that they are not stressed.
You can help someone experiencing schizophrenia in several ways:
- Stay calm and don’t argue with your friend
- If this person is extremely paranoid, ask them about the cause of their paranoia
- Steer this person away from the cause of their fear
- Help them discern reality from false perceptions
- When communicating with them, use short, simple sentences that they can understand
- Move your friend away from a noisy environment, such as a restaurant or public park, and into a quieter setting
You can also help your friend avoid situations that can exacerbate their schizophrenia. For example, if someone grappling with the condition has a fear of crowds, avoid taking them to sporting events or concerts.
Finding Treatment for Schizophrenia
Another way to help a friend experiencing schizophrenia is to promote the benefits of mental health treatment.
Schizophrenia is a severe psychological condition that should be treated by trained medical professionals. A psychiatrist or psychologist can help your friend learn ways to cope with schizophrenia and live more fulfilling lives.
The Recovery Village offers support to people with co-occurring disorders, like schizophrenia and substance abuse. At The Recovery Village, health care professionals guide patients in learning ways to better manage their conditions.
Treatment options for schizophrenia are available throughout the United States. Contact The Recovery Village to learn how treatment can help you or a friend cope with addiction and a mental health problem.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Schizophrenia.” (n.d.). Accessed January 10, 2019.
National Institute of Mental Health. “Schizophrenia.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, May 2018. Accessed January 10, 2019.
The University of Michigan Health System. “Schizophrenia: Helping Someone Who Is Paranoid.” September 11, 2018. Accessed January 10, 2019.