How to be in a relationship with a schizophrenic?

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Keeping Your Relationship Strong After a Schizophrenia Diagnosis

Every relationship has its ups and downs, but when one person is diagnosed with schizophrenia, it’s possible for even stable partnerships to become strained or for couples to break up altogether.

“Schizophrenia makes it hard for people to form close bonds,” says Dost Öngür, MD, clinical director of the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Research Program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. Often, people with schizophrenia who are married met their partner before being diagnosed with the condition. Single people who have schizophrenia, however, “tend to stay single,” he says.

For people whose partner was healthy when the relationship began, the onset of schizophrenia can come as a shock. The disease can change a person’s behavior and personality, and symptoms can make even the most caring and loving individuals appear distant and cold.

Caring for a Partner Who Has Schizophrenia

Frank Baron, who has schizoaffective disorder, a type of mental illness that triggers symptoms similar to schizophrenia, says that when someone is newly diagnosed with a disorder like schizophrenia, their loved ones should try to show compassion. “The best thing to say is, ‘I love you and I care about you. This doesn’t change how I feel about you,’” he says.

Caring for a loved one who has schizophrenia can be a huge job that’s both tiring and frustrating at times. The following advice can help keep the relationship going strong. To find more resources, you can also contact your local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or ask your doctor or therapist for information about local support groups.

  • The caregiver should set up their own support system. If your partner has schizophrenia, they may not be able to meet your emotional needs as well as they once did. Plus, according to a study published in October 2017 in the journal Psychiatric Services, caregivers to people who have schizophrenia tend to experience relatively high levels of distress. That’s why it’s important to have access to mental health support, such as a counselor or therapist. Friends and family can also provide a listening ear or a much-needed distraction.
  • The person who has schizophrenia must accept treatment. Left untreated, the condition can cause people to behave erratically, leaving their partners to become subject to verbal abuse, emotional neglect, and delusional accusations. No healthy relationship can sustain these behaviors.
  • Both partners must communicate. Open and clear communication can help people who have schizophrenia find the support they need as well as understand what’s expected of them in the relationship. In addition to individual therapy, couples therapy can help both partners cope with the effects of schizophrenia on the relationship.

Schizophrenia and Relationships: Challenges and Solutions

Every couple juggles everyday tasks like household chores and balancing finances, but people who have schizophrenia may need extra help managing their responsibilities. This may include:

  • Household duties Dr. Öngür explains that schizophrenia impacts the way people read social cues, meaning your partner may not be able to recognize what you want them to do around the house. Counseling can help caregivers learn how to set clear expectations in a supportive and positive way. Defining each partner’s responsibilities around the house is another strategy.
  • Finances People who have schizophrenia are not always able to work, even after their symptoms are stabilized. If this is the case, applying for Social Security disability benefits can help. Medications for schizophrenia can be expensive, and frequent co-pays can add up. Let your doctors know about your financial situation as well, because some clinics charge on a sliding scale.
  • Intimacy Schizophrenia may cause people to become less interested in sex, as can some antipsychotic medications. Try talking to a couples therapist, who can help you express your needs and wants. You can also ask your partner’s doctor about switching to medications that are less likely to affect libido or adding drugs that can boost sexual response.
  • Family interactions People who have schizophrenia can behave irrationally, have trouble thinking clearly, and struggle with everyday emotions, which can be confusing, frightening, or hurtful to family members and lead to conflicts within the family. It’s important to clearly define acceptable and unacceptable behaviors at home and in other settings, especially if you have children.

(Illustration: Mmuffn for Metro.co.uk)

Dating someone like me, with schizophrenia, has its challenges. But there are rewards too.

What I lack in culinary expertise and concentration I more than make up for in a caring nature and sensitivity.

While you should never avoid dating someone with schizophrenia because of tabloid headlines or bleak Hollywood stereotypes, there are some things here you may like to weigh up before getting involved further.

1. My psychiatrist always knows best

So don’t try and advise whether or not to take medication, or tell me when I can and can’t call in sick.

2. Struggle with concentration

You may have a battle on your hands if you want me to settle down to watch a film or a play.

A side effect of anti-psychotic medication can mean I struggle with concentrating for more than 20 minutes.

3. I’m disabled

Schizophrenia is one of the most disabling of mental illnesses, so expect me to travel with a Disabled Rail Card because my car insurance is sky-high.

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4. I claim benefits

Because I’m disabled I’m entitled to Personal Independence Payment and sometimes on benefits (though not all the time).

You need to be cool with this.

5. I may be very tired

(Illustration: Mmuffn for Metro.co.uk)

Often medication can make me very, very tired. So, I may lie in late, or go to bed very early.

6. Pregnancy complications

There are all kinds of complications (and success as well as horror stories) pertaining to schizophrenia and pregnancy due to the effects of medication.

Want a baby? Expect challenges!

7. You may outlive me

According to Rethink Mental Illness, people with schizophrenia die on average 15 years younger.

8. Sanity Checks

Expect me to run all decisions great and small past you for a sanity check.

9. Cooking and cleaning

Often people with schizophrenia struggle with motivation to do all manner of simple tasks.

So expect to do more than your fair share of the dusting.

10. I tell my therapist everything

(Illustration: Mmuffn for Metro.co.uk)

There are no secrets in a relationship with someone with schizophrenia.

11. Needy

I do have more needs than someone without schizophrenia.

I may want prompting when to take medication or need support in social settings.

12. Friends

Schizophrenia can impact on social skills and I don’t have many friends because of this.

13. Open and honest

We’re used to being open and honest in our therapy and with our psychiatrist – we need to be.

14. Sensitive

Often the most vulnerable people (like us) can be sensitive to others’ needs.

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15. Generous

Most people with schizophrenia that I have met have been very generous to those willing to stand by them, thanks to the stigma from others we experience on a day to day basis.

MORE: 12 things you only know if you have schizophrenia

MORE: 14 things you only know if you’ve gone mad

MORE: Am I in love or not? 10 signs that he’s The One

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Dating with Schizophrenia

I’ve never been in a relationship. I’ve been on dates, sure, but none of the potential relationships lasted past the second date.

I’ve heard that I’m picky, that I’m not vulnerable enough or that I’m just plain afraid of being in a relationship. I don’t think others’ thoughts hold any real bearing on my thoughts and emotions when the prospect of a relationship presents itself.

I know what I’m looking for. I know what my type is. Either because of a poor fit or because I’ve been too nervous, pushy or paranoid, it’s never clicked.

For the last eight years, I’ve had a major red flag hanging over my head: the diagnosis of a major mental illness. When exactly do you tell someone that you have schizophrenia? That alone is almost assuredly a relationship killer.

I have been symptomatically stable for years. Although there have been periods of uncertainty and minor episodes, there has never been the stereotypical hundreds of phone calls in a single night threatening to kill myself that most people would associate with a crazy lover. I’ll be the first to admit that at times my impulse control has been a little out of whack, but never to that degree.

There also have been times when I completely misread a situation as flirting when it was simply friendly joking or being nice. That’s cost me a couple of friendships that afterward I regretted screwing up.

I am a good guy, though. My friends say so, and my parents say so. Their concessions, however, mean little in the heat of the moment when a girl asks “So what do you do,” and I respond “I’m a writer for Salon.” She’ll then inevitably ask what I write about and I’ll inevitably tell her that I write about issues facing mental illness and schizophrenia.

Of course, she will then ask if I have a background in psychology and that’s when I have to make a decision. Do I tell her that I was diagnosed with schizophrenia eight years ago after I took a trip to the U.N. where I thought I was a prophet and I was trying to save the world? Do I tell her an outright lie, something along the lines of “My brother has schizophrenia” or that I majored in psychology when in fact I only ever took intro to psych but my illness has made me an expert, or do I simply say “I just have a history with the subject” and leave it at that?

The truth is, for the longest time I was a nervous wreck and I doubt I would have been able to consider datingwithout stressing out and losing a little bit of my grip on reality. In most of my dating encounters the subject of schizophrenia may have never even been broached, but it’s scary to imagine what would’ve happened had it been.

In situations where the ice has broken and they know, though, it quickly devolves from a date to a several-hour-long explanation of all of their anxieties and drug problems and psychological history simply because they trust me with the information. Once that happens, it’s hard to find someone attractive, and whether I like it or not a friendship, perhaps dysfunctional at that, has been formed. I don’t consider this a bad thing and I’m always up for listening, but I just kind of wish it had gone another way.

I won’t judge you if you tell me these things. I will listen to you for hours and give you my perspective if you ask for it, but at this point I’d rather cuddle with someone than listen to their history of drug abuse and emotional anxiety.

There also exists in the mental illness community the idea that people like us can’t possibly date non-mentally ill people unless they’re psychiatric doctors or nurses or unless they have some history with mental illness in their families. The belief is that no one can truly understand what it’s like to have a mental illness unless they’ve either experienced it or been around it for a long part of their lives.

I don’t think that should be a limitation. After all, everyone has anxieties, everyone has insecurities, everyone has a little paranoia from time to time so, to a degree, everyone can kind of relate.

I’ve come to the point in my life, though, that I’ve accepted my insecurities. I’m as confident in myself as ever and I know what I can and can’t do. I think that dating is something that I might be able to do. I think that maybe, if given the chance, I could find the right time to kiss a girl, I could find the right time to tell her that I think she’s beautiful and I could find the right time to let her know she’s loved.

Call me a romantic, but I think love can exist for a person with schizophrenia if the conditions are right. It can exist if the friendship is there, if the stability is there, if the humor is there and if the self-confidence is there.

Sadly, stability, humor and self-confidence are things that don’t come easy for people with major mental illnesses. It takes work and it takes time to develop those things. I do think, though, that it can happen, and not just with people who are also sick but with actual normal human beings. At least I would hope for as much.

Dating with Schizophrenia

How Schizoaffective Disorder Has Affected My Relationships

I’m thirty years old. For years I’ve struggled to be in lasting relationships.

I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder at age 19. Schizoaffective disorder is thought to be a unique combination of schizophrenia and a mood disorder like bipolar, presenting with symptoms like difficulty communicating, episodes of depression, delusions, and even hallucinations. It presents differently from person to person, and there’s still a lot to be learned about it. Though it has negatively impacted my life in many ways, it’s been especially difficult to navigate in my social life.

Before the onset of my mental illness, I was outgoing and had a vibrant social life. While I also always struggled with ADHD, I had a lot of fun in high school. I was the captain of the high school football team and felt committed to my schoolwork. Nonetheless, schizoaffective disorder ultimately incapacitated me to the point where I couldn’t speak a coherent sentence, let alone carry on a conversation or complete routine day-to-day functions. The change was stark.

In my quest to recover my health and have a fuller life, I began talk therapy at age 25, and resolved to improve my cognitive abilities and start to define life goals. One of the goals that came up first was to be in a supportive relationship , and to one day have a family.

Casual Dating with Mental Illness

After two years of work on myself, I progressed to the point where I actually felt ready to “out myself out there” and go on dates. I had a full-time job and was saving money. I was 27 and still living at home which was a drawback, but my confidence was growing.

The first few dates I went on were fun and relatively laid-back. Deep down, though, I was drowning in insecurities. Because I had a reading disability, my job was an entry-level position in retail where I made very little money. I was dating a woman who managed a retirement home, and was more connected to her “career” than I was to my day-job. There were countless things I worried about.

That relationship only lasted about two months. It ended with a text message from her in which she said I was a “nice guy,” but didn’t think we were going to work out. A lot of this outcome, I think, had to do with my social ineptitude from psychosis, which often left me literally speechless, caught in my own world without an ability to express myself. In moments of psychosis, I would open my mouth to speak, but nothing would come out. She sometimes would ask if I was OK and needed help. I didn’t tell her what I was experiencing because I thought she would respond by leaving me. The stigma of mental illness is real, after all.

What Does Psychosis Look Like When Dating?

Psychosis trapped me in my mind and made it difficult for me to be in the moment and present in the room. People would be talking, but it was a struggle to process any information. When my girlfriend and I were dating, there would be many occasions when she’d be expecting an answer, but I hadn’t even mentally digested what she was saying in the first place. She would eventually say something like, “Hello, are you even listening?” I would tell her yes but couldn’t recall what she had said because I had not finished analyzing it.

My slow comprehension definitely made for some awkwardness and contributed to the relationship not working. At the time, I wanted to blame my inability to date on factors like an inadequate job, or living at home at age 27. In reality, I simply wasn’t mentally healthy enough to be engaging with other people romantically.

For the next year or so, I continued to work on my mental health in therapy with a focus on improving my social skills. I soon started dating a friend, and began my first long-distance relationship.

Still, I had a lot to learn. The thing I realized is that love and life are constantly evolving. I had to continue learning and improving my relationship skills to keep up with folks for whom dating came more naturally.

The Power of Honesty

Six months into the relationship, I decided to tell her about my illness.

“I have something I need to tell you,” I said.

She looked at me with concern, and I choked up. I was terrified that my diagnosis would end the relationship. I couldn’t speak much at all, so I pulled up my phone and showed her my website that contained my writing about my schizoaffective diagnosis.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“It’s my website,” I said in a barely audible voice. “I have schizoaffective disorder.” My breathing began to seize up and I became tense.

“You do?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said. I felt like a train was going to run me over.

“Oh, OK. Well that doesn’t matter,” she said.

I laughed a little. “It doesn’t?” I asked.

“No, not at all,” she said. “We need to get you a beer. This is too much stress. Come on. I’ll drive.”

After this conversation, I felt more at ease. I started disclosing more insecurities. At times, I might have opened up too much. About a week later, the relationship ended, but ironically, I don’t quite think it had anything to do with my diagnosis.

Because of schizoaffective disorder, I never matured at the same rate as my peers. Because I was dealing with psychosis in my early-to-mid-20s, I had been isolated from others and hadn’t practiced having social interactions with people my own age . During those years, I had lost track of what was socially acceptable to say and what wasn’t. Sometimes I would try to make jokes that weren’t relevant to the conversation we were having. My sense of humor needed to catch up with my age.

The Education is Ongoing

Looking back, I realized that this longer-term, long-distance relationship with my friend was a step in the right direction. It was a failure that opened new doors. The experience gave me confidence in who I am, and affirmed for me that I need to keep progressing with my health and education on dating.

Since then, I’ve spent time dating intermittently but not being in any real relationships. Today, I’m now a manager at a local butcher, and I live out on my own. I feel more secure about who I am, although I still fixate on my inadequacies, just like anyone else — like the fact that I don’t make a lot of money.

Being in therapy, I am learning I also learned I had a lot of confusion as to what I wanted and identify more clearly what kind of relationship I’m looking for, and what kind of person I want to be. I’ve asked myself what love is and learned that, for me, love is aboutmaking sacrifices for the overall happiness of both people in the relationship. Mental illness or not, this is a commitment I’ve made as I continue to work on myself.

I may have schizoaffective disorder, but other people have challenges they deal with, too. It’s the imperfections that give us all value and define who we are.

For a while, I was looking for the perfect woman. A friend then told me, “None of us are right and none of us are wrong, some of us are just more right for each other than others.”

It’s true, and believing that requires that we accept ourselves more in the process. When I previously felt diffident in my ability to date and have a relationship, redefining what I was looking for gave me the strength I needed to accept myself and make changes in my life based on what supports my well-being. That, to me, is part of the foundation of finding real, sustainable love.

Boyfriend Has Schizoaffective Disorder

I have been in a relationship for five years with a man who was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, depression with psychotic features. For the most part, his disorder does not have a negative impact on our relationship. He has trouble keeping his place clean and he is slow to take actions that move his life forward in positive directions. But he is on the right track now, returning to school and looking for a better job.

He was in the military for six years. Two of these years we were in a relationship. He told me about some episodes he had before we were together, which included months he could not remember. He moved to my town almost two years ago. He has some auditory hallucinations, but he has learned to ignore them. Since he was discharged from the military, his symptoms did not extend beyond that.

This weekend, I left town for the weekend and I asked him to check my cat. I realized halfway through the weekend I had not given him my spare key. I called to ask him if he checked my cat and he said yes, saying he got in with my spare key. I thought he was lying, which did not make sense because it was a strange thing to lie about and I have never caught him in a lie before. Today I came back and saw he definitely was not here. My cat’s water bowl was completely dry and her litter box was filthy. I talked to him about it, still thinking he was lying, and came to realize he sincerely believed he was here. I gave him evidence to the contrary and he was visibly concerned. I told him I was scared and he said he was too. He said he does not think this has happened in years, but I suppose there’s no way to be certain. Of course I love him and I want to help him. For the most part, our relationship is very good and I would hate to end it. But I am very concerned how things could go in the future. If I can’t trust him to check my cat, how could I trust him with a child? I don’t know how to move forward.

Also, he has not been on medication since he was in the military. When he was, I think it was for depression only. He does not have insurance for psychiatric help right now or the money to pay out of pocket.

Boyfriend Has Schizoaffective Disorder

I’m not Schizophrenic I am Schizoaffective

Schizophrenic or Schizoaffective?

Schizophrenic or Schizoaffective? What do you think? Although such disorder is a mental illness that is closely related to schizophrenia, the two problems are distinctly different diagnoses. Many people mistakenly believe that schizoaffective disorder is a subtype of schizophrenia but this is not the case. They are both separate mental disorders that have their own unique set of symptoms.

People who are schizoaffective often receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia in the early stages of their illness because the two problems are so frequently confused. There are many similarities between the two illnesses which can cause some physicians and psychiatrists to misdiagnose their patients. However, there are also significant differences that make it possible to categorize one separately from the other.

Even though schizophrenia is the more well-known disorder that is often considered very severe, the truth is that schizoaffective disorder is much more complex and difficult to diagnose and treat. A diagnosis of the schizoaffective disorder can be problematic because it combines characteristics of different disorders. However, with the right treatment it is still possible for a schizoaffective individual to improve their condition and function as well as they can.

What is Schizoaffective Disorder?

Someone who is schizoaffective is experience a hybrid of different conditions that combines characteristics of schizophrenia and certain mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression. The fact that it is a hybrid condition affecting a person’s mood is what sets it apart from schizophrenia which is related to thoughts and behavior but not directly to a person’s mood. Schizoaffective disorder blends different health conditions and affects a person completely including their thoughts, feelings, behavior and mood.

One way to understand how schizoaffective disorder combines different characteristics of disorders is to think of it as a part of a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum would be schizophrenia and on the other would be a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder. Schizoaffective disorder would fall somewhere in the middle of these two illnesses.

People with such disorder can often exhibit symptoms that are experienced by people with bipolar disorder including extreme mood swings. They will feel the high of mania and the low of depression through different phases of their life in a similar way to bipolar disorder. However, a schizoaffective person will also experience symptoms normally associated with schizophrenia such as hallucinations and delusions.

Understanding the Symptoms of this Disorder

A schizoaffective person, may suffer unnecessarily if they receive an inaccurate diagnosis of either schizophrenia or a mood disorder. They need treatment for all of their symptoms rather than one aspect of them so it is important that they have a correct diagnosis in order to improve. These are some of the signs and symptoms of this disorder:

  • Auditory hallucinations in the form of voices that may be hostile or accusatory
  • Delusions or false, irrational beliefs that cause fear, paranoia and mistrust of others
  • Disorganized thinking as exhibited by thought or speech patterns that lack coherence
  • Thought blocking where the mind suddenly goes blank
  • Excessive, repetitive or agitated body movements that have no obvious purpose

As well as manic symptoms such as:

  • talking too fast
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty thinking and concentrating
  • Inflated self-esteem and delusions of grandeur

They might also have depressive symptoms including:

  • Low energy and motivation
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Talking too much or too little
  • Trouble completing projects
  • Apathy about school, work or relationships
  • Feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of suicide

Diagnosing Schizoaffective

Because there are many different sets of symptoms and one individual may not exhibit all of them it can be very complex to recognize and diagnose schizoaffective disorder. It requires more extensive exploration of a patient’s medical and psychological background. Psychiatrists must be cautious about diagnosing someone as schizoaffective and have enough expertise in order to make an official diagnosis.

In order for someone to receive a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder they will need to have experienced psychotic episodes for at least a month that involved delusions, hallucinations or disorganized thinking. They will also need to have a mood disorder that is dominant more than half of the time. If either mania or depression have been present for an extended period of time along with psychotic episodes then they will most likely be diagnosed as schizoaffective.

Although schizoaffective disorder is complex, like most mental illnesses it is treatable with the help of medication and psychotherapy. Antipsychotics can be helpful for any schizophrenic symptoms and antidepressants or mood stabilizers can help treat a mood disorder. Individual psychotherapy along with group therapy can be very beneficial to help treat the sources of their symptoms.

An inpatient treatment program for a period of time can be very helpful in allowing a person, to learn to manage their disorder and minimize their symptoms. If you think you or someone you love might have this disorder then contact a mental health professional for assistance.

Tags: mental disorder, mental health, schizophrenia, thought disorder, thought disorders

Pooja Parikh Traveled Across The World For The HS Diagnosis That Changed Her Life Forever

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My friends said we were a perfect couple. He held my hand in front of my friends and he told me he loves me in any chance he gets. He was the first man I have ever introduced to my parents, and my family thought that he was a charmer. It was all light and bright, it was all perfect and sky-high. Or at least that’s what they thought. In reality, it wasn’t.

It wasn’t all happy times. Most of the time, it was a challenge, most of the time it was a sacrifice.

It all started on our first date. First meetings are always special, always exciting, always perfect. Ours was a 14-hour bus ride to his favorite beach. We stayed on the seaside until late night, listening to our favorite songs, talking about our past, our dreams and everything our hearts beat for. It didn’t take too long for us to fall in love with the perfect romantic night that was.

A couple of weeks after, we moved in together. It was like living in every page of a young girl’s dream. A prince charming, a house, independence, no rules, just love… just love. Until one day, the perfect fairytale came to an end.

I still remember how he broke it to me.

“I’m not like the others,” He said in between his deep breaths, our room was filled with the smell of alcohol and cigarette. “I’m afraid. I’m…different” I was so confused while listening to him. I didn’t know what to say, or if I was supposed to say anything. I just sat there and listened to him.

I knew what it meant. I knew what he was saying but somehow, I couldn’t understand a single word that was coming out from those pair of lips that I fell in love with. He continued to tell me that he heard voices, that sometimes he would see me talking but hear a completely different voice cursing him, judging him. But he would know it’s not me talking because he knew that I would never say such things to him.

He continued to tell me everything, I felt like I met a whole different person. Far from that sweet, cuddly, loving prince that I thought he was. He told me how the doctor said he is incurable. He told me everything over and over, and he was sitting there, gripping on his last bottle of beer, as if it was his sanity that he was holding on to. I grabbed the bottle from his hand and hugged him, hoping that if I hold him tightly it would take away his sickness. But it didn’t. Nothing ever would.

It was never the same again after that conversation. The once fairytale story became a living hell in most days. His situation got worse when he started believing he was doing fine without his medication. He was a completely different person. There were times when he would suddenly shout at me and tell me I was trying to kill him. There were times he would tell me my friends were talking shit about him. And I couldn’t tell him he was wrong. Even if I do, he never believed me.

I turned off the lights, one night, after his long episode of schizophrenia. We laid down together on our bed. Quiet, tired, afraid, depressed. He broke the silence as he started saying, ‘please, help me.’ The tears in his voice tore my heart into million pieces.

He needed understanding. Those times when he would tell me his bad experiences over and over, or those times when he hears those voices cursing him and attacking him verbally over and over, all those times were not as hard to me as they were to him. For me it was just a passing story that I needed to listen to. But for him, it is his life story. It is his reality, was and will be.

Countless times, I wanted to run away, to ask him to leave me. Countless times, I tell myself ‘I didn’t sign up for this’. Countless times, I laid quietly next to him as he sleeps soundly, planning how to tell him I don’t want to be with him anymore. But I didn’t. I’m glad I never did any of that. Because if I did I would be an addition to those voices telling him every word that no human being deserves to hear.

Now we are broken up. He went away and found a better place for himself. I don’t regret letting him go, for I know that he is happier. He focuses on himself and so do I. But if one thing I regret, it is all those times I planned leaving him. He deserves love, I gave him that yes, but I know I could do better.

I learned so much about life, about love, about trust, and about patience from that one person who don’t have any of those. He wanted nothing else but to die, and from him, I learned how much I wanted to live. How much I wanted to love. And how much I wanted to be no one but the better person that I can be for the future love that will come my way.

It sounds ridiculous, but that was the running dialogue that took place in my mind. I found it hard to speak to anyone, hard to go into crowded places and hard to even look anyone in the eye. With all that in mind; is it any wonder that dating was a wholly unrealistic pursuit for someone in that situation?

When you’re on a date you have to be at your best; groomed and charming. The conversation mustn’t just flow, but sparkle, with the exact amount of wit, humor, knowledge, self-deprecation, and even possibility. Somehow, it’s up to you to make this person, whom you find attractive, like you enough to keep coming around for more. Frankly, that’s way, way too much pressure to put on someone who, only eleven years ago, thought that aliens were talking to him through the television and people were speaking in code and reading his mind.

For me, dating is just too much and, every time I try, I crash and burn. Despite getting progressively better at social interaction and the way I handle myself around people, the charged atmosphere of a date always seems to knock me back a few years in my recovery. I was never great at it, and I never had a girlfriend or any romantic relationships in high school, but it was still much easier to talk to people (girls included) back then. I had numerous friends who were girls, some that I really liked, but I never knew how to approach the world or the notion of dating. I was so nervous asking a girl I liked to prom that I had to send her a note instead of actually talking to her.

Schizophrenia Symptoms and Coping Tips

Recognizing the signs of schizophrenia in yourself or a loved one can be frightening. But with the right treatment and self-help, you can manage the disorder and lead a fulfilling life.

Schizophrenia is a challenging brain disorder that often makes it difficult to distinguish between what is real and unreal, to think clearly, manage emotions, relate to others, and function normally. It affects the way a person behaves, thinks, and sees the world.

The most common form is paranoid schizophrenia, or schizophrenia with paranoia, as it’s often called. People with paranoid schizophrenia have an altered perception of reality. They may see or hear things that don’t exist, speak in strange or confusing ways, believe that others are trying to harm them, or feel like they’re being constantly watched. This can cause relationship problems, disrupt normal daily activities like bathing, eating, or running errands, and lead to alcohol and drug abuse in an attempt to self-medicate. Many people with schizophrenia withdraw from the outside world, act out in confusion and fear, and are at an increased risk of attempting suicide, especially during psychotic episodes, periods of depression, and in the first six months after starting treatment.

Take any suicidal thoughts or talk very seriously…

If you or someone you care about is suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. at 1-800-273-TALK , visit IASP or Suicide.org to find a helpline in your country, or read Suicide Prevention.

While schizophrenia is a chronic disorder, many fears about the disorder are not based in reality. Most people with schizophrenia get better over time, not worse. Treatment options are improving all the time and there are plenty of things you can do to manage the disorder. Schizophrenia is often episodic, so periods of remission are ideal times to employ self-help strategies to limit the length and frequency of any future episodes. Along with the right support, medication, and therapy, many people with schizophrenia are able to manage their symptoms, function independently, and enjoy full, rewarding lives.

Common misconceptions about schizophrenia

Myth: Schizophrenia refers to a “split personality” or multiple personalities.

Fact: Multiple personality disorder is a different and much less common disorder than schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia do not have split personalities. Rather, they are “split off” from reality.

Myth: Schizophrenia is a rare condition.

Fact: Schizophrenia is not rare; the lifetime risk of developing schizophrenia is widely accepted to be around 1 in 100.

Myth: People with schizophrenia are dangerous.

Fact: Although the delusional thoughts and hallucinations of schizophrenia sometimes lead to violent behavior, most people with schizophrenia are neither violent nor a danger to others.

Myth: People with schizophrenia can’t be helped.

Fact: While long-term treatment may be required, the outlook for schizophrenia is far from hopeless. When treated properly, many people with schizophrenia are able to enjoy fulfilling, productive lives.

Early warning signs of schizophrenia

In some people, schizophrenia appears suddenly and without warning. But for most, it comes on slowly, with subtle warning signs and a gradual decline in functioning long before the first severe episode. Often, friends or family members will know early on that something is wrong, without knowing exactly what.

In this early phase of schizophrenia, you may seem eccentric, unmotivated, emotionless, and reclusive to others. You may start to isolate yourself, begin neglecting your appearance, say peculiar things, and show a general indifference to life. You may abandon hobbies and activities, and your performance at work or school can deteriorate.

The most common early warning signs include:

  1. Depression, social withdrawal
  2. Hostility or suspiciousness, extreme reaction to criticism
  3. Deterioration of personal hygiene
  4. Flat, expressionless gaze
  5. Inability to cry or express joy or inappropriate laughter or crying
  6. Oversleeping or insomnia; forgetful, unable to concentrate
  7. Odd or irrational statements; strange use of words or way of speaking

While these warning signs can result from a number of problems—not just schizophrenia—they are cause for concern. When out-of-the-ordinary behavior is causing problems in your life or the life of a loved one, seek medical advice. If schizophrenia or another mental problem is the cause, getting treatment early will help.

Symptoms

There are five types of symptoms characteristic of schizophrenia: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, and the so-called “negative” symptoms. However, the symptoms of schizophrenia vary dramatically from person to person, both in pattern and severity. Not every person with schizophrenia will have all the symptoms, and the symptoms of schizophrenia may also change over time.

Delusions

A delusion is a firmly-held idea that a person has despite clear and obvious evidence that it isn’t true. Delusions are extremely common in schizophrenia, occurring in more than 90% of those who have the disorder. Often, these delusions involve illogical or bizarre ideas or fantasies, such as:

Delusions of persecution – Belief that others, often a vague “they,” are out to get you. These persecutory delusions often involve bizarre ideas and plots (e.g. “Martians are trying to poison me with radioactive particles delivered through my tap water”).

Delusions of reference – A neutral environmental event is believed to have a special and personal meaning. For example, you might believe a billboard or a person on TV is sending a message meant specifically for you.

Delusions of grandeur – Belief that you are a famous or important figure, such as Jesus Christ or Napoleon. Alternately, delusions of grandeur may involve the belief that you have unusual powers, such as the ability to fly.

Delusions of control – Belief that your thoughts or actions are being controlled by outside, alien forces. Common delusions of control include thought broadcasting (“My private thoughts are being transmitted to others”), thought insertion (“Someone is planting thoughts in my head”), and thought withdrawal (“The CIA is robbing me of my thoughts”).

Hallucinations

Hallucinations are sounds or other sensations experienced as real when they exist only in your mind. While hallucinations can involve any of the five senses, auditory hallucinations (e.g. hearing voices or some other sound) are most common in schizophrenia, often occurring when you misinterpret your own inner self-talk as coming from an outside source.

Schizophrenic hallucinations are usually meaningful to you as the person experiencing them. Many times, the voices are those of someone you know, and usually they’re critical, vulgar, or abusive. Visual hallucinations are also relatively common, while all hallucinations tend to be worse when you’re alone.

Disorganized speech

Schizophrenia can cause you to have trouble concentrating and maintaining a train of thought, externally manifesting itself in the way that you speak. You may respond to queries with an unrelated answer, start sentences with one topic and end somewhere completely different, speak incoherently, or say illogical things.

Common signs of disorganized speech include:

Loose associations – Rapidly shifting from topic to topic, with no connection between one thought and the next.

Neologisms – Made-up words or phrases that only have meaning to you.

Perseveration – Repetition of words and statements; saying the same thing over and over.

Clang – Meaningless use of rhyming words (“I said the bread and read the shed and fed Ned at the head”).

Disorganized behavior

Schizophrenia disrupts goal-directed activity, impairing your ability to take care of yourself, your work, and interact with others. Disorganized behavior appears as:

  • A decline in overall daily functioning
  • Unpredictable or inappropriate emotional responses
  • Behaviors that appear bizarre and have no purpose
  • Lack of inhibition and impulse control

Negative symptoms (absence of normal behaviors)

The so-called “negative” symptoms of schizophrenia refer to the absence of normal behaviors found in healthy individuals, such as:

Lack of emotional expression – Inexpressive face, including a flat voice, lack of eye contact, and blank or restricted facial expressions.

Lack of interest or enthusiasm – Problems with motivation; lack of self-care.

Seeming lack of interest in the world – Apparent unawareness of the environment; social withdrawal.

Speech difficulties and abnormalities – Inability to carry a conversation; short and sometimes disconnected replies to questions; speaking in a monotone.

Daniel’s story

Daniel is 21 years old. Six months ago, he was doing well in college and holding down a part-time job in the stockroom of a local electronics store. But then he began to change, becoming increasingly paranoid and acting out in bizarre ways. First, he became convinced that his professors were “out to get him” since they didn’t appreciate his confusing, off-topic classroom rants. Then he told his roommate that the other students were “in on the conspiracy.” Soon after, he dropped out of school.

From there, his condition got worse. Daniel stopped bathing, shaving, and washing his clothes. At work, he became convinced that his boss was watching him through surveillance bugs planted in the store’s TV screens. Then he started hearing voices telling him to find the bugs and deactivate them. Things came to a head when he acted on the voices, smashing several TVs and screaming that he wasn’t going to put up with the “illegal spying” any more. His frightened boss called the police, and Daniel was hospitalized.

Treatment for schizophrenia

As upsetting as a diagnosis of schizophrenia can be, ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. Beginning treatment as soon as possible with an experienced mental health professional is crucial to your recovery. At the same time, it’s important not to buy into the stigma associated with schizophrenia or the myth that you can’t get better. A diagnosis of schizophrenia is not a life-sentence of ever-worsening symptoms and recurring hospitalizations. With the right treatment and self-help, many people with schizophrenia are able to regain normal functioning and even become symptom-free.

Treatment basics

The most effective treatment strategy for schizophrenia involves a combination of medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and social support.

Schizophrenia requires long-term treatment. Most people with schizophrenia need to continue treatment even when they’re feeling better to prevent new episodes and stay symptom-free. Treatment can change over time, though, so your doctor may be able to lower the dosage or change medication as your symptoms improve.

Medication for schizophrenia works by reducing psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and disordered thinking. But it is not a cure for schizophrenia and is much less helpful for treating symptoms such as social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and lack of emotional expressiveness. Finding the right drug and dosage is also a trial and error process. While medication should not be used at the expense of your quality of life, be patient with the process and discuss any concerns with your doctor.

Therapy can help you improve coping and life skills, manage stress, address relationship issues, and improve communication. Group therapy can also connect you to others who are in a similar situation and gain valuable insight into how they’ve overcome challenges.

Self-help

Medication and therapy can take time to take full effect but there are still ways you can manage symptoms, improve the way you feel, and increase your self-esteem. The more you do to help yourself, the less hopeless and helpless you’ll feel, and the more likely your doctor will be able to reduce your medication.

Schizophrenia: The 7 keys to self-help

Seek social support. Not only are friends and family vital to helping you get the right treatment and keeping your symptoms under control, regularly connecting with others face-to-face is the most effective way to calm your nervous system and relive stress. Stay involved with others by continuing your work or education-or if that’s not possible, consider volunteering, joining a schizophrenia support group, or taking a class or joining a club to spend time with people who have common interests. As well as keeping you socially connected, it can help you feel good about yourself.

Manage stress. High levels of stress are believed to trigger schizophrenic episodes by increasing the body’s production of the hormone cortisol. As well as staying socially connected, there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce your stress levels, including relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing.

Get regular exercise. As well as all the emotional and physical benefits, exercise may help reduce symptoms of schizophrenia, improve your focus and energy, and help you feel calmer. Aim for 30 minutes of activity on most days, or if it’s easier, three 10-minute sessions. Try rhythmic exercise that engages both your arms and legs, such as walking, running, swimming, or dancing.

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 and avoiding caffeine can help.

Avoid alcohol, drugs, and nicotine. Substance abuse complicates schizophrenia treatment and worsens symptoms. Even smoking cigarettes can interfere with the effectiveness of some schizophrenia medications. If you have a substance abuse problem, seek help.

Eat regular, nutritious meals to avoid symptoms exacerbated by changes in blood sugar levels. Omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish, fish oil, walnuts, and flaxseeds can help improve focus, banish fatigue, and balance your moods.

Causes

While the causes of schizophrenia are not fully known, it seems to result from a complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors.

Genetic causes

While schizophrenia runs in families, about 60% of schizophrenics have no family members with the disorder. Furthermore, individuals who are genetically predisposed to schizophrenia don’t always develop the disease, which shows that biology is not destiny.

Environmental causes

Studies suggest that inherited genes make a person vulnerable to schizophrenia, and then environmental factors act on this vulnerability to trigger the disorder.

More and more research is pointing to stress, either during pregnancy or at a later stage of development, as a major environmental factor. Stress-inducing factors could include:

  • Prenatal exposure to a viral infection
  • Low oxygen levels during birth (from prolonged labor or premature birth)
  • Exposure to a virus during infancy
  • Early parental loss or separation
  • Physical or sexual abuse in childhood

Abnormal brain structure

In addition to abnormal brain chemistry, abnormalities in brain structure may also play a role in schizophrenia development. However, it is highly unlikely that schizophrenia is the result of any one problem in any one region of the brain.

Diagnosing schizophrenia

A diagnosis of schizophrenia is based on a full psychiatric evaluation, medical history assessment, physical exam, and lab tests to rule out other medical causes of your symptoms.

Criteria to diagnose schizophrenia

The presence of two or more of the following symptoms for at least 30 days:

  1. Hallucinations
  2. Delusions
  3. Disorganized speech
  4. Disorganized or catatonic behavior
  5. Negative symptoms (emotional flatness, apathy, lack of speech)

Other diagnosis criteria:

  • Have had significant problems functioning at work or school, relating to other people, and taking care of yourself.
  • Shown continuous signs of schizophrenia for at least six months, with active symptoms (hallucinations, delusions, etc.) for at least one month.
  • Have no other mental health disorder, medical issue, or substance abuse problem that is causing the symptoms.

My boyfriend was diagnosed with schizophrenia

Warning, some readers may find this post triggering.

I am nearly 19 and I have been with my partner since I was 15. Over the past 4 Years my relationship has been up and down and has been hard on the both of us, it has turned from the happiest times of our lives to some of the most difficult.

But through it all we have always stayed strong and have always stayed together, which is why I want to write this hoping that I can help anyone who is with someone who experiences mental health problems as I know just how lonely it can feel.

My partner was diagnosed with schizophrenia

My partner is 22 and was diagnosed with schizophrenia a few months ago. It started whilst I was studying at college. I would get loads of messages off my boyfriend that were basically just accusations regarding where I was and what I was really doing. I did think this was odd as he had never had any trust issues at the beginning of our relationship but to be honest I did try to overlook the situation at the start.

The accusations soon became daily and unless I was at home with him he was sending me these messages. It started to make me feel as though I didn’t want to go home to him because I knew it was just going to be arguments or he would just ignore me. But then later on he would regret it and he would be upset about what he had said to me but this only lead him to feel so guilty that he ‘punished ‘ himself for hurting me by self-harming.

I found it hard to understand

The day I first saw those cuts I was devastated, I felt sick and confused and I just couldn’t believe that he would ever do that to himself but, as time went on, it became quite regular and we dealt with it as it came. He became more and more angry and was sometimes violent and aggressive towards me.

It’s not a regular occurrence but it is still frightening and made me question just how much he loved me. If I had known what I know now I would never have questioned it but at the time I was unaware which meant I found it hard to understand.

We agreed it was time to speak to him about getting help

When all this was going on we were living with his parents and his mum had found out what he was saying to me because she had heard me on the phone to him. We had all been aware of his mood swings but we just coped thinking that was just what you get with him. When she found out what he had been saying we agreed that it was time to speak to him about getting help.

After much refusal he agreed to go to the doctor and I was over the moon. The constant arguing, mood swings and accusations had really taken its toll on our relationship but our relationship was something that I wasn’t ready to give up on, even though sometimes I did feel as though it was all too much. He was honest with the doctor and was referred to a local mental health clinic. The clinic prescribed medication but it has not been as easy as taking medication and everything is fine. It has been a difficult journey for everyone who loves and cares for him.

I am still learning about schizophrenia

We now live together in our own home and sometimes when we are struggling it can feel lonely. I think that I cope with his Schizophrenia moderately well but I am still learning and it has been a very short time to fully understand. As it stands it has been equally bad and good.

As time goes on I am learning how to deal with the situation and how to take control of situations that are getting out of hand, I still have my moments where I shout at him but I believe that it’s only natural and I try to keep as calm as I can.

The help from the mental health clinic is amazing

I believe strongly that things will get better, the treatment and help that my boyfriend receives from the mental health clinic is amazing and I cannot thank those nurses and doctors enough. It gives me hope that one day I will have back the man that I met.

I know that all this has been about me and not so much about my partner but I wanted to write this for all those people who are the ones who are in a relationship with someone who has mental health issues, because sometimes it is not easy.

One of the hardest things I’ve found is watching someone who I love with all my heart struggling to cope. But I just want to end this by saying no matter what they say to you and how much they hurt you, I can promise you they do love you, you just have to look past their illness and into their heart.

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