How to Help a Loved One with Schizophrenia
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It can be devastating when a loved one is diagnosed with schizophrenia. This is a severe mental illness that has no cure, although it can be managed. Learn how to help a loved one with schizophrenia.
What is Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a rare brain disorder that affects less than one percent of Americans. It is a complex mental health disorder that is not yet fully understood.
Schizophrenia is a type of mental illness in the category of psychotic disorders. This means that the key features of the disorder involve symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions.
Schizophrenia impacts men and women equally, and most will have co-occurring health issues like heart disease and diabetes. At present, there is no cure for schizophrenia, but there are medications that can help manage the symptoms and improve functioning.
While the exact cause of mental illness is still unknown, factors that seem to be at play are genetics, environmental factors, and life stressors. It may be caused by a genetic mutation or even a viral infection. At present, the cause remains a mystery.
Brain studies of patients with schizophrenia reveal that there are brain structure differences and fewer connections between neurons. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as a brain disease.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Symptoms of schizophrenia typically first show up in late teens or early adulthood. This mental health disorder is one that features a loss of touch with reality. This means that when the illness is present, the person will have trouble telling whether something is real or not.
- Mental confusion.
- Auditory and visual hallucinations.
- Paranoid thoughts.
- Strange movements and inappropriate behavior.
- Unusual preoccupations.
- Decline in work performance.
- Loss of motivation.
- Neglecting hygiene.
- Withdrawing socially.
- Trouble making decisions.
- Trouble expressing emotion.
- Angry outbursts.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Disorganized thinking.
- Change in personality.
- Co-occurring substance abuse.
Symptoms must persist for at least six months before a diagnosis can be made.
Psychiatric Treatment for Schizophrenia
The goal of treatment for this complex mental health disorder is to improve functioning. There are many ways that doctors go about treating someone with schizophrenia. These methods include:
- Medication. The most helpful treatment method for this mental illness is drug therapy. Drugs that help schizophrenia may include antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety drugs. Compliance is key, so if a patient is not taking their meds they may need to switch to injectable versions.
- Psychotherapy. Therapy can help the person better function in daily life. Learning better ways to respond to stimuli can help them in social situations. Therapy can help them learn how to notice when signs of relapse appear, and to reduce stress using various techniques.
- New coping skills. Skills like learning anger management techniques, how to communicate better, and how to regulate emotions, can improve their daily life. Local social services may offer these life skills classes.
- Support groups. Finding support groups to join is another source of help. These groups feature others with the same mental health challenge who are able to share and learn from each other.
- ECT. When a patient is not finding any relief from the above interventions, ECT, or shock therapy, may help. This is an inpatient procedure under anesthesia, but it can be highly effective.
- Case management. Having a case manager in your loved one’s corner is going to be very helpful to them. Case managers are tasked with coordinating various social services, like vocational services, housing services, support groups, and transportation services.
Although there is no cure for this type of mental illness, the condition can be managed in many cases.
Living with Schizophrenia
Once the major symptoms of the disorder have been controlled, it is possible to lead a full life. This depends on the patient being willing to comply with their meds and access support services. There are also skills classes and employment support services to help those with mental illness.
The goal for all patients with schizophrenia is to get them to a point where they are self-sufficient for the most part. Some, though, will struggle to become stabilized, even with the drugs and support. They may require added assistance and even caregiving. The most severe cases may require hospitalization.
Loved ones need to remain alert for the signs of a co-occurring condition, like depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorder. There is a higher rate of suicides among those with this mental illness.
How Can You Help a Loved One with Schizophrenia?
Your loved one will greatly benefit from any and all support they receive from family members. These are some of the ways you can assist your loved one:
- Remind them to take their meds. Consistent adherence to taking the drugs is what will help the person stay stable. Help your loved one set up a daily system for taking their meds on time.
- Help them get to appointments. Your loved one may have weekly therapy sessions or doctor appointments. You can increase the odds of them making their appointments if you offer to drive.
- Share the duties. One family member cannot shoulder the entire job of helping a loved one with schizophrenia. These tasks must be shared among the family so no one burns out.
The very best way to help a loved one with schizophrenia is to guide them toward treatment. Once under the care of a mental health professional and a psychiatrist, they will be able to improve daily functioning. Improved daily functioning equates to improved quality of life.
Elevation Behavioral Health Provides Treatment for Schizophrenia
Elevation Behavioral Health offers an intimate, comfortable setting for those seeking residential treatment for schizophrenia. Our team is devoted to providing the utmost in psychiatric care so your loved one can have a better quality of life. For more information, please call us today at 888-561-0868